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Dickinson Animal Hospital

The Litter Box Chronicles: Decoding Litter Box Issues

Older cat laying in cat bed

A cat’s ability to be an indoor-only pet is one of its biggest selling points for many pet owners. This impressive feline feature is largely thanks to the fact that they can be trained to use a litter box instead of needing to head outside any time nature calls.

While in most cases litter boxes are extremely effective and convenient, they can come with their fair share of issues. Health or behavioral problems could be keeping your cat from properly utilizing the litter box.

Litter box issues can stem from a wide range of issues like the type of box to intentional behavioral outbursts. Here are a few of the most common problems we encounter:

The Kind of Litter Box

If your cat is struggling to properly use the litter box, you might want to try a different box type. When looking for the right kind of box for your cat, consider the following:

  • Your Cat’s Size – If your cat is on the larger side, you definitely want to invest in a bigger litter box. If you are unsure what size to get, consult your veterinarian for some tips on choosing the right one.

  • Hood Preference – Each cat has personal preferences when it comes to the litter box. If your cat is avoiding using a box with a hood, you might want to try an option without a hood. Be sure your cat can fully stand up while inside the box.

  • Accessibility – If your cat is in his senior years, has some kind of handicap, or is overweight, you might need a special box with shorter sides for easier entry.

Look at the Litter in the Box

Just as cats are particular about the box, they usually have strong preferences about the litter used inside of it as well. Try not to change the brand of litter you use too frequently. Many cats prefer a fine-grained clumping litter that has no added scent. Make sure your litter is deep enough so your cat can bury waste without hindering his ability to walk.

Scoop your litter box at least once a day. If you have more than one cat or a cat with health issues, you might need to clean it more often.

Litter Box Location

Where you place your litter box can affect how much a cat will use it. A good litter box is:

  • Easy to reach

  • Secluded

  • Far from noisy appliances 

  • Accessible without the need to pass scary obstacles like dogs or children

If you have a multistory home, you should have a litter box on each floor your cat can access.

A Litter of Litter Boxes

How do you know how many litter boxes you need? If you have more than one, each cat in the house should have a litter box plus an extra. If you have three cats, for example, you should have four litter boxes. 

Don’t clutter litter boxes close together in one location. Instead, place them throughout the house so your cats can choose where they do their business.

Outside Factors and Litter Box Behavior

If you are still having trouble getting your cat to use the litter box, it might be signs of another issue. Cats might avoid the litter box if:

There Are Household Stressors – Cats have emotions just like humans, and any changes to your household dynamics, structure, or routine could cause them stress. If you think anxiety is affecting your cat’s litter box behavior, the team at Dickinson Animal Hospital & Pet Wellness Center is here to help.

They Have Medical Problems – A wide variety of medical problems like kidney disease, diabetes, feline lower urinary tract disease, and inflammatory bowel disease might impact your cat’s use of the litter box.

It can take a little time to find the right litter box for your cats, but with a little help, you can find the perfect solution for your favorite felines. Your cat’s routine wellness visits are a great opportunity to bring up any litter box-related problems you are experiencing, so our team can help you find the root of the issue. 

Please don’t hesitate to contact Dickinson Animal Hospital & Pet Wellness Center with questions or concerns you may have about your cat’s health or behavior; we are here to help.