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Litter Box Struggles


Help! My Cat Refuses To Use The Litter Box. How Can I Solve This?

This was a topic that had been brought to my attention recently, and it really is a good one! Some people struggle with this to the point that they have to confine their cats to a certain area of their house because their cats are destroying their belongings from urinating anywhere and everywhere! If this sounds like a situation you find yourself in, I would like to discuss the many different solutions out there so that your cats don’t have to stay confined forever! Usually, they are doing it out of spite, stress or being uncomfortable. It is a natural instinct for your cat to use their litter box and normally requires zero coaxing or training. Now that we have addressed that this is typically a behavioral issue, let’s dive into the root of the problem before we look at how to fix it.

What Is Causing This Behavior?

Say you’ve had your cat for a few years with no prior issues and now all of a sudden, they decide to pull this stunt. The issue? Something has changed and they don’t like it. The change could be so subtle that you may not even think it’s an issue but for your cat, it is! Some pretty obvious things to rule out immediately would be: Did you change litter brands or type of litter? Did you get a new litter box? Move litter box location? Is the litter box too small? Are you cleaning the box often enough or putting too much/too little litter in? Did you get a new pet or any other new addition to the family (this includes your children)? Does your cat have a UTI, kidney problems or any other underlying medical problem that may need to be addressed? If you’ve answered no to those, then here are some less commonly thought about ideas regarding this behavior.

Examples Of What May Have Caused This Behavior

Are you using a new cleaning product that may be irritating their senses such as a floor cleaner? Are you using an enzymatic cleaning product to remove urine stains and odors? If not, start! Enzymatic cleaners actually aid in breaking down the urine to completely remove it. Your cat will be less likely to return to that same spot if the stain was properly removed. Those are just a few examples of questions you need to be asking yourself. Below are some ways to address this problem. Let me start by saying that it may not be an easy fix. You will have to use the process of elimination to get down to the bottom of this. Trial and error is the only way to successfully break this bad habit.

What Are My Options?

There are many potential reasons why your cat isn’t properly using their litter box. Let’s start with the two most common issues/reasons why cats don’t use their litter box the way they’re supposed to.

The Litter Box Setup

First, take the hood off your litter box. Some cats can feel claustrophobic if you are using a hooded litter box. Hoods also trap the odor inside and your cat may not like having to smell these concentrated odors every time they need to use it. Next, use either a cat litter attractant powder or cat attract litter to coax them into using the box again. I would try the litter first, made by Dr. Elsy’s called “Cat Attract.” It is a clumping clay litter that is easy on the paws and has an herbal scent that will entice them to use it.

Make Some Other Changes

If those first two options don’t work, then I would get a bigger litter box and put it directly on the spot your cat keeps going back to and also try changing up the litter too. There are so many different styles of litter out there that it could be that your cat has a preference. Between clay litter, paper based, walnut litter, silica crystals, pellets (paper or pine), corn based and grass seed, the possibilities are endless! It is important to note that if your cat has just been declawed, or is injured, you need to be using a paper based litter as it provides an easy texture on their paws.

Still No Luck?

The general rule of thumb with litter boxes is one box per cat plus one extra if you have several cats. Providing many options and keeping the boxes super clean might just be all you need. Clean the boxes daily or even twice daily to see if that is a preference your cat has. If you think your cat’s bad litter box behavior is due to stress, then you should start by providing a place of comfort or seclusion for your cat. Many times the stress stems from the addition of another furry or human family member. Try using a pet gate with a cat entrance at the bottom and section off a room in your house that only your cat has access to. I would put the litter box in this particular room and perhaps even get a calming pheromone diffuser to create a more relaxing environment when your cat enters the room. This should provide a sense of security to your cat and make them less likely to act out.

Finding A Solution

The solutions above should help with this problem. If they don’t, don’t give up! Try various different combinations of these ideas until something works. Keep in mind that your cat may have a health problem. If you haven’t found success yet, contact your vet so see if a medical issue needs to be addressed. UTI’s and struvite crystals in the bladder are very common problems in cats and they may need to be put on a special diet. You can also get various supplements and food at your local pet stores too. But, know that your vet will have prescription strength products along with the knowledge and guidance to help you resolve the issue. For more general advice on litter box training, check out the official Humane Society website.

Happy Household

Even though the problem may seem endless, your cat will eventually start using their litter box again if you stay persistent. As all of my cat lovers out there know, cats can be very delicate creatures. But, with the proper knowledge and tools, you can restore the balance of their environment and have a happy household once again! Remember to be patient, be mindful, and be supportive. We love our pets and we only want what’s best for them. If you enjoyed this cat-themed article, then check out our other article entitled National Cat Lovers Month. We think it will be the purrfect read for you!