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Solving Your Cat’s Litter Box Problem: 6 Mistakes to Avoid

solving your cat's litter box problem

It can be extremely frustrating when your cat stops using her litter box. Anything and everything in your home can become a potential target of urine or feces. Litter box aversion is the most common problem clients call me about and in many cases, those clients are at the end of their ropes. Cat parents seem to be able to tolerate furniture scratching, biting or constant meowing but when a cat pees on the carpet day after day it can be a deal-breaker. Nothing sends a cat to the shelter faster than a house that smells like cat pee.

Sadly, many of the cats relinquished to shelters, abandoned, or euthanized due to litter box problems could’ve been helped. Litter box problems cause cat parents to react impulsively, emotionally and sometimes irrationally. The sight or smell of cat pee on a cherished sofa or an expensive carpet can easily short-circuit a person’s patience. The level of frustration is understandable but how people handle the problem can either improve the situation or send it on a downward spiral. Here are some harmful mistakes I’ve seen cat parents make:

 1. Waiting Too Long to do Something About it

I can’t tell you how many times people call me and request an immediate consultation because they’re planning on taking the cat to the shelter within days. The problem has usually been going on for weeks, months, and maybe even years and then the cat parent reaches the breaking point. The longer a problem goes on, the harder it is to correct. If you wait until the problem has caused you to reach your breaking point then you probably won’t be in a good frame of mind to do the proper behavior modification. It’s also not fair to the cat. When a cat feels she can’t use the litter box for whatever reason, it’s stressful. If the reason is medically related, it also causes suffering. Don’t wait.

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2. Assuming the Problem is Behavioral

Many behavior problems have underlying medical causes. Many cats suffer in pain because a cat parent assumes the cause of the litter box aversion is due to a behavior problem when in fact, it might be due to lower urinary tract disease, renal failure, diabetes, or any number of medical issues. Whenever a cat displays a change in behavior you should have her checked out by the veterinarian. Once the veterinarian determines the cat isn’t suffering from a medically-related problem then you can start to tackle this from a behavioral standpoint.

4 comments

  1. My cat likes to sleep in her liter box. I have two liter boxes for my cat. One she uses to go to the bathroom and the other she is now sleeping in. She was using the second box on a regular bases, especially when she is upstairs. But now she is sleeping on the cat liter. The second liter box is clean so she is not sleeping in fecal matter.This behavior is a recent occurrence. Is this normal or do I have something to worry about? Any help will be appreciated.
    Thank you,
    Gene Mitchell

  2. I have a very sweet male cat that my vet says has urinary crystals. This has caused this well behaved cat to now pee in all the wrong places. I’ve switched the food to the urinary track type at my vet’s recommendation and it’s been about a week now. He’s still peeing on the carpet and my bed! I’ve been very gentle with him. And when I notice, I pick him up and take him to the litter box. It is in the bath tub, so he has taken to peeing in the tub, not the box. He’s still licking himself after peeing Where do I go from here? I know he wants to do the right thing. I’ve been using wheat litter which has been fine up until now. Perhaps a first step is to thoroughly clean the litter box and use a different litter? Or what else?

  3. Hi Colby, did you ever figure out a solution to your problem? I’m dealing with the same thing with my female, and we have a new construction home and she’s ruining our carpet. We’re at our wits end but I can’t bear the thought of getting rid of her. I feel like I’ve tried everything possible and still at a loss. Thanks in advance.

  4. Hi I had several bad behaviors with toileting of our Mother cat and 2x 5 month old sons. I read the net for days! The best advice that really worked was multiple litter boxes, one in each room they pee in. Verbal praise if the go to the box. Keep the box smelling ok by cleaning any droppings as soon as they leave – gradually reduce the amount of boxes as they select their favorite area. A covered littler box with a swing door gives some cats the privacy they prefer. I hope some of this will help you .

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