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How to Prevent Litter Box Problems

Helping Cats "Do What Comes Naturally"


Under normal conditions, your cat will like to use her litter box. Changes in your cat's litter box behavior can almost always be traced to a medical condition, stress, or something she dislikes about her litter box environment. If your cat suddenly stops using the litter box, don't fall for the fallacy that she is just being stubborn, or that she is "missing the box" out of spite. Fortunately, a little know-how and preventive maintenance can greatly reduce the chance of litter box problems.

But First:

  • Never punish or yell at your cat for not using her litter box; that only makes things worse. Likewise, picking up a cat and throwing it in the litter box will only cause more box avoidance.
  • Any acute or prolonged signs of litter box difficulties, such as urinating more frequently, avoiding the litter box, or straining, could indicate an urgent medical condition; call your vet right away.

The Perfect Litter Box Environment

  • Provide Enough Litter Boxes. The ideal recommended number is one box per cat, and one extra. Since many cats don't like to pee and poop in the same box, I'd recommend having at least two litter boxes for one cat. At times, I've actually had six boxes for three cats.
  • Location. Put the litter box in a pleasant location: easy to access, away from noisy or high-traffic areas, out of the dog's and baby's reach. Some cats, especially older or handicapped cats, prefer a litter box on each floor of the house. Beware of putting the litter box directly on soft carpet; for some cats, the adjacent carpet feels like litter. Use a minimum of one litter box per cat.
  • Litter. Every cat has a favorite litter - work with your cat to find out her preference. When in doubt, start with an unscented clumping litter. Although the jury's still out on this, if you have a kitten, you may want to avoid clumping litters that contain sodium bentonite. Keep kitty's box filled with about two inches of litter, unless directed otherwise by the package. When changing litters, do it gradually over several days, or fill a second box with the new litter.
  • Type of box. Some cats don't care for covered litter boxes. If you use a covered box, remember to scoop and clean often, as odors can be trapped inside. Some cat owners like automatic-cleaning litter boxes, others don't. As with litter, your cat will help guide you in your selection.
  • Clean! Scoop clumping litter at least once a day, other litters as directed. Wash the litter box and replace the litter weekly. Use a mild soap and rinse well. An occasional 1-part-in-10 bleach solution is fine if you rinse thoroughly. Stay away from ammonia and citrus-scented or strong-smelling cleaners.
  • Routine. Once you and kitty find a system that you're both comfortable with, "stay the course."


Related Video
How to Litter Box Train your Cat
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