There are many wonderful benefits that come with cat ownership, as these independent, whimsical creatures can be loving and devoted companions. One of the less appealing aspects of cat ownership is dealing with litter boxes. Even when you have determined what type of litter box to use, where to place it and which litter to put in it in order to best trap odors, your cat’s refusal to use it properly or at all can be nothing short of completely frustrating. Fortunately, most litter box problems have distinct causes and therefore, distinct solutions.

Litter Box Issues

It’s normally incredibly easy to litter box train cats–it’s certainly far easier than it is to house train a dog–because cats instinctually want to bury their waste. You may think that providing them with a litter box and litter is all it takes to satisfy this instinct, and are therefore understandably dismayed when your cat chooses instead to bury their waste in the laundry basket, the bed sheets or the living room rug. But despite the fact that you may believe they are doing this out of anger or revenge, the truth is that there is usually a specific reason that makes their actions perfectly logical to them. Following are some of the most common reasons for why cats refuse to eliminate properly in the litter box:

  • The box isn’t being kept clean enough. This is not difficult to understand since we don’t like using dirty restroom facilities ourselves. Making sure that the litter box is basically cleaned of removable solid wastes and clumps every day and more thoroughly cleaned (and all litter replaced) once every few weeks may resolve this issue.
  • The box itself is a problem. Some cats feel that certain litter boxes are too big, too small, too high, too low, too enclosed, too open, too difficult to access or present some other problem. Unfortunately, there isn’t an easy way to determine which it is, but their chosen elimination location may provide clues–if it’s a large, open space and their litter box is a small, enclosed one, you may want to make a change.
  • The litter is uncomfortable or unpleasant. There are those cats that just don’t care about the litter that they use, and others that only like a very specific kind. Again, this can be difficult to determine and may take some time and experimentation to sort out.
  • The cat was startled or upset while previously using the litter box. The litter box can seem an unsafe place if the cat felt threatened in any way while using it.
  • There aren’t enough litter boxes for the number of cats using them. Cats are territorial animals, which means that even if seem perfectly happy to share their home and life with each other they would prefer to have their own areas in which to eliminate wastes. The best rule of thumb is to have one dedicated litter box for each cat, which means three cats need three litter boxes, five cats need five litter boxes and so on.
  • The cat is suffering from a medical issue. Cats and bladder infections often go hand-in-hand and can explain many common litter box problems. Urinary tract infections in cats are not only uncomfortable or even painful, they can be serious and lead to medical complications. If your cat is having trouble eliminating properly in the litter box, review the basic signs your cat has a bladder infection and get them to the vet as soon as possible if they are demonstrating any of these signs.

In addition to the above, consider trying the following solutions:

  • If possible, move the litter box to wherever your cat has started eliminating. After a month of using the litter box in this location, gradually start moving it to a more desirable location by shifting it about one inch every day.
  • Have at least one litter box available on each level of your home. This will help prevent any problems that are associated with your cat’s inability to reach a litter box quickly and easily.
  • Cover elimination spots with undesirable items, like aluminum foil, citrus-scented cotton balls or water bowls.