Litter box problems are among the top concerns of cat owners, and for good reason. Surveys suggest that at least 10 percent of all cats develop elimination problems over the course of their lives. I’ve worked at a shelter and owned many cats, including two elderly cats now. In my experience, nearly all litter box issues are related to underlying health problems, such as kidney or liver dysfunction. One of my longest-lived cats, a sweetheart who reached her mid 20s, never once went to the bathroom outside of her box.
If your veterinarian has given your cat the all-clear, however, there are do’s and don’ts to help you manage and prevent elimination outside of the litter box. The ASPCA suggests the following:
- Scoop your cat’s litter at least once a day.
- Change the litter according to manufacturer guidelines, or as needed. When changing the litter, also change any liners and wash the box out with an unscented cleanser.
- Make sure your cat can enter and exit her box easily.
- Place the litter box in a quiet location that will not make your cat feel trapped. Your cat should be able to enter, do its business in peace and leave when desired.
- Switch to a standard litter box if your cat has problems with a self-cleaning model.
- Provide enough litter boxes if you have more than one cat. The general rule is to provide one box per cat and one extra, especially if you have three or more cats.
- Experiment with different types of litter. Each has its own texture, smell and other qualities that may or may not appeal to your pet. Most cats seem to prefer finely textured, unscented clumping litter.
- Put too much litter inside the box. Keep it around 2 inches in depth.
- Clean messes with an ammonia-based product. Cat urine contains ammonia, so you may only compound the problem.
- Yell at your cat or forcibly move her to the box if she refuses to use it. You will only reinforce her aversion to both you and the box.