Solving Cat Litter Box Problems

Has your cat been urinating outside the litter box? Have you been finding little "surprises" around your house? Breakdown of litter box training is one of the most frustrating things a cat owner can experience. The good news is that cats don't do this out of malice and a little detective work on your part will usually lead to a solution. Here are the top reasons why your cat may not be using the litter pan:

Dirty Litter Pan:

Cats are clean animals and many won't use a dirty, smelly litter box. Can you blame them? Remove waste no less than once or twice a day and be sure to change the litter and wash the box out with a mild soap at least once or twice a week.

Unfamiliar Litter:

When it comes to kitty litter, cats can be picky, picky, picky! Switching to a scented litter often triggers litter box problems - what smells good to us doesn't necessarily smell good to a cat and some cats despise a perfumed pan. Using litter with a different texture may also bother some cats. When it comes to litter, find what works best for your cat and stick with it.

Health Problems:

If your house-trained cat suddenly stops using the litter pan a checkup at the vet may be in order. Discomfort while urinating or defecating (bladder infections, constipation) can cause them to associate the box with the pain and avoid it. Certain medical conditions, including kidney disease, diabetes, cushings disease or inflammatory bowel disease can make them more "accident prone" - cats with these illnesses may not always make it to the box despite good intent.

Scaredy Cat :

Could something have scared your cat while in the box? A nosy dog or a thundering herd of noisy children running by could make your cat feel vulnerable and seek out a safer place to do "business". Try moving the litter box to a quieter, more private place or get a litter box cover to make your cat feel more secure.

Change in family (new cat,dog, baby, spouse):

Cats can be upset by major household changes or intimidated by a new pet (see "being frightened" above). Bringing in another cat or kitten could bring up territorial issues - a good rule of thumb for multiple cats is to try to have as many litter pans as you have cats (or as close to that number as is practical).

Litter pan is too small:

Are you asking your size XXL cat to use a size "petite" litter box? If the accidents are landing just outside the box, this could be your problem. Also, some cats like to back up right against the edge of the pan and occasionally "things" end up outside - consider a covered litter pan for these corner kitties!

Macho Boys (and girls):

Is cat is standing up and spraying urine against vertical surfaces? You don't have a housebreaking problem, you have a marking problem. Cats have an ancient instinct to mark their territory by spraying small amounts of urine. This behavior can be triggered by various things in their environment - conflict between cats, addition of new household members or even just seeing a strange cat outside the house are common causes. And don't think that just males do this - the only two cats I've had who marked were both females! It rarely happens in single cat households.

Feliway, a behavioral modification spray containing cat pheromones, is the best way to end urine marking in cats. Used as directed, I can say from personal experience that it works like a charm in curing or at least curbing this nasty habit. However, you do have to be vigilant and keep up with the treatments.