You love your cats, but you don’t like it when they pee or poop outside the litter box. Behavioral problems relating to the litter box are very common in cats. Fortunately, there are ways to solve these litter box behavioral issues and prevent them from happening in the future.
Common Litter Behavioral Problems in Cats
House soiling, often called inappropriate elimination, is the most common litter box problem experienced by cat owners. Your cat may pee or poop on carpets or area rugs, in house plants, on or under furniture, and even on your bed. It can be hard to get odors out even with thorough cleaning.
Some cats will use the litter box area for urination and defecation, but they miss the litter box itself. You may find pee and poop on the outside of the litter box or on the floor around it. This makes upkeep frustrating and messy. Plus, the odors can linger throughout your home.
If you have more than one cat, you may notice tension around the litter box. Cats may fight one another to get access. Or, cats may block the area and use body language to communicate passive aggressively to other cats. This may cause one or more of your cats to seek out an alternative place to do their business.
If you are experiencing one or more of these issues, there are several things you can do to stop it.
Why Cats Have Litter Behavioral Issues
There are many possible reasons why your cat is exhibiting litter box behavioral issues. Before you try to correct the behavior, it’s important to rule out a health problem. Medical issues often cause cats to have trouble accessing the litter box or controlling urination/defecation. Common health concerns affecting litter box habits include urinary tract infections, diabetes, kidney disease, constipation, arthritis, and dementia. Be sure to visit your veterinarian at the first sign of litter box issues.
If no health problems are found, then the cause of your cat’s litter box behavioral issues may be related to the litter box area. Most cats are fastidious about cleanliness. They groom themselves with precision and seek out comfort and safety in their homes. They also enjoy a clean, comfortable, and safe space to pee and poop. If there is something undesirable about the litter box, they may try to find alternative spaces to eliminate. Your cat may find the litter box area unpleasant for one or more of the following reasons:
- Odor or lack of cleanliness in and around the litter box
- Cat litter with uncomfortable texture, poor absorbency, or strong fragrance
- The cat finds the litter box area to be frightening, loud, or exposed
- The litter box is too small or the space is too confined
Cats may inappropriately urinate and defecate in the house if they have trouble accessing the litter box. Competition from other cats may prevent a cat from feeling safe in the litter box. Dogs or other animals may make the cat too afraid to leave certain areas of the home to get to the litter box.
Stress in the home can also lead to litter box problems. New litter box problems may develop after a major change occurs in your cat’s environment. Moving to a new home, the addition of a new family member or pet, or the loss of a person or pet in the household are all common causes of stress to cats.
Some cats develop litter box issues after trauma or stress relating to litter box activity. This sometimes occurs in newly adopted adult cats.
How to Solve Litter Behavioral Issues in Cats
It’s important that you bring your cat to the veterinarian before trying to correct behavioral issues with the litter box. Once you and your vet have ruled out or treated existing health problems, you can begin to make changes to your cat’s litter box area.
Are you using cat litter that effectively eliminates odors and absorbs liquids? Consider switching to a quality cat litter like Arm & Hammer Clump & Seal with Ultra Odor Blasters. With patented Clump & Seal technology, this litter quickly creates hard clumps that seal in odors before they can travel through your home - and it's great for Multi-cat households! In fact, Arm & Hammer Clump & Seal guarantees a seven-day odor-free home. The clumps are easy to scoop, making cleanup easy for you. Plus, the texture of Arm & Hammer Clump & Seal feels soft to cats’ sensitive paws.
Cleaning the Litter Box
Fortunately, Arm & Hammer Clump & Seal is easy to scoop, so be sure to scoop all litter boxes twice a day to keep them clean and fresh for your cat. Sweep up litter on the floor around the box and clean any messes with a pet-specific cleaner like Arm & Hammer Pet Stain & Odor Eliminator Plus OxiClean.
Make sure your litter box is large enough for your cat. There should be enough space for your cat to turn around easily. The ideal litter box will measure one and a half times your cat’s length from nose to tail. The edges should be high enough to prevent your cat from peeing or pooping over the edge. Fill the box three to four inches deep with litter. Avoid covered litter boxes as these may make your cat feel confined or worry about being trapped inside by another animal in the home. If you have multiple cats, consider placing several litter boxes in different locations around the home. A good rule of thumb is to have one litter box per cat, plus one extra.
Cats may feel vulnerable when pooping or peeing. The litter box should be in an area with some privacy and quiet. Avoid high-traffic areas or locations near loud appliances. They could get spooked by the sudden noise of a washer or dryer next to them while they use the litter box.
Make sure the litter box is not behind a door that may accidentally close or get blocked by another animal in the home.
Take steps to reduce stress and enrich your cat’s environment. Cats need to play and explore in order to thrive. Get your cat some toys and set aside at least 10-15 minutes a day for interactive playtime with you. Consider adding vertical space to give your cat more opportunity to explore. Window beds and cat shelves on the wall can greatly expand your cat’s world. Feline pheromone diffusers can be placed in the home to send calming signals to your cat. Calming supplements may also help. Ask your vet for advice about supplements for your cat.
Litter Box Training
Litter box training tends to be fairly simple for kittens. They are naturally drawn to granular substrates like cat litter. Some kittens have already been introduced to litter boxes by their mothers. However, some kittens and cats will still struggle with litter box use.
When training or retraining a cat to use the litter box, begin by setting up a comfortable litter box area and using quality litter like Arm & Hammer Clump & Seal. Bring your cat to the litter box after each meal. Scoop clumps and solids as soon as possible after your cat uses the litter box. Seek advice from your veterinarian or an animal behaviorist if you are having trouble with litter box training.
Although cat litter behavioral issues are frustrating for both you and your cat, there is hope. With consistency and persistence, you can make the necessary changes to get your cat back to the litter box.