No cat owner wants their house to smell like cat urine. So, when your cat refuses to use their litter box, your stress levels begin to rise. The team at Belmont Animal Hospital wants to decrease your frustration by providing steps to help remedy this situation.

#1: Make a veterinary appointment for your cat

Several medical issues can cause your cat to eliminate outside their litter box. They may feel discomfort when eliminating, and begin to associate the litter box with these unpleasant sensations. You should always first rule out a medical issue for your cat’s inappropriate elimination, especially if they are vocalizing while urinating, eliminating less than usual, or straining to urinate. 

Conditions that could result in this behavior include:

  • Urinary tract infections
  • Kidney disease
  • Kidney stones or blockage
  • Diabetes
  • Feline interstitial cystitis (i.e., a neurologic disease that causes bladder inflammation)

#2: Ensure the litter box set-up pleases your cat

Cats can be particular about their powder room preferences. Every cat is different and will have different ideas about what is acceptable. Follow these few guidelines to help find the right fit for your cat.

  • Your cat likes cleanliness — Scoop their litter box at least once a day, and completely clean the box and change out the litter once a week.
  • Your cat does not like to share — Provide one litter box for every cat in the house, plus one extra. 
  • Your cat likes convenience — Place litter boxes on every home level. 
  • Your cat likes privacy — Do not place boxes in noisy or busy areas. 
  • Your cat does not like to eat in their bathroom — Do not place your cat’s food or water bowls near their litter box. 
  • Your cat likes room — Ensure the box is large enough for your cat to move around. The box should be as long as your cat from their nose to the tip of their tail when stretched out, and as wide as your cat is long.
  • Your cat likes openness — Do not use covered litter boxes. Your cat does not like to feel claustrophobic in the bathroom.
  • Your older cat needs comfort — If your cat is older, ensure they can easily get in and out of the box without discomfort. You may need to find a box with lower sides.
  • Your cat likes to choose — Offer multiple choices for litter. Most cats appreciate unscented, clumping litter, but if your cat enjoys time outdoors, they may prefer a more natural litter, such as sand or wood pellets.
  • Your cat does not like peeing in the deep — Do not fill the box with a large amount of litter. Your cat doesn’t like the litter more than one to two inches deep.

#3: Decrease your cat’s stress levels

Your cat may respond to stressful situations by inappropriately eliminating outside their litter box. The source of stress may be a new pet, a visiting family member, work being done in your home, or your child’s saxophone lessons. If you can pinpoint the stressing agent, eliminate the element if possible. You can also employ these strategies:

  • Block your cat’s access to windows and doors. Stray animals outside may cause your cat anxiety.
  • Use commercially available pheromones to decrease generalized anxiety.
  • Invest in enrichment techniques to help keep your cat mentally and physically engaged.
  • Ask the team at Belmont Animal Hospital if calming supplements or antianxiety medications would be appropriate for your cat.

#4: Manage interactions among multiple household cats

Cats can become territorial, and your cat may be feeling bullied by another household cat and feel stressed. To alleviate their anxiety, ensure that your bullied cat has several litter box options in several house locations, and that every cat has their own scratching post, toys, and bed. Spend time with your bullied cat, playing and grooming them, to help reduce their anxiety. You may need to separate the cats for a time if the bullying is excessive.

#5: Have your cat neutered or spayed

Intact cats, especially males, are much more likely to eliminate inappropriately. Spaying or neutering will typically remedy the problem, and they will be less likely to develop numerous serious health issues.

#6: Eliminate the cat urine smell

If your cat does eliminate outside their litter box, clean the location thoroughly. If the smell is not completely removed, your cat will be triggered to use that area again. Do not use products containing ammonia, and do use specialized enzymatic cleaners developed to break down the odor. Blot the area as thoroughly as possible, treat the area with the enzymatic cleaner, and scrub the area well. Repeat this process three times.

#7: Do not punish your cat

Inappropriate elimination requires patience, not punishment. Do not scold your cat or rub their nose in the waste material. This will not help, and will likely result in your cat feeling more stress, leading to more litter box issues.

Your cat is a fickle creature, but these guidelines should help you determine the cause of their litter box rebellion. If you would like to discuss your cat’s litter box habits, contact the team at Belmont Animal Hospital to schedule an appointment.