The Ins and Outs of the Litter Box

Litter boxes are one of the most important resources in all cat homes, so when your cat mysteriously stops using it, it can be very perplexing and cause of a lot of stress for both you and your cat! So why might your cat stop using their litter box, and what can we do to prevent it?

Using a litter box is natural for a cat, however they all have unique preferences. Here are some guidelines to follow to make sure your cat is feeling good about their box!

The type of litter box you provide can make a big impact on your furry friend. A small litter box may be too cramped, while a tall litter box can be difficult to jump into. With so many options, how do you choose?

A basic, uncovered litter box is a great place to start. It should be big enough for your cat to comfortably turn around in, and a lower entry point with high sides around will help reduce litter tracking while still allowing your cat ease of access.

Covered litter boxes can trap in the smell of dirty litter and provide an excellent point of ambush for mischievous kitties. This can lead them to choose the path of least resistance, which just might be your fancy new couch!

Cats can be just as choosy about their litter. A fragrance free, low dust, clumping clay litter will do the trick for the majority of cats. If changing their litter, do so slowly and offer them extra litter boxes with the old litter to help them adjust.

Multiple litter boxes in a home is one of the best ways to ensure your cat continues to use their box. Some cats like to separate their litter habits into two different boxes, while others like their box to be pristine. Multiple boxes allows them to be as particular as they like while still being easy to maintain. In homes with multiple floors, it is best to have at least one litter box per floor.

Litter box placement is also very important to your feline friend. While cats don’t like being secluded, they also don’t want to do their business in a crowded space. Litter boxes are best placed in lower traffic areas that are close to areas of the home people are frequently in. Instead of placing them in the basement, try placing them in low traffic hallways or the outskirts of a room.

Avoid placing your litter box in tight corners and cluttered areas that provide only one entrance and exit. Two or even three areas of exit are best and help your cat feel safe and secure from any potential threats.

It is important to have your litter boxes spread out throughout the house, creating options for your kitty. This is especially important for kittens and cats in multi-cat homes. Kittens can get distracted by playing and need the litter box urgently. If there isn’t one near them, they may not have the time to make it to the box and go somewhere closer. In multi-cat homes, if litter boxes are placed all in one room or lined up together, they become one giant litter box to your cats. This can be the perfect set up for some mischievous guarding, preventing other cats from having access to the litter boxes. In order to avoid conflict, the other cats will choose somewhere else to go, and if there are no other litter boxes, that spot is the most convenient alternative such as laundry, towels, or even the bed! Litter boxes spread throughout the home means there’s always an alternative place to go.

Keeping litter boxes clean not only helps prevent litter avoidance, it is also important for a healthy cat. Daily scooping will go a long way to keeping your cat happy!

If your cat is avoiding the litter box, be sure to bring them to your vet to rule out any medical causes. A thorough check-up of older cats is important as arthritis can cause litter box avoidance due to pain.

Litter box avoidance can be very frustrating for even the most dedicated cat parent. Consider consulting with a certified behaviour consultant for extra help.

Article by Kristin Hulzinga

Kristin Hulzinga has had a love of animals since she was a young child and has spent her whole adult life in various forms of animal care and wellness. As a teenager, Kristin started working in pet stores, later expanding her experience by working at a vet clinic and dog daycare. These experiences allowed Kristin to gain a fascination with animal behaviours.

In 2012 Kristin brought home her first cat, a Savannah named Zeddie. Zeddie ignited a deep love of all things cats and Kristin has happily been a cat lady ever since. Her love of cats drove Kristin to put her focus more on animal behaviour and training, and later to specialize in cat behaviour. In 2018 she began working for Toronto Animal Wranglers with Zeddie, who can be seen in a variety of commercials and tv shows! Kristin is a Certified Feline Training and Behaviour Specialist through the Animal Behaviour Institute and is dedicated to demystifying cats and their behaviour, creating more peaceful environments for cats and their people alike.

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