8 Tips to Solve Litter Box Problems

It certainly isn’t pleasant if your cat starts choosing to use your house, instead of their litter box, to do their business.

We’re here to help! Here are 10 Questions to be asking yourself if your kitty is having trouble with the litter box. To read the full list, go to our Solving Litter Box Dilemmas fact sheet.

Tips to Understanding your Cat’s Litter Box Behaviour:

litter box training
Photo from Mstachul

1. Does your cat have a medical problem? 

Your cat may have experienced painful urination or defecation because of a medical problem (crystal or a urinary tract infection) they may associate the box with pain and avoid it.

2. Does your cat have an aversion to his litter box?

Reasons your cat may not want to use their box include:

  • The box is not clean enough
  • You’ve used strong smelling chemicals or cleaning products to clean the box
  • You’ve switched to a scented or deodorant litter, or placed an air freshener near the box
  • The litter is two or more inches deep
  • She was startled by a noise while using the box

… See our Fact Sheet (mentioned above) for all the reasons, and tips on creating positive association again once any of these have happened.

3. Is your cat neutered or spayed? 

Behaviour may be hormonally influenced if you cat is not fixed, making them harder to train. Cats should be spayed or neutered between two and six months of age – however, it can be done at a later date if you haven’t done it already. Sexually mature cats use feces and urine to advertise for a mate and mark territory.

See our Spay Neuter Services page for more details.

4. Was your cat a stray or feral cat?  

If your cat was born outside, they may need to be trained to recognize the box as their toilet. Also clean the litter box daily because stay and feral cats are used to a wide selection of clean areas to choose from to do their business.

5. Is your cat actually box trained?  

If the box is moved, does your cat keep going where the box used to be? Then they may not be box trained at all! If it needs to be moved, try moving it just a few inches a day to get your cat used to it.

litter box training6. Does your cat have a location preference?  

Your cat may have a location preference if, as above, she eliminates in an area where a litter box was previously kept; or if she always eliminates in quiet and protected places, such as in a closet or under a desk; or if she eliminates on a different level of the house from where the litter box is located. To help your cat improve her habits you can make the area where she was eliminating unappealing to her by covering it with aluminum foil, upside down carpet runner or by placing citrus-scented cotton balls over the area. Continue to our fact sheet for more suggestions when shifting locations.

7. Is your cat under stress?  

Any changes in a cat’s environment, or ongoing stressors, may cause them to become anxious and urinate or defecate outside of the box or spray. Events that may be stressful to your pet include a new family member (partner, baby); redecorating; personal crisis; a dinner party (noisy strangers throughout the house); going on a holiday (left alone, change in caregiver); or a repairman coming into your house (trespasser).

Understand these stressors, and try to minimize them for your pet.

8. Is your cat spraying or marking?  

Finding urine stains at cat-nose level on vertical surfaces such as drapes, walls or furniture, means it’s likely your cat is not urinating outside of his box, but spraying. This has nothing to do with needing to “relieve” oneself – stress and/or overcrowding in multi-cat households are often at the root.

For the full list, see our Fact Sheet on Litter Box Dilemmas!

Sep 21, 2015
by Emily Cook