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Litter Box Concerns?

The number one reason cats are relinquished to shelters is for litter box issues or house soiling issues. This makes up about 40% of these drops and abandonments.

This is a conundrum to me, because any good cat behaviorist or trainer will tell you that cats are incredibly easy to litter train, that they naturally are drawn to use a litter box when living indoors. This isn’t to say that no cat has a litter box issue. Of course this happens. But the disconnect is that most people think the problem is 100% on the cat.

sThe reality is most cat owners who struggle with a cat with litter box problems are likely doing something wrong in the care of their cat, leading it to act out in this way. A smaller part of owners have cats that are actively ill or in pain and they haven’t recognized that at all. The rest have cats who were ill or in pain, associated that with the litter box, and are now habituated to avoid it.

In my experience the following are the most common reasons your cat is struggling with using the litter box successfully.

The box or litter is a deterrent in and of itself, causing the cat to seek other options.

  • Consider the shape, size, entry, exit, old odors, location of the box. One or more of these may be off, may feel unsafe or discouraging to the cat.
  • Consider the type of litter you use. Did you recently change brands? Does it have strong perfumes? Is it uncomfortable on the paws or hard to dig in?
  • Is it an automated litter box? This can often keep cats from doing all their business in the right place.

The health of the cat could be a factor.

  • Declawed cats very often develop litter box aversions later in life. The amputation increases in discomfort as they age and getting into and out of the box or digging in the grainy or chunky litter may be too painful.
  • If you have a very senior cat, mobility or cognitive function may be playing a part in litter box misses.
  • Illness could be playing a role. If your cat has a UTI or kidney disease or any serious illness, they may be trying to notify you of the problem by not using the box. The discomfort or pain may be too much for them to travel all the way to the box or they had pain while in the box and now fear that location.

Your animal is still sexually intact. 

  •  Marking territories with vertically sprayed urine or even sometimes horizontal urinating are a part of the mating game with cats. This is most common with male cats, but females will also do this when in heat. Most of the time, getting your cat neutered or spayed will curb this behavior, but not always the case, which is why it is best to alter the cat before they reach sexual maturity.

There are not enough litter boxes in the home and/or they are not cleaned appropriately. 

  • If you have a multi-cat home, chances for litter box issues increase. Territorial concerns or stress may arise with inter-cat relationships. The more cats, the higher the risk for litter box or spraying issues.
  • Cats are clean creatures. This goes for their litter boxes, too. If you are not offering clean litter on a daily basis you could set yourself up for problems.

There are serious disruptions in the cats life causing a lot of stress, anxiety, fear, or depression. 

  • Cats are creatures of habit. Disruptions in their environments or relationships can create a lot of emotional distress which could lead to litter box misses.
  • Trauma, fear, and abuse will also, obviously, lead to greater potential for the cat to act out and not use the litter box.

If your kitty is having litter box issues that you haven’t yet been able to resolve, please seek professional help before surrendering or abandoning your animal. I can help you identify the triggers and set a plan to resolve them so that you can live more peacefully (and cleanly) together.