It’s never fun when your feline friend starts eliminating outside of the litter box. It is definitely something you want to put an end to quickly, before it becomes a habit. Addressing the issue quickly and efficiently is key when it comes to stopping the problem. Luckily, this easy guide will help you understand why your cat is shunning its litter box in favor of other places throughout your home, in the first place, and how to put and end to it for good.
1.) Identify The Problem
Despite what you may think, cats do not just start urinating outside of their litter box to spite you. This is not some sort of “revenge” against you because you didn’t give Fluffy enough attention. Rather, there is usually some sort of underlying issue, either medical or psychological. The first step to identifying the problem is to pay close attention to your cat’s behavior. Spraying or eliminating outside of the litter box, in most cases is a territorial thing. First and foremost, if your cat is not spayed or neutered, you shouldn’t be surprised if they are urinating outside of the litter box. They do this to mark their territory, and especially when they are in heat. When your cat is old enough he or she should be taken to the vet and spayed or neutered. I cannot stress this enough! The sooner the better, because there is that rare chance that your cat will urinate outside of the litter box permanently if he or she has already started doing so from being in heat, even after being fixed. If a cat is feeling insecure about something they will try to mark their territory. Making kitty feel more secure is an important first step in putting an end to the problem. In a multi-cat house, the rule of thumb is to have one litter box per cat, plus an extra litter box. (i.e. if you have two cats, you should have three litter boxes, if you have four cats, you should have five litter boxes, and so on). Having enough litter boxes will help your cats feel more secure and keep them from getting possessive. Keep an eye out when your cats go to use the litter box or urinate elsewhere in the house, it could be that your cats had an altercation and now one of them is afraid to use the box. Usually addressing the issue by reacquainting them or investing in yet another box will do the trick.
2.) Thoroughly Clean The Urine & Your House
Thoroughly cleaning all areas that your cat has decided to urinate or spray is crucial to keeping them from repeating the incident. If your cat can still smell the urine, he or she will be drawn to the same spot again and again, making it a habit. Eliminating the odor is crucial to putting a stop to this. Investing in a good cleaner like Nature’s Miracle or Anti-Icky Poo is key. Both of these products utilize deep penetrating, oxygen-infused bio-enzymatic ingredients to remove all traces of urine and sticky residue. These formulas break down and remove the enzymes, so as to keep kitty from coming back.
3.) Addressing Litter Box Location
Think about where you currently have your litter boxes located. If you live in a house with more than one story, it is ideal to have a box on each floor. While it is nice to have litter boxes tucked away in a private, quiet space for kitty to feel comfortable, its important not to have it in a place thats too inconspicuous, because he or she might not go looking for it. You also want to make sure there your feline companion has plenty of room to get in and out of the box. If it is in a crowded area, he or she might avoid using it because it is uncomfortable or inconvenient to do so. If your litter box has a lid, you might consider taking it off. Some cats are finicky and prefer litter boxes without a lid. Having a few different types of litter boxes can help if you have a multi-cat household, because one cat might prefer a box with a lid, while the other might hate it. Enclosed boxes can be small, smelly, dark, and difficult to move around in. Another important thing to check are the sides of the box. If your cat is having a hard time stepping over the sides to enter the box (this is especially common in elderly cats or those suffering from arthritis), he or she might just decide its not worth the effort, and start using the bathroom elsewhere. If your cat has a particular spot in the house that he or she is drawn to eliminating on, try moving the box there to stop the problem. Once they have started using the box again, you can slowly move the box back to where you want it, or just make that one spot its permanent place, since your cat seems to like it for whatever reason.
4.) Clean The Box Regularly
Its surprising how many cat owners just don’t seem to understand that a dirty box is often a sure way to send kitty peeing elsewhere. Really, its common sense. Would you want to use the bathroom somewhere that was never cleaned? Cats are very clean creatures by nature, so having a clean litter box is key. Being consistent about changing your cat’s litter and regularly cleaning out the box is crucial to keeping your cat happy and avoiding the risk of them using the bathroom elsewhere. As a general rule of thumb, in our household we scoop the box anytime our cats defecate. While doing this, we also check for urine clumps and are sure to remove those as well. You of course don’t have to be this persistent with it, but just keep in mind that the cleaner and more consistent you are, the better your chances of kitty wanting to use the box are. I usually try to change the litter at least every other week. This involves actually pouring out all of the old litter, rinsing and scrubbing the boxes with warm water and natural soap that won’t harm kitty. Then pouring new litter and baking soda in them all. Vacuuming up any debris will also help keep the area to kitty’s standards. You can use a little baking soda every few days to maintain freshness, and pour a little more litter as needed, to maintain cleanliness and dryness as well.
5.) Consider Changing The Litter Type
Another way to try and get your cat to stop eliminating outside the box, is to consider changing the type of litter you are using. Heavily perfumed litter might be ideal for you, as it keeps the nasty cat smell away, but your cat might disagree. There are all kinds of litters on the market today, so don’t be afraid to experiment with each type to see what your cat prefers. Maybe you’ll get lucky and you can find a litter that you both like. I know that I prefer natural litters that are dust and chemical free, but my rescue cat Mowgli actually prefers clay based litters because it is loose, clumping, and unscented. Its easy for him to dig, dig, dig, which he loves doing when he uses the bathroom. Some other types of litters you might try are Feline Pine (made from pine), Wheat Scoop (Made from wheat), Yesterday’s News (Made from recycled newspaper), or there are also litters made from corn fiber, clay and charcoal, or crystals, etc. Note: I really liked the corn fiber litter as it is very lightweight, which makes carrying old litter to the trash much easier, but we stopped using it because its so lightweight that it also gets tracked through the house a lot easier than other litters and makes a total mess.
6.) Consult Your Veterinarian
If inappropriate urination has become an issue with your cat and nothing you’ve tried seems to be working, then it might be time to consult your veterinarian. Your cat’s vet will perform a physical exam and urinalysis to check for medical issues that could be leading to the problem. Urinary tract infections, diabetes, problems with the anal glands, and kidney failure are all common health issues in felines, that can cause them to create more urine, or add an increased urgency to urinate. If your cat is given a clean bill of health, then its time to look at the other solutions listed above. Don’t give up, while this entire process may be exhausting, eventually you should be able to find a solution. Your vet might also be able to suggest a few things you haven’t tried. They might prescribe a medicine if anxiety or stress are the underlying issue, or they might suggest trying a Feliway Diffuser, which is a plug in that releases cat pheromones, giving kitty a familiar and safe sense of security, thus reducing their need to eliminate or spray all over the house. Feliway sprays are also available.