Click here to learn more.
Vetstreet. All rights reserved.
Vetstreet does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. See Additional Information ›
If your cat is hit or miss with her litterbox, chances are you have a bit to do with it. After all, your cat really isn't asking for anything more any one of us would. All that's required for most cats is that the litterbox be clean, quiet and free of surprises.
It sounds simple, but each year many owners send their
cats to shelters citing litterbox issues as their chief behavioral complaint. Before you even consider such a drastic step, you need to try to work things out. It's often extremely easy.
The first step is to make sure your cat's naughty behavior is not caused by a medical condition, and that means you should schedule a trip to your veterinarian for a complete exam. Urinary-tract infections and diseases such as
diabetes make consistent litterbox use impossible for even the most well-intentioned cat. You can't hope to get your cat using the box again until health issues have been resolved.
If your cat checks out fine, you need to make sure that everything about the box is to your cat's liking. The second rule of solving a litterbox problem? If the cat isn't happy, no one will be happy. Here's what to look for:
Cats are fastidious animals, and if the
litterbox is dirty, they look elsewhere. Clean the box frequently — twice a day, at least — and make sure it's scrubbed clean and aired out on a weekly basis. Having an additional litterbox is recommended for multicat households, since many
cats simply will not share.
While owner preferences are important, people often make choices that conflict with the cat's sense of what works. A covered box may seem more pleasing to you, but your cat may think it's rank or scary inside. Likewise, scented litters may make
you think the box smells better, but your cat may disagree — not only is the box dirty, he reasons, but it also has a "clean" odor he can't abide. Start with the basics: A large box with unscented clumping-style litter.
Your cat's box should be away from his food and water in a place that projects security and gives him easy access. Consider a location from a cat's point of view: Choose a quiet spot where he can see what's coming at him. A cat doesn't want any surprises while he's in the box.
Make the area where your cat has had mistakes less attractive by cleaning it thoroughly with a pet-odor neutralizer (available from pet-supply retailers). Discourage re-use by covering the area with foil, plastic sheeting or plastic carpet runners with the points up.
If changing things doesn't clear up the problem in a healthy cat, you may need to retrain. This can be accomplished by keeping your pet in a small area, such as a guest bathroom, for a couple of weeks.
Make sure the area you choose has no options other than the litterbox — no carpet, no pile of dirty laundry. Block off the bathtub or keep an inch of water in it to discourage its use. After your cat is reliably using the
litterbox, let him slowly expand his territory again. As long as you keep up your end of the bargain — keeping the litterbox clean and safe — chances are very good that the new, positive behaviors will become permanent.
If you still can't seem to get the problem resolved, ask your veterinarian for a referral to a veterinary behaviorist. These veterinarians are skilled in behavioral problem-solving and are able to prescribe medications that may make the difference while you're retraining.
This article was written by a Veterinarian.
Like this article? Have a point of view to share? Let us know!
Take our breed quiz to find your next pet.
Get all the best pet news and information sent right to your inbox!
Thank you for subscribing!
After Bailey warned Randy Bova about
the fire by barking frantically, she hid in
her crate and Bova had to save her.
Being in confined spaces can lead to
problematic dog behaviors like fear and
barking. Fortunately, you can change…
Meet a dozen cat and dog "foster failures"
who were adopted by their temporary
owners and given homes for…
There are many mistaken beliefs about
neutering, itchy ears, litterbox habits,
parasite prevention and more.
Get expert advice on keeping pets safe
during fireworks, barbecues, hot weather
and other Independence Day hazards.
The medium-size Mudi is a sheepdog
who tends to make an intelligent, active
and easy-to-groom companion.
Parasites are no fun for dogs. Learn how
to protect your canine from heartworms,
hookworms, whipworms and more.
A dog diagnosed with the dangerous parasite may have to take antibiotics, get drug injections and stop exercising.
Check out our collection of more than 250 videos about pet training, animal behavior, dog and cat breeds and more.
Wonder which dog or cat best fits your lifestyle? Our new tool will narrow down more than 300 breeds for you.
Visit HealthyPet magazine for interviews with pet-loving celebrities, health advice from our experts, training tips and…
If the video doesn't start playing momentarily,
please install the latest version of Flash.
Thank you for subscribing.