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Thinking INSIDE the Box

Updated: Feb 19, 2022


Litter box problems are the number one feline behavior complaint that I receive. Interestingly, humans are more likely to put up with aggression than they are to put up with cat pee. I get it. I have a cat that peed all over our house, due to stress. She hated one of my other cats and peed so much in our bathroom we had to rip up the floor, rip up the subfloor, sand down the floor joists, seal them, and replace everything. I even hired a vet behaviorist to help me. So I don't just talk the talk - I've lived it too. Like I said - I get it.

Sometimes caregivers get so fed up and don't know what to do so they end up putting their cats outside, taking them to shelters, or even putting them to sleep. It feels personal, and vindictive doesn't it? It's human nature to feel this way - we tend to be a bit egocentric. I understand it feels that way but I promise it's not. It's not even about you. It's about the cat. Cats may eliminate on our things - often clothing or bedding or shoes - as a sort of request for help. Maybe they don't feel well, or are stressed, or afraid, or something else. But what they are not is trying to make you mad. So before you throw in the scooper, the following information may help with many cases.

Schedule a vet visit.

The most common culprits are medical issues, such as urinary tract infections. Also, if urine is on vertical surfaces or near windows, your cat may be marking.  Any cat can mark, but intact animals have a much stronger drive.  In such cases, spaying or neutering will help. 

Clean regularly.

Few cats will tolerate a dirty box.  Scooping at least daily is more appealing to your cat and more sanitary for your home.  Completely change the litter once a week and wash the box with a mild detergent.

Remove the smell. 

Cats are attracted to soil where they smell urine or feces, such as on a rug.  Incomplete cleaning may trigger cats to “refresh” the spot, so you must completely remove spot.  Use specialized enzymatic cleaners and avoid common household cleaners. 

While some cats tolerate boxes like this, for others it can be terrifying.

Create the ideal kitty commode. 

What may be nice to us could actually be very unpleasant for a cat. Provide a box on each level of the home and make sure they are easy to find, especially for elderly or sick cats.  Avoid sudden relocation - if you must relocate the box, move it a few feet per day toward the desired location.  Be sure to avoid placing boxes near noisy appliances or food dishes. Most cats prefer jumbo, uncovered boxes, especially in multi-cat homes.  Also, the general rule of “paw” is to have one more box than the number of cats. I personally prefer 2 boxes per cat.

The Litter Avoid scented litters, cleaning with heavily scented products, and placing or spraying deodorizers near the box. What smells great to you can deter your cat. Avoid box liners and large grain litters, such as crystals or pellets.  Choose fine grain, clumping, unscented litter.  Once you find a litter your cat likes – stick with it! Changing litter brands can result in refusal to use the box. If all else fails, try sand from a hardware store. Sand is easier to clean up than cat pee, and I can help you transition back into an acceptable litter!

Contact a professional.

If you have tried all of the above and your litter box blues are not resolved, it is time to contact a professional. I offer virtual and in-home consults for litter box avoidance issues or can help you find someone else who does the same.

For more info, check out my free webinar, review this excellent booklet, or contact me for help.

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