Is your cat not using her litter box?  We share top tips to prevent your cat litter box problems from renowned American animal behaviourist Trish McMillan Loehr as presented at the 2015 G2Z Summit. Whether you have a cat or thinking of getting a kitten, these tips will help to keep your cat happily using the litter box.

80,000 cats are euthanised annually in Australia and litter box problems is one of the main reasons domestic cats are surrendered to the pound.  According to the ASPCA, at least ten percent of all cats develop elimination problems. Some stop using the box altogether. Some only use their boxes for urination or defecation but not for both. Still, others eliminate both in and out of their boxes.  The good news is litter box problems are usually temporary and medically based according to Trish McMillan Loehr.  If your cat fails to use the litter box, the first step is to determine the cause of her litter box issues.

Reasons for cat litter box problems

  • Changes in the home such as the arrival of a new pet
  • Multiple cat household – some cats develop chronic litter box problems if they’re forced to live with a large population of feline roommates. A conflict between cats in a household can also cause or contribute to litter box problems.

    Cat litter box problems

    One litter box per cat plus one.

  • Dirty litter box – like us, cats don’t like dirty toilets
  • Poor choice of litter form (using pellets/crystals/non-clumping litter which are uncomfortable to walk on and do not allow for complete urine removal)
  • Unable to relax and get to the box, or use it, due to fear of a strange human, dog, active child, loud noise, etc., in the house environment
  • Litter box size is too small
  • Too few boxes
  • Medical problem(s) – the cat may have bladder stones, cystitis, diabetes or a partial urethral blockage. Visit your vet to rule out any medical issues.

Trish McMillan Loehr’s tips to prevent cat litter box problems

  1. Scoop the Poo! Cats have very sensitive noses, and you don’t want to teach your cat to avoid a dirty litter box. Scoop at least once a day. Once a week, wash the box with water or a small amount of mild soap and then fill it with new litter.
  2. Have one box per cat in a multi-cat household plus one
  3. One box on every floor in a multi-level accommodation
  4. Use an unscented clumping litter (Trish uses Dr Elsey’s litter for her cat in the US)
  5. Don’t use a liner
  6. The depth of the litter should be 5cm
  7. The box should not be too small, have an escape route to get out easily and no cover
  8. Test substrate preference with the cat, what does it prefer
  9. The location of the box should be in a quiet location away from noisy appliances (such as the washing machine in the laundry) and away from where the cat eats.  Cats don’t like to toilet in their kitchen.
  10. Slow introductions to a new dog/new baby.

Find out how to do smooth introductions between your new dog or baby/child and your feline friend in our Paw Perfect Introductions series with renowned animal behaviourist Dr Joanne Righetti.

Cat litter box problems sources

Trish McMillan Loehr’s presentation ‘Litter Box Problems: Shelter Help and Adopter Support