By: | | Cats

When it comes to housebreaking, cats are supposed to be easy. Their natural instincts drive them to neatly bury their wastes in loose soil.

If your cat is having occasional accidents, or has stopped using the litter box altogether, it could be a sign of an underlying issue. Punishing your cat won’t help – they’ll learn to be sneakier next time.

You can get your cat to use their litter box again by ruling out these possible causes, one by one.

Medical Conditions That Cause Litter Box Issues

If urinating has become painful for your cat because of a medical issue, they may develop negative associations with their litter box. Urinary problems can also make your cat incontinent.

Your vet can easily test your cat for a urinary tract infection, kidney stones and feline interstitial cystitis, or bladder inflammation. In some cases, your cat will visibly strain or cry when they try to urinate, and only a few drops will come out. Blood in urine is another sign of a health issue. However, not all cats have the same symptoms, and many do not show obvious signs of pain.

Another possibility is that arthritis, obesity, or other mobility issues have made it difficult or painful for your cat to get into their litter box. You made need to switch to a litter box with a lower opening so your cat can more easily enter it, and talk to your vet about treatment options to make your cat more comfortable.

Is Your Litter Box Cat-Approved?

Some cats stop using their litter box because they have found a more comfortable spot to eliminate. You will need to make your litter boxes more inviting.

Keep the Litter Box Clean

First and foremost, you should make sure you’re cleaning your cat’s litter box often enough. You wouldn’t want to use a dirty toilet, and neither does your cat! At a bare minimum, clean your cat’s litter box once a day, but twice is better, or just anytime you notice it’s dirty. You should also be changing out your cat’s litter at least once a month, and maybe more often, depending on the type of litter you’re using and the number of cats and litter boxes you have.

Litter Box Size Matters

There’s a good chance your litter box may simply but too small. Cats prefer litter boxes approximately 1.5 times their body length (excluding their tail). Most cats are between 15–20 inches long, which means you’ll want a litter box about 22–30 inches in length. This is much larger than litter boxes you’ll typically find in stores. The best way to get a cat-approved litter box is to make one yourself by cutting an opening in a large plastic storage tote.

Most cats don’t have a strong preference whether you use a hooded or uncovered litter box, but yours might. Some cats feel safer in a hooded litter box, while others hate the confinement. This is something you can easily experiment with if you’re using a storage tote by simply trying it with and without the lid.

Choose the Right Litter

When it comes to litter, cats generally prefer a soft, sandy litter to pellets or pebbles, and like litter that’s about 2–3 inches deep. Cats also tend to prefer unscented litters.

Provide Enough Litter Boxes

You might simply need more litter boxes. If you have multiple cats, they may dislike sharing their “bathrooms.” Cats that live in large, multi-story houses may not want to run across the house when they need to eliminate. A general rule of thumb is that you should have at least one litter box per cat, plus one extra, and at least one litter box for every floor of your house.

Is Your Cat Marking Their Territory?

It’s easy to tell if your cat is urine marking, especially if you catch them in the act. Your cat backs up against a vertical surface, twitches their tail, and sprays a small amount of pungent urine.

Urine marking is most common in unneutered males, though females and neutered males do it too. There’s a chance that neutering or spaying your cat will help, but it’s not guaranteed. Cats who are fixed as adults will already have developed the hormones and behavioral patterns that will drive them to mark even after surgery.

Cats who urine mark often start up because they feel insecure. It’s especially common in multi-cat households and areas with roaming cats. If your cat feels they have competition over resources, they will mark as though to say, “this is mine.”

Sometimes, you can only do so much to make your cat feel secure. In a multi-cat household, you can space your cats’ bowls apart so they do not feel stressed when they eat. Make sure you have plenty of litter-boxes, beds, toys and other resources.

Discourage Repeat Accidents

If your cat is eliminating in the same spots, you’ll need to break the pattern.

Cats, like dogs and many other animals, will eliminate where they detect the scent of urine and feces, particularly their own. Use an enzymatic cleaner to remove odors. You’ll find this type of cleaner in pet stores.

No matter how diligently you clean known accident areas, your home may still carry odors. Cat urine glows under black-light or UV lights.

Cats do not like the smell of citrus. An orange or lemon based spray applied to the areas where your cat has been having accidents can humanely keep them away from these places. You can also tape aluminum foil to forbidden areas. Cats do not like the way it crinkles beneath their paws.

Cats Love Ready Pet Go!

The cats of Silver Spring, Takoma Park, and DC are some of our best friends. Our main mission is making cats and their owners happy. The professional pet sitters from Ready Pet Go are bonded and insured, and will quickly become your cat’s trusted friend. Call 240-221-5335 or send us a message to schedule a Meet & Greet so we can be there when you need us.