There are many reasons that can cause a cat to have litter box-related issues. Unfortunately, a litter box problem is among the most common behavior-related reason that pet owners bring a cat to the shelter.
The first step to solving a cat’s litter box aversion is to schedule an exam with your veterinarian. A urinary tract infection or another health problem can cause your cat to urinate or defecate in inappropriate locations, outside of the litter box. Therefore, it’s important to rule out any health-related causes for the pet’s behavior. No amount of training or behavior modification effort will be successful if a health issue is at the root of the problem.
Once health problems have been ruled out, you should look for other potential causes of the cat’s refusal to use the litter box:
- The Litter — Have you recently switched to a different kitty litter? Is it possible that the manufacturer has changed the litter? The litter consistency, scent and dust can all cause a cat to use an alternative bathroom spot. So experiment by trying different litters.
- Maintenance — Are you cleaning the litter box frequently? A dirty litter box can cause the cat to potty elsewhere. The general rule of thumb is to keep one litter box per cat and clean the boxes once daily.
- The Litter Box — Consider the litter box size and structure. A large cat may not feel comfortable using a small litter box. Some cats will not use a box with a hood, whereas other cats will only use a box with a hood.
- Location — Consider the litter box location. If it’s near a high-traffic area, your cat may not feel comfortable using the box when nature calls. Place the box in a location with low foot traffic and ensure that the box is accessible 24-hours per day. For instance, if you keep your cat’s litter box in your bedroom, your cat may be unable to access the box if you close the bedroom door.
Elderly cats are among the most apt to experience bathroom issues. Like humans, cats can experience problems with incontinence as they age. They can also experience arthritis, which can make it difficult to get in and out of the litter box, especially if it has high walls.
Also, consider the area where your cat is having accidents. To a cat, a potted plant doesn’t look all that different from a litter box. Your cat may simply be confused; he may not realize that he’s not allowed to go to the bathroom in a specific location. So it’s important to restrict access and thoroughly clean the area with Nature’s Miracle or another enzyme-based cleaner.
Another common site of bathroom accidents: a bunched up blanket or a bunched-up rug. In these cases, simply eliminate the rug or blanket and the behavior may resolve.
Is your cat an intact male? If so, the cat’s accidents may not be bathroom related; your cat may be marking as a territorial behavior. In these instances, neutering the male often solves the problem.
If your cat is soiling his bed, this may be a case of involuntary urination while the pet is sleeping. There are medications that can be used to treat this condition, which can affect animals of all ages. One characteristic sign is soiling on the pet’s fur. Give your cat a sniff and keep a look out for wet fur; this is a sign that your cat is urinating in her sleep.
If all else fails, discuss the problem with your veterinarian or an experienced pet trainer. There are many strategies and training methods that can be used to help solve bathroom issues involving your cat!