Think Inside The Box - What To Do When Your Cat Won't Use The Litter Box
If your cat won't use his litter box, try thinking inside the box. And remember, the box should be designed for his comfort and convenience, not yours! Covered boxes, scented litter, plastic liners, the wrong location and wet litter can all make a cat decide he'd rather use the floor. Here are some tips for creating the perfect potty for your cat.
Scoop daily. Many cats won’t use a litter box that’s dirty. Scoop clumping litter every day. If you use clay litter, change the box as soon as the litter feels damp.
Go topless. If your cat’s litter box has a top or “hood,” take it off. Cats like to be able to see an escape route from their boxes, and that’s not possible if the box is covered. Tops can also trap unpleasant smells that are noticeable only to a cat and discourage the cat from using the box. And for older and overweight cats, a top can make the box feel too cramped and confined.
Consider the location. Choose a location that's convenient for the cat, even if it's less than perfect for you. Would you want to walk through a dark basement every time you had to use the bathroom? Your cat doesn't want to either! And avoid laundry and furnace rooms. The washer going into a loud spin cycle or the furnace coming on could startle the cat so much he'll never want to go near that location again. Bathrooms and powder rooms are usually good places for litter boxes. Ideally, you'll have a box on every level of your home. If you have dogs or small children, make sure your cat has at least one box he can get to without being chased.
Try two boxes side by side. Some cats like to urinate in one box and defecate in another. Putting two boxes side by side might resolve your cat’s litter box issues.
Provide a bigger box. If your cat is using the floor right outside the box, he might not like the feeling of the litter underfoot, or his box may not be large enough. Try giving him a larger box, but don’t remove the old box until he’s consistently using the new one. The plastic storage boxes designed to slide under beds make great litter boxes because they’re roomy and have low sides.
Have enough boxes. The rule of thumb is one box per cat, plus one. But even cats who live alone appreciate having more than one litter box.
Wash the box with hot water but no soap. Soap and detergent can leave a residue that disguises the cat’s own scent and discourages him from using the box.
Consider the Litter. Cats can be very picky about the filler in their litter boxes. If you change the amount or type of litter you use, experiment with a second box.
Use less litter, not more. Many cats are happiest with just a couple of inches of litter in their boxes. Two inches is deep enough for the cat to dig in the litter, but not so deep he has to slog through a lot of sand to get in and out of the box.
Try clumping litter. If you’re using clay litter, try clumping litter instead. Buy a brand that makes very hard clumps and doesn’t fall apart when scooping so the box stays neat and dry.
Use unscented litter. Perfumed litter may smell pleasant to you, but it disguises the cat’s own scent and could discourage him from using the box.
Do without litter box liners. They inhibit digging and discourage some cats from using the box.
Try alternatives to litter. Some cats prefer shredded newspaper or torn up T-shirts or shop towels to litter. And many like empty boxes with no litter in them at all. If you try an empty box, putting a puppy training pad in the box will make cleanup easier for you.
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