Litter Box Tips

How to Deal with Litter Box Aversions

Written by Veterinarian, Dr. Christianne Schelling

Before starting any litter box changes, be sure to first rule out any underlying medical condition. Even a subtle medical disorder could be affecting your cat’s urination habits.

Most important—provide a clean box! Even though your cat may not be acting like the neat, cleanly kitty you generally perceive because she is urinating outside of her box, she most definitely still is. If the litterbox is dirty, she probably will not want to use it. Different cats tolerate varying levels of cleanliness. For some even the minutest amount of urine or feces will send her delicate little paws elsewhere to relieve herself. Ick! You want me to go in there? For these fastidious types you will need to scoop daily, if not more.

Number of Boxes: The general rule of thumb for the number of litter boxes is one box per cat, plus an extra box. Translated, this means one cat should have two boxes, two cats should have three boxes, and so forth. If it is possible to have two boxes per cat, even better.

Many aversions/preferences develop when the litter box is extremely dirty and kitty seeks elsewhere to eliminate such as bedding, rugs, carpet, newspapers, etc. In the process kitty may learn to prefer the softer material and chose it over even a clean box.

If this has occurred, you may have to place some old rags, torn up paper towels or newspapers in the box. These will have to be changed several times a day since they provide minimal absorbency and odor control. Gradually start adding soft litter to the box until all the other materials are replaced by litter.

While treating any inappropriate elimination problem, it may be necessary to isolate the cat in a small room where no previous housesoiling has occurred. Provide kitty with plenty of toys, love and attention in this room. Let her out only when 100% supervision is provided. You may place a bell on her collar to monitor where she is at all times. Gradually you will start her on new habits and hopefully preferences. The amount of time she is isolated is proportional to the length of the inappropriate behavior, anywhere from 1-4 weeks is usually sufficient.

If you are using a clumping litter, use anywhere from an inch to three inches of litter, depending on your cat’s preference for depth. Use a scoop with slots to retrieve the clump. Scoop frequently because the clumps will break down with agitation and will be harder to remove. If the waste products are removed regularly, the box will probably only need to be washed every week.