If your cats eliminate outside their box, you must act quickly to identify problems before they develop a preference for eliminating on certain surfaces or locations, and make sure the litter box is as cat-friendly as possible.
These common issues could be repelling your cats:
- Medical conditions
- Unclean litter box
- Too few litter boxes
- Uncomfortable location
- Dislike of the litter
- Dislike of the litter box
- Stress (i.e. moving, adding new family members or animals to the household)
Going outside the litter box can be a sign that your cats may have a medical condition that makes urinating too painful. Arthritis pain or stiffness can also make climbing into the litter box difficult. Especially if you see them urinating frequently, it's time for a visit to the vet.
Unclean litter box
Cats are very fastidious, so make sure to keep the litter box as clean as possible to encourage your cats' use. It's important to scoop out waste twice daily and scrub out the litter box with mild, low fragrance soap at least once a week.
Too few litter boxes
If you have a multi-cat family, there should be one litter box for each cat, plus one extra so that one cat can't ambush another cat using the litter box. Also, place at least one litter box on each level of your house.
Locate your cats' litter box to a more private, quiet, and calm location, away from their food and water, and avoid high traffic or noisy areas like laundry rooms. This helps establish more positive associations with the litter box.
Dislike of the litter
Many cats have specific preferences about litter. If you've changed brands or types of litter recently, its strong fragrance or rough texture may cause litter box avoidance. Try switching your cats' litter to one unscented and easier on the paws.
Dislike of the litter box
The litter box itself may be the offender. Larger cats need litter boxes with ample space, and kittens need low-profile ones. Some cats, especially senior or overweight cats, have difficulty getting into litter boxes with high sides.
Cats can get stressed, and they may show their distress by eliminating outside the litter box. Stress can come from changes in your household: moving, the addition of a new family member or pet, etc. These stresses may cause not only litter box issues, but they may aggravate existing medical conditions. Introduce changes gradually, and allow your cats to explore new people and things at their own pace.
Always clean the soiled spots thoroughly with an enzyme based cleanser to neutralise the odour. Be patient and understanding, and with time your cats will learn to love their litter box again.
Featured image by Salina Tran