Common Litter Box Problems

Cats are habitual creatures. They enjoy their comforts, and aren’t partial to change.

If your cat has developed an elimination issue the first thing you need to do is have a Vet check your pet out to ensure it has no medical issues that could be causing the problem.

Medical problems that can cause elimination/litter box issues in cats include:

  • Urinary Tract Infections: This can sometimes be identified if you notice that your cat visits it’s litter box frequently, yet fails to produce or only produces small amounts of urine.
  • Feline Interstitial Cystitis: This is a complex disease causing bladder inflammation. The urgency to urinate can also cause an elimination problem, causing your cat to eliminate outside of its litter box.
  • Bladder stones or blockage: You may identify bladder stones or blockage in your cat if they appear to be in pain when urinating. It’s stomach/abdomen may be tender and your cat may also mew as if in pain when visiting it’s litter box.

If you suspect your cat may have one of the issues listed above, you should see your Veterinarian as soon as possible.

Common, non-medical litter box problems in cats:

  • Unclean litter box
  • Too few litter boxes for the number of cats in the house
  • Litter preference/change in the kind of litter used
  • Cramped litter box
  • A litter box with a hood or liner
  • Too much litter in the box (cats prefer a shallow litter, 1-2 inches is preferable over 3-4)
  • An uncomfortable location: Too loud, too public, too close to food, too close to other pets, near a washing machine or dryer that causes noise, not enough escape routes.
  • Negative associations: Stressful situations can cause elimination problems
  • Moving/Moved litter box
  • A conflict with another cat in the household

Tips/ tricks/ what to do:

There are a number of ways to redirect your cat's undesirable elimination behaviour. If you have determined the source of the issue to be non-medical, and/or not caused by a pre-existing medical condition, you can attempt to rectify your cats behaviour by once again making the litter box a safe, desirable place to eliminate. Take note of and watch out for the following:

  • Change your cat’s litter once a day
  • Give the box a good thorough cleaning with baking soda and warm water once a week in order to eliminate unnatural odours.
  • Spread a shallow litter. 1-2 inches deep is a general rule of thumb.
  • Don’t use liners or lids.
  • Move the litter box: If you think it might be placed in too bright, loud or social an environment you can try moving the litter box in order to make your cat more comfortable.
  • Add extra litter boxes: This is especially helpful if you have more than one cat in your household. It’s a good idea to ensure that other pets, and children, don’t hang around near the litter boxes as this can scare an already timid cat off.
  • Ensure you have supplied each cat in your household with its own litter box.
  • DON’T rub your cat’s nose in any mess she has made outside the litter box, this does not help redirect the cat’s behaviour and can often only serve to stress it out further.

Elimination issues are better solved with careful consideration and training. If that fails, consult with your Veterinarian or an animal behavioural specialist. 

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