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Causes of Litter Box Avoidance in Cats

Updated on October 9, 2013
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Litter Box Avoidance

Most cats take to the litter box very naturally, which is why it can be surprising when kitty starts soiling elsewhere. Although it may feel like the cat is being spiteful, there is an underlying reason for this behavior. The most common causes of litter box avoidance is sickness, stress or a dirty box.

Do not try to remedy the situation by rubbing the cat's nose in the soiled area, or by punishing the cat in another way. This will likely just make the situation worse. Instead work to uncover the reason that the cat is avoiding the litter box and rectify the situation.

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Cat UTI or Another Painful Association

It is important to eliminate illness as a cause for liter box avoidance. A cat that develops Idiopathic Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease(IFLUTD) will often associate the pain of trying to pee with the litter box. If you have ever had a bladder infection yourself, then you know that it can be quite painful when you try to go.

A cat with a bladder infection will often start going on a hard surface such as a kitchen floor or the bathtub. You may also notice that the cat is constantly squatting or frequently going in and out of the litter box. The cat may seem sickly in other ways or just not act like himself. Blood may be present in the urine, or there may be just a tiny bit of urine excreted when the cat goes.This can be a life-threatening illness, so it is important to take the cat to the vet at the first signs of this condition.

Declawed cats may also avoid using the litter box because of a pain association. Declawing a cat is actually a very painful procedure for the cat, and it is even illegal in some countries. If your cat is already declawed, try using a soft, smooth litter in the box.

Dirty Litter Box

Did you know that your cat's sense of smell is about 14 times greater than your own. Have you ever walked into a nasty port o john or chemical toilet then decided that you could hold it after all? Your cat probably has the same reaction when he walks into a dirty litter box. For him, the clothes basket is just as inviting as the next service station or roadside pull off is to you. Keep your box clean to encourage regular visits.

Additionally, most cats experts recommend having at least one box per cat plus one. So if you have two cats, then you should have three litter boxes. Some cats just don't like to share.

Placement can also be important. Cats need their privacy too! Try to avoid placing your box in busy areas, near the cat's food, or near something that could scare them like a noisy washing machine.

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Is Your Cat Stressed?

Some cat's just don't handle change well. If your cat starts going outside of the box, identify changes in your routine or environment that could be stressing your cat out. A recent move, a new pet or addition to the family can be quite stressful. So can a toddler that suddenly started crawling or walking.

Try to give your cat extra attention and provide him with his own safe place if necessary. There is also a line of calming spray out that you may find useful.


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