Having a cat is a rewarding experience, but it also comes with several challenges. One of these is litter box problems, which is a huge hassle because they can compromise the health and safety of everyone in the family. They can also damage the pet parent’s property and ultimately strain the relationship between the cat and his owner.
Common litter box problems and their causes
Litter box problems can be divided into major categories. The first category involves cases in which the cat doesn’t use his litter box and doesn’t eliminate elsewhere. These cases are dangerous since they can quickly escalate to serious health problems and even death.
The second category (and the most common) involves scenarios in which the cat avoids his litter box but is perfectly fine with urinating or defecating on the carpet, the hardwood floor, and anywhere else.
Both of these categories can be caused by a wide range of factors. Medical issues are some of the biggest reasons why cats experience elimination problems. Feline interstitial cystitis, for example, causes bladder inflammation and urinary urgency, which means your cat often can’t make it to the litter box and ends up urinating just anywhere.
Urinary tract obstruction (which is common among male cats due to their narrow urethra) can also cause your pet to urinate outside the box. In serious cases, your cat might not be able to eliminate at all.
Aside from medical reasons, cat litter box problems can also be caused by many other factors. Stress can play a huge role; your cat can stop using his litter box when he gets stressed by any changes in his environment (like when you get a new dog or move to a new house).
If you’ve just brought your cat home and/or given him a new litter box, he might not like its size, design, location, or the type and amount of litter you use.
Preventing litter box problems
Cat litter box problems can be frustrating both for the cat and his owner. Fortunately, there are ways to prevent these issues, such as the tips listed below:
- Investing in a good-sized box. Cats don’t like to use litter boxes that are too small and cramped.
- Keeping their litter box clean. Cats are fastidious about cleanliness and refuse to use litter boxes that are smelly and dirty. Scoop used litter at least once a day, and rinse and clean his box with water and baking soda once a week.
- Placing the litter box in the right place — a quiet, dimly lit location that has lots of exit points and allows your cat to see approaching animals and people. His litter box should not be easily accessible to dogs and other pets as well as little children.
- Using just the right amount of litter, around two inches deep. It might seem too shallow at first glance, but cats actually don’t like it when there’s too much litter in their box.
- Providing enough litter boxes. If you have two cats or more, set out one litter box for each cat plus an extra one for good measure. If you live in a multiple-story house, provide at least one litter box on every level.
Solutions to explore
Cats are notoriously finicky creatures, so even when their owners take the preventive steps above, they can still end up with litter box problems. If your pet has these issues, you can solve them by:
1. Taking him to the vet
As mentioned above, medical issues are some of the biggest causes of elimination problems. Before doing anything else, take your pet to his veterinarian to know if he’s suffering from a health condition or not.
If he is, the vet can provide you with the right prescriptions that will help your pet get better ASAP. If he has a clean bill of health, you’ll have the assurance that his litter box problems are caused by other factors.
2. Finding out what your cat wants
If you’ve just bought a new cat home, you’ll need to figure out his litter box preferences. You can do this by buying a few boxes, filling each with a certain kind of litter, and placing them side by side. You’ll know what type of litter your cat wants based on the box that gets more use.
3. Making adjustments
If your cat loved to use his litter box in the past but is having problems now, he might have been triggered by changes in his environment. These can include any changes you’ve recently made to his litter box, such as using a new type of litter or moving the box to a different location. If this is the case, you’ll need to return things to how they were.
Cats can also stop using their litter box for no apparent reason at all! They can suddenly develop a preference for urinating on the carpet, the bathroom tiles, or any other place or texture, even when their owners didn’t give them any reason to do so.
If this is the case, you’ll have to take steps to discourage your pet. Keep him away from his new favorite spot by adding bright lights to the area and putting sticky tape or carpet runners on it to make it less appealing.