Behavior help: The cat isn’t using the litter box

Behavior help: The cat isn’t using the litter box
Photo Credit To Metro Newspaper Service

Q: Why does my cat pee or poop outside the litter box?

A: First, your vet should rule out an underlying medical conditions like hyperthyroidism, diabetes or arthritis that may be causing your cat to avoid the litter box. If he gets a clean bill of health, it’s time to do some detective work.

Cats like consistency, so changes to the litter box may be to blame. Cats may not use the box if it’s new, too small, too deep, enclosed or if they don’t like the actual litter. Your cat may be upset if the box has been moved or is in an area with too much traffic or noise, such as next to the washing machine.

Cats tend to be particular about their litter boxes. Try these tips to keep your cat happy:

  • Cats prefer spacious litter boxes, so use a large, clear storage box with tall sides to keep litter contained.
  • Younger cats can jump in and out of litter boxes, but you should cut a U-shaped opening at one end for older cats.
  • Choose unscented, scoopable litter.
  • Make sure you have enough litter boxes in multi-cat homes. Generally, that’s one more box than the number of cats.
  • Scoop the box daily, change litter at least weekly (or more) and clean the box periodically with mild detergent.
  • Avoid pungent cleaners such as bleach, which is too strong for a cat’s sensitive nose.

Stress is another reason for soiling. You may have a houseguest, a change in routine or your cat may be upset by the presence of an outdoor cat. She may mark her territory to reassure herself. Because it’s sometimes difficult to identify the reason for anxiety, your vet may suggest a house call to look around the home and pinpoint potential causes.

The most important thing is to address litter box issues sooner rather than later, because the longer you wait, the more challenging it becomes to correct the problem.

By Arricca SanSone

Expert advice provided by Susan Sikule, DVM, practicing veterinarian and owner of Just Cats Veterinary Clinic in Guilderland and Saratoga Springs, New York.

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