Cat Litter Box Problems (cont.)

What to Do If Your Cat Eliminates Outside the Litter Box

Basic Tips for Making Cats Feel Better About Using Their Litter Boxes

  • Virtually all cats like clean litter boxes, so scoop and change your cat's litter at least once a day. Rinse the litter box out completely with baking soda or unscented soap once a week.
  • The majority of cats prefer large boxes that they can enter easily. Plastic sweater storage containers make excellent litter boxes.
  • Most cats like a shallow bed of litter. Provide one to two inches of litter rather than three to four inches.
  • Most cats prefer clumping, unscented litter.
  • Your cat may prefer the type of litter she used as a kitten.
  • Most cats don't like box liners or lids on their boxes.
  • Cats like their litter boxes located in a quiet but not “cornered” location. They like to be able to see people or other animals approaching, and they like to have multiple escape routes in case they want to leave their boxes quickly.
  • Because self-cleaning boxes are generally cleaner than traditional types of litter boxes, many cats accept them readily. However, if you're using a self-cleaning litter box and your cat starts eliminating outside the box, try switching to a traditional type of litter box.

Resolving a Litter-Box Problem

The first step in resolving elimination outside the litter box is to rule out urine marking and medical problems. Have your cat checked thoroughly by a veterinarian. Once your veterinarian determines that your cat doesn't have a medical condition or issue, try following these guidelines:

  • Provide enough litter boxes. Make sure you have one for each cat in your household, plus one extra. For example, if you have three cats, you'll need a minimum of four litter boxes.
  • Place litter boxes in accessible locations, away from high-traffic areas and away from areas where the cat might feel trapped. If you live in a multistory residence, you may need to provide a litter box on each level. Keep boxes away from busy, loud or intimidating places, like next to your washer and dryer or next to your dog's food and water bowls, or in areas where there's a lot of foot traffic.
  • Put your cat's food bowls somewhere other than right next to her litter box.
  • Remove covers and liners from all litter boxes.
  • Give your cat a choice of litter types. Cats generally prefer clumping litter with a medium to fine texture. Use unscented litter. Offer different types of litter in boxes placed side-by-side to allow your cat to show you her preference.
  • Scoop at least once a day. Once a week, clean all litter boxes with warm water and unscented soap, baking soda or no soap, and completely replace the litter. The problem with scented cleaners is that your cat could develop an aversion to the scent.
  • Clean accidents thoroughly with an enzymatic cleanser designed to neutralize pet odors. You can find this kind of cleaner at most pet stores.
  • If your cat soils in just a few spots, place litter boxes there. If it's not possible to put a box in a spot where your cat has eliminated, place her food bowl, water bowl, bed or toys in that area to discourage further elimination.
  • Make inappropriate elimination areas less appealing. Try putting regular or motion-activated lights in dark areas. You can also make surfaces less pleasant to stand on by placing upside-down carpet runners, tin foil or double-sided sticky tape in the area where your cat has eliminated in the past.