Litter Box Problems With Cats
Cats and Litter Boxes
Cats are pretty clean animals. I mean they are constantly grooming themselves and for the most part they cover up their mess in the litter box. But, not every cat is perfect.
There are several common problems with cats and their litter boxes, and the best way to solve each problem is to figure out what the problem is and then to try to figure out why the problem is occurring. It may take a little trial and error to diagnosing and treating the problem, but it is usually possible.
One of the biggest problems with cats and litter boxes is when you begin to notice that the cat is becoming slack and not making it to the litter box. In this case, you want to first rule out any medical problems and then try to figure out why the cat isn't using his box. You will want to figure out where the litter box is located in the house- is it a dark place, too far away from the rest of the house, or in a room with distractions? Once you figure this out, the problem can easily be corrected.
Cats are not malicious creatures, so a problem with the litter box is often a cry for help.
- A cat that is frightened while using his litter box could be too scared to use it. While in the litter box, the cat could have heard a loud noise or someone could have startled him.
- A sick cat may experience pain in when trying to use the bathroom in the litter box, so he may associate the pain with the litter box.
Common Litter Box Problems
Marking and Spraying
Scent marking is commonly done by adult, unaltered male cats but female cats will do it too. Marking is different from regular elimination because the cat is marking his territory.
It's not uncommon for several cats to mark the same territory at different times. Usually, once the scent wears off, the cat will com back to mark it again. In this case you'll need a heavy duty cleaner to rid the area of the ammonia smell.
Sometimes an indoor cat that sees another cat outside, may mark the inside of the house by the door or window. Marking can also be a problem if you bring in the smell of a strange cat; your cat may mark the rug or door.
Marking can, also, be a sign of stress if you have multiple cats, as overcrowding can lead to urination problems. Because cats are not pack animals, they do need their own space, so once an area has been marked, you'll need to thoroughly clean it with an enzymatic cleaner that will rid the area of the ammonia smell.
In terms of a litter box problem, if the litter box is outside the cat's territory, he may not go near it, which will cause him to use another area of the house to eliminate.
Doesn't Cover His Mess
Another common problem is that the cat will use the litter box, but will not cover his daily droppings. This could be as simple as the cat doesn't like the texture of the litter. Have you recently changed brands or litter type?
Because each cat is different in his own, you cat may not like the litter or the amount of litter that you have in the litter box. Try changing to a different type of litter or maybe adding more litter to the litter box.
The cat may not feel that he has enough litter to cover his "mess," so by adding an extra layer, he may feel more comfortable covering his poop.
You, also, want to consider if the cat is altered. Sometimes unaltered male cats may leave their mess uncovered as a territory marking. Larger cats (wild cats) do not cover their droppings as a territorial marking form of communication, whereas most smaller cats do. But even still, male cats may "opt", so to speak, to not cover their feces in attempt to mark their territory.
Personally, try adding more litter to the litter box; if that doesn't work, try changing the litter type.
Also, consider the type of litter box- is it open or closed? Some cats do not like the nearly closed litter boxes, so they may not cover their feces in litter boxes with lids. You may consider another litter box option.
Not Using the Litter Box At All
The most common litter box problem is that the cat doesn't use the litter box at all but is litter box trained. For this case, you will want to rule out or consider the below litter box concerns.
Litter Box Mat
Correcting Litter Box Problems
Find the Problem Cat (or pet)
Most people who have one cat, tend to have multiple cats, so you want to first figure out which cat is having the problem. Or, maybe you have a dog in the house, maybe it's the dog and not the cat.
Rule Out Medical Problems
Once you've figured out which cat it is, you want to rule out any medical problems. A sick cat may have trouble getting to the litter box on time.
Common health concerns may include kidney disease, diabetes, urinary tract infection, kidney stones, or bladder stones. Obese and older cats may also have problems with the litter box.
Litter Box Maintenance and Placement
Some cats may have a problem with a dirty litter box. Again, remember cats are generally clean animals, so if you skipped a cleaning, it may upset your cat into going elsewhere in the house. You should clean the litter box at least once a day, if not twice, depending on how many cats you have in the house and how many litter boxes you have.
The number of litter boxes can be a concern. If you have three cats and only one litter box, one of the cats may decide that he wants his own space. So make sure to provide more than one box for a multiple cat household.
As for placement, make sure to place the litter box in a place where your cat can easily get to it. IE don't put the litter box in the basement. You may consider putting one litter box at each end of the house, so that your cat(s) have an option; plus it prevents you cat from waiting till the last minute and having to dart to the other side of the house to pee. He just may not make that sprinting session.
You, also, want to make sure to place litter box(es) in private, well-ventilated areas. Cats are private creatures and like to do their business alone.
Once you've ruled medical and litter box maintenance and placement problems, you may consider a that psychological or behavioral factor could be causing the problem. Because cats are highly sensitive and focused creatures of habit, slight changes in their environment can disturb your cat.
Have you recently:
- Changed the carpets, furniture, paints, etc
- Changed your routine
- Changed cat foods or feeding schedule
- Changed placement of the litter box or changed litter boxes
- Changed the cat litter
- Started the cat of flea prevention or other medications
- Introduced a new member to the house, whether human or animal
- Illness in the house
- Had more visitors than normal
Any of the above can contribute to stress in your cat(s), which can be what has caused the litter box problems. Because cats tend to live a relatively calm and predictable life, a significant change can cause problems.
Cat Toilet Training
Cat Toilet Training
Disclaimer: Please be aware that the advice in this article should in no way replace that of a licensed veterinarian. The methods outlined above may or may not work for your pet. If you have any concerns, you should consult a veterinarian.
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