Cats like to be clean and they’re also creatures of habit—so when there’s a litter box problem, you can be sure your pet is trying to tell you something.
That “something” could be an issue with the box itself, a behavioral development, or a medical condition. The most common problems are when your cat starts going outside the litter box, refuses to use the box, or is attempting to eliminate more frequently than usual.
Your first step in addressing a litter box problem is to have your feline checked by a vet. Medical conditions are frequently the cause of sudden litter box issues and include:
- Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
- Feline interstitial cystitis
- Urinary bladder stones
- Urinary blockage
Cats may also be more vocal, groom themselves frequently near the rear end, and have a tender abdomen if the problem is medical.
If a medical cause has been ruled out, stress, negative associations or environmental factors might be the culprit. Non-medical reasons why your cat may be avoiding the box are:
- An unclean litter box
- Too few litter boxes for the cats in the household
- A cramped litter box
- A litter box with a hood or liner
- Not enough litter in the box
- An uncomfortable location that doesn’t allow for privacy and multiple escape routes
- A change in the kind of litter used
- Inability to get into/out of the box due to aging or other mobility issues
- Negative associations—something may have happened while the cat was using the box that frightened or upset them. If your cat had a medical condition that has been resolved, he or she still may associate the box with painful elimination.
- Stressors like moving, adding new animals or family members to the household
- A conflict with another cat in the household
- A new preference for eliminating on certain surfaces or textures like carpet, potting soil, or bedding
Some of these issues have simple fixes such as cleaning the box more frequently, getting a larger box, removing the hood (most cats don’t like lids), or putting more than one litter box box in the home.
Other problems, like stress or negative associations, may require more involved solutions. Anxiety-reducing pheromones or moving the box to a quieter location may help.
If your pet has developed a surface preference for something other than litter, try putting double-sided tape or a bright motion-activated light in any areas where you don’t want your cat to go.
Litter box issues can be frustrating for both you and your cat—please don’t hesitate to call us at (503) 360-9695 for help or to make an appointment for your pet as soon as you notice a problem!