Digging for Answers to Litter Box Problems – By Valerie Wagner, Assistant Manager at PVPE
Indoor cats are wonderful companions and many owners find cats to be very clean pets. This can all change however if your beloved cat starts to avoid using his/her litter box, opting to pee or poop on your floors, carpets, or even furniture. Inappropriate elimination is sadly the number one reason that cat owners relinquish their cats to shelters. While certainly this behavior can be destructive, and frustrating to deal with, the solution may be obtainable with a little patience, and understanding. Cats don’t pee or poop outside the litter box for spite or because they want to hurt you. In many cases, it’s a cry for help from the cat…trying to tell you that something is wrong. There are many factors that can play into why your cat is not using the box. The first thing to examine is the litter box itself.
How often are you scooping your litter box? Waste should be removed daily if not twice daily. Some cats are very particular about using a clean litter box. The box should be dumped and scrubbed at least once a month or as needed. Replace litter boxes annually as the plastic gets scratched over time from claws, litter and scrubbing. The scratches may result in bacteria-filled ridges that hold odor.
How many Litter Boxes?
You should have at least 1 for every cat in your home, PLUS one. IE: 2 cats = 3 litter boxes. Even in single cat homes, sometimes certain cats prefer liquid waste in one box and solids in another.
Covered litter boxes are great for keeping in mess and odor, but some cats prefer large, open-top litter boxes. If you have one covered litter box, try making another box open-top and always make sure the litter box is large enough for your cat(s). If your cat is older, try providing a litter box with a lower entry as arthritis could make climbing in a tall litter box painful.
Location, location, location
Place the litter box in a quiet area of the home, free from disturbance from children, dogs or other distractions but don’t make is so hard to reach that your cat can’t get there when needed. Have litter boxes on each floor of the home if possible. If you have multiple cats in the home, be mindful of how they interact and where you place the litter box. If you have a dominant cat and one more submissive, the location of the litter box may be creating an ambush situation for the timid animal. Observe your cats’ interactions to be sure this isn’t happening.
The Litter Itself
There are dozens of options available regarding types of litter. Clay based, clumping, natural, flushable, and paper, the list goes on and on. We recommend trying several… experiment with different textures. If you’re using scented litter, you may consider trying unscented as some cats are sensitive to perfumes.
If your cat is older, try lowering the depth of the litter to only about an inch. Cats can suffer from arthritis just like dogs or humans. Standing in deep litter may feel uncomfortable, especially when they are pushing to defecate. Lowering the litter depth may help them to feel more secure.
Changes in the home; a new pet, a new family member, moving furniture, new carpeting, even a new work schedule, can cause stress and stress can cause some cats to act out. A stray cat outside that your cat can see or smell may trigger territorial behavior in some pets.
There may be some remedies you can try to help reduce the cat’s stress like herbal, holistic, CBD, or pheromone calming products. P.V.P.E offers many of these and we’ll be happy to discuss these options with you. In some cases, a feline behavior specialist may be the answer. Your vet should be able to guide you in that direction if all else fails.
Examine your cat’s health and well-being.
As mentioned before, your cat may be trying to tell you that he or she is not feeling well when they don’t use the litter box. If they are experiencing pain when peeing or pooping, they will likely try to eliminate in other places to see if that stops the pain. A urinary tract infection could be the issue or constipation. Diarrhea or loose stools could make it hard for the cat to get to the box in time. We heard from a customer recently about a cat that was regularly peeing on the floor but after a dental cleaning and infected tooth removal, the cat went back to using the box again! Have the cat checked thoroughly by your veterinarian if litter box avoidance persists. Cats can’t tell us what’s hurting and often try to conceal pain.
The bottom line is, cats want to be clean pets and are not plotting to destroy your home.
Please give them all they need to be happy and healthy!