Common Litter Box Problems

5 Common Litter Box Problems And How To Solve Them

Fantasy author Terry Pratchett once wrote, “In ancient times cats were worshipped as gods; they have not forgotten this.” If you have ever shared your home with a cat, or even known someone else who shared their home with a cat, you know this is very true. Unlike dogs that live to serve their human family members, cats wait for everyone else to serve them.

Canine vs Feline Housebreaking

Housebreaking a puppy can be the most stressful time you will ever experience during your time as a pet owner. Puppies are taught to relieve themselves outside their sleeping area. But if you do not know to crate train your new canine, a tried and true method recommended by dog whisperer Cesar Millan, then the angelic little bundle of fur can turn into a real nightmare.

Along with crate training, keeping your puppy on a schedule helps train it more easily. Cesar Millan says this is because puppies have a small digestive tract, which means that after eating, it could require a trip outside to go potty anywhere from a few minutes to 30 minutes after eating.

Housebreaking cats seems much easier in comparison. According to a WebMD article by Julie Edgar, 90% of cats never develop an elimination problem ( The only thing they require is a litter box, some litter, and for their humans to keep the area clean. And as long as humans maintain the cleanliness of the cat box, most cats are happy to return there each time they feel the need to eliminate waste.

Humans Cause Most Litter Problems

But what happens when your cat refuses to use its litter box? Sadly it is most likely due to something the human has done wrong. Here are some of the many reasons why cats might suddenly refuse to use their litter boxes, and what you can do to help solve the problem.

CLEANLINESS ISSUES – If the litter box is dirty, then your cat could stop using it. It might decide to urinate or defecate somewhere else, like on your bed or behind the couch.
MORE CATS THAN LITTER – If you live in a house with multiple cats, then it is important to have enough litter boxes. Some felines are so finicky that they want a whole litter pan all to themselves!

SIZING ISSUES – Boxes that are too small or have sides that come up too high can pose a problem for cats. You probably do not feel comfortable doing your business in a tiny little bathroom stall, and your cat feels the same way. It needs room to move and stretch.

PRIVACY – A friend once had a cat that would only use the litter box if the bathroom light was off, because it was that picky about wanting to go potty in private. It is not only important to respect your cat’s privacy, but also to put the box somewhere that allows multiple escape routes so your cat doesn’t feel boxed in while using the litter.

NOISE and SMELLS – Too much noise can cause cats to seek a quieter area of your home for its bathroom needs. And overpowering disinfectants or aromatic deodorizers can put your cat off from the idea of using the box. The box should be clean without using artificial scents. A thin layer of baking soda under the litter and regular maintenance should take care of any offending smells.

MEDICAL – Sometimes cats have issues with the litter box because they have a medical condition. If you suspect that your feline may have a cat urinary tract infection for example, then the litter box will be a tell-tale sign because your cat will make frequent trips without producing any urine. A tender abdomen or crying when trying to eliminate bowels might point to a blockage or other digestive issues.

Helping Kitty Prefer the Box

The first step in helping your kitty choose to eliminate inside its litter box is to take a good, hard look at your choice of kitty litter. That is because the choice is not really yours to make – it belongs to the cat that is using the box! Some cats prefer sand litter, while others prefer clay or even cedar shavings.

Scooping the litter at least once per day, changing out the litter completely twice per week, and washing the box with baking soda once per week will help keep the box clean. Cats prefer using a shallow area of litter, so do not fill the box more than 2” deep. Using liners can turn cats away from using their litter box, so as nice an idea as this seems, if you really want to take extra steps to keep the litter box sanitary try a self-cleaning version.

Freelance writer Rick Mercado also dabbles in online marketing. Whenever his laptop is open he is looking at a website, whether it is to research dog products at for a new article or learning the latest SEO techniques. In his spare time Rick enjoys kayaking and hiking in the rugged terrain around his home in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

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