Going Outside the Box
By Kellie McCutcheon
Cats spend up to 50% of their time awake grooming themselves, they are naturally very clean pets. So when cats start going to the washroom outside their litter box, you know something is not right. At least 1 in 10 cats will develop an aversion to using their litter box. Not using the litter box is the number one behavioural reason cats are abused, abandoned, and put in shelters. Here are some of the reasons it might be happening.
Before you start investigating their litter box and litter box habits, its best to rule out medical concerns. Check with your veterinarian that your cat does not have a urinary tract infection or some other medical reason why it might be displaying negative behaviours with their litter box.
Litter: Too much litter, too little litter, a change in litter or sharing litter with other cats
Litter Box: Unclean, cramped, not enough litter boxes, no privacy or the style of litter box (hooded, liner, sides that are too high)
Stressors: Moving, new pets, new family members, struggle with a new family cat
Painful Recollection: If your pet was recently in pain when using the litter box, they might not want to go back in it (even though their health is back to normal)
Preference: If yours is an indoor/outdoor cat, your cat might have developed a preference for going outside.
Small changes can make a big difference
Here are a few changes you can make immediately to help guide your cat back into using their litter box:
- Clean is best. Scoop the litter box at least once a day and wash your cats litter box with an unscented mild soap at least once a month. If you are using clumping clay litter totally change the box a minimum every 3 to 4 weeks. Some cats do very well with a self-cleaning box, which can be cleaner than a standard litter box.
- Your cat’s litter box should be one and half times the size of the cat and we highly recommend replacing your cat’s litter box every 6 months. Old boxes can become scratched and permeated with odour.
- Litter surplus. How much litter are you using? Cats need 3-4” of litter. Too much, or too little, could cause your cats to go elsewhere.
Quiet time. Get a larger litter box and move it to a quiet location where your cat has privacy. The litter box should also be far away from food & water dishes. Make sure that small children or other pets can’t get to the boxes.
- In & out. If your cat is a senior or arthritic and has joint issues, use a litter box with low sides.
- Back to litter basics. Use clumping, unscented litter to start. Over time you could try introducing other litter options but cats can be fi nicky so don’t force it. One idea is to try putting out a few clean boxes side by side (not touching), each with a different type of litter, to see which one your cat prefers. Cats like to explore textures and can be very sensitive to new litter material, so always best to give them a choice and introduce slowly.
- Multiple cats. Provide a litter box for each of your cats, plus one extra and put a box on each level of a multi-story home.
Suggested product solutions
- Elsey’s Cat Attract Litter for cats and kittens provides a natural, and guaranteed solution for cat owners whose cats do not use their litter boxes! This multi-cat, hard clumping litter is 99% dust free with a natural herbal attractant that entices cats back to their litter box.
- PETSAFE ScoopFree Original Self-Cleaning Litter Box cleans itself 20 minutes after your cat uses it, guaranteeing a clean litter box every time your cat reenters. The disposable trays are also 5 times more effective at reducing odours, which is great for cats with sensory issues.
- If switching litter isn’t an option with your cat, try mixing Dr. Elsey’s Cat Attract Litter Attractant powder with your litter (one bottle treats 100 lbs. of litter). This additive is guaranteed to work, or your money back.
- The LitterLocker Design Plus is a useful and hygienic product that keeps your home smelling fresh and litter bacteria at bay. Frequent litter box scooping means you need some easy disposal solutions!
Pet Expert Tip: Cats don’t like to eat or drink where they go to the washroom. Don’t place food and water dishes anywhere near your cat’s litter box.