Having Litter Box Issues?

If your pet is exhibiting any new “bad” behaviors, you should first consult your veterinarian. Your cat may have a medical condition. Your vet will likely be able to diagnose the problem and treat or offer solutions for the behavior issues. 

If there is no medical issue found, perhaps the cat is letting you know he/she is unhappy about something.  Has there been any type of change in your household recently, a new baby, a new animal, a college kid returning home, a parent moving in, contractor work, new paint or carpet, new furniture, a sickness or a death, new detergent being used, new litter box, new kitty litter, different cat food/treats, or anything else you can think of?  These things and many others can off-set a pet just like they can with any of us.  They have feelings and emotions too; they just don’t have the means to deal with what they feel, so we have to help them.

One of the biggest issues with cats under stress is urinating/pooping outside of the litter box.  Many times the cat has a urinary track infection that can be brought on by anything from stress due to some sort of change, a belly full of worms, fleas bothering them, their cushion got washed in different detergent, all the way to a food or treat sensitivity.  The first thing to do is get the kitty checked out by a vet. Cats are very susceptible to urinary and/or bladder infections and a week or two of antibiotic clears it right up.  Also, if you can narrow it down to a food or litter sensitivity that may have caused the infection, you may need to try to find a different litter or food.  Sometimes manufacturers change the 'recipe' slightly and cats will pick up on it.

If there is no medical issue suspected, then the kitty is trying to let you know he/she is worried/stressed/doesn't like something.  Here are some options to try:

  • Litter:
    • Try a different litter.  Some cats don't like the perfume in clay litter.  Some cats don't like clumping litter.  Some cats don't like non-clumping litter.  
    • If you are using a non-clay litter, like Yesterday's News or Feline Pine, they may not like that at first or grow to dislike it over time, so try clay litter.
    • We personally prefer Feline Pine (we use Equine Pine, which is the same thing as Feline Pine but much cheaper).  The pine acts as a natural deodorizer with no added perfumes.  It crumbles to sawdust with pee, keeping the area free from wetness, and it's very easy to pick out the poopie.  Cats seem to like it, perhaps because it has a more earthy smell than clay litter.
  • Litter Box Spot:
    • Move the litter box to the area that the cat is pooping/peeing.  Perhaps your kitty doesn't like the spot you picked for him.  He might not like to have to walk through several rooms, or go upstairs/downstairs, or walk past the dog or child's room, etc.
  • More Than One Potty:
    • Try multiple litter boxes, even if you have just one cat.  We usually have multiple bathrooms in our homes. It's convenient for us, why wouldn't it be for a kitty?
  • Clean the Pan:
    • Make sure you keep the litter pan clean.  Some cats can tolerate a litter pan that hasn't been changed in a week, or perhaps two days is their limit, and then you have the cats that like it cleaned daily.  Some cats can tolerate the pee spots but not the poopie, even if its their own.  
    • If you have multiple cats, some cats don't want to share a potty and would prefer to have their own.  I have seen cats stake out potties and keep others from using "theirs" and the other cats in the home just find another litter box to use.  There is always a hierarchy with cats.
  • Kennel Training:
    • One method that works for us is to set up a 36" or 42" dog kennel with their litter pan, cushion, bowls, and a shelf (either we make a wooden shelf and use cup hooks to attach it to the sides of the kennel or we use the kennel divider that comes with some dog kennels).  
    • We set the kennel in a quiet room/bathroom and let the kitty get used to the cage and spend some time in it.  This provides some down time for the cat, with his/her own things (no other cat/dog/child touches it), and it provides them their own space and sanctuary away from whatever it is that's bothering them.  
    • Cats sleep nearly 18 hours a day, and most love having a small cubbyhole to snooze in, so they acclimate to kennel life pretty quickly.  
    • Don't leave the cat in there all day, but perhaps overnight or during active parts of the day.  Get the kitty out on supervised visits; show him you love him and don't scold or hit or spray water in his face.  Your kitty needs to be reassured, not stressed more.  
    • When he is out and about, if he looks like he is going to potty, or does in fact squat or spray, pick him up and put him in his kennel litter pan.  Then pet him and reassure him, in a positive manner, that that is where you want him to pee.  Give him a treat and then leave him in there a bit 'to think things over.'  
    • Keep this retraining up while you try to find what is stressing him and help him feel more reassured and comfortable.  The bad bathroom behavior soon will stop because the kitty feels safer and less overwhelmed.  
    • If you can figure out the problem that's affecting the cat, once it's gone and you have not seen any bad behavior during supervised out-times, then you can stop the kennel time.  
    • If you haven't been able to pinpoint what is setting your kitty off, kennel time is fine as long as you still provide free time to romp and play.  
    • Bottom Line - We'd rather see a kitty curl up in his safe zone kennel and stay with his loving family then be shuttled off to a shelter or rescue with even worse stressors.
  • Kitten Cage: