Dealing with Cat Litterbox Issues
There are several solutions to a seemingly insurmountable problem.
One of the beauties of cat ownership is that nobody has to be housetrained or walked. From day one, cats instinctively seek out sandy areas to eliminate in, which you can easily provide in the form of litterboxes full of quality litter. No whining at the door to go out, no leashes and baggies, no walks in the rain or snow. However, what happens when your cat decides to start eliminating elsewhere?
There’s nothing quite as pungent as cat pee. If you wait too long to wash that favorite blanket your cat has peed on, you’ll never get the smell out. Furniture and carpets can also be ruined. And, who wants to step barefoot on a stray piece of cat poop in the middle of the night?
The best way to deal with litterbox avoidance is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Many things can cause a cat to eschew his litterbox. If you avoid the most common causes of these issues, you’re off to a good start.
Cats resist using a dirty litterbox. Use a clumping unscented litter and scoop out solids daily. Once a week or so, change out the litter completely and wash the litterbox. Using a liner bag simplifies this process, but some cats dislike liners. Litterbox placement can matter. Move food and water dishes away from litterboxes and move the boxes out of high-traffic areas.
Ask yourself a few basic questions: Is the box big enough for him? Have you provided both an open and a covered litterbox so he has a choice? Some cats will only use one or the other. Is the litterbox accessible at all times or is it behind a door that gets closed? If you have multiple cats, is there a litterbox for each cat plus one?
Cats hate change, so don’t change litters abruptly. Mix a little of the new litter in with the old and increase the proportion over time until you’ve switched over. Stress from a new arrival in the household, a new pet, a move or any other disruptive event can cause cats to act out.
As the owner of three cats. I’ve had a few issues of my own over the years, but I’ve learned to choose my battles. When a new housemate moved in, one of my cats registered his disapproval by urinating on my daughter’s clothes, which were always strewn on her bedroom floor. The easiest answer, short of tossing out the housemate, was to keep her door closed and provide a new litterbox near her door.
Another cat decided for reasons unknown to start peeing in the bathtub. I decided that this problem wasn’t worth a struggle. I simply washed down the evidence and that was that. The same cat also occasionally peed on damp bath mats; the solution was to hang up bath mats immediately after use.
If your cat does eliminate on rugs or furniture, immediately clean it up and spray the area with an enzyme odor eliminator. These products neutralize the urine so the cat can no longer smell it and will be less likely to soil the same spot again. Go over spots with a carpet and upholstery steamer to remove all traces. You can also put double-sided tape or aluminum foil over the area to discourage your cat.
If your cat’s new habits don’t have an obvious cause, take him to the vet for a checkup. A urinary tract infection, kidney stones or other medical problems can explain changing litterbox behaviors, especially in older cats. If your cat is a senior, you might need to provide litterboxes with lower sides or add a box or two so he doesn’t have as far to go.
Even though it may anger you when your cat pees on your Oriental rug, never rub your cat’s nose in a mess and don’t scold or frighten him. These actions will only stress him out more and can make the problem worse.
About the Author: Lisa King is a freelance writer living in Southern California. She is the former managing editor of Pet Product News International, Dogs USA, and Natural Dog magazines. Lisa is also the author of the well-received murder mystery novel “Death in a Wine Dark Sea” and the recently released “Vulture au Vin.”