My Cat Is Missing the Litterbox. What Can I Do to Get Her Back on Track?

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Q: I have an older cat who was a young feral when I adopted her. This past year, she has begun to miss the litterbox. I have taken her to the veterinarian, which is an extremely hard thing to do because I am the only one whose handling she tolerates. She doesn't have an infection. After some research, I thought I would try isolating her in the bathroom to see if she will start using the litterbox. Is this a good idea? — A.B., via e-mail

A: Assuming your veterinarian has assured you that your cat is in good health, then yes, retraining is definitely worth trying.

The idea behind putting a cat in a small area, such as a bathroom (with the rugs removed), is that potty options are pretty much limited to the box. Because some cats develop negative associations with their boxes, this technique may help them get back on track. A scrupulously clean box is essential, and any outside-the-box mistakes must also be cleaned promptly and thoroughly.

Before you do that, though, check in with the veterinarian. Medical issues that cause older cats to miss the box reach beyond urinary tract infections and may include arthritis or diabetes. All these problems must be ruled out or treated for retraining to work.

If your cat still won't use the box, go back to your veterinarian and ask for a referral to a veterinary behaviorist, who can develop a retraining program for you to follow and prescribe medications that will ease the transition back to good behavior.


This article was written by a Veterinarian.

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