My home is a kingdom of three cats, and no one has ever had litter box problems. Most of my friends cannot understand that phenomenon, because they usually struggle with their sweeties for days, sometimes even months.
I will tell you my secret, but you probably will not like it. The secret’s name is – Malena. She is American Stafford Terrier and mom of my cats. I am pretty sure that she was the one who taught her silly kids how to behave well. The question is what to do when there is no smart dog to improve your cat’s behavior at home? Let’s see.
The Matter of Nature
Unlike big wild cats, domestic kitties bury their feces. An old belief says that such behavior is their way to show obedience to the owners. Honestly, I cannot imagine that my cats do anything to show their submission.
Most of them learn how to use a litter box sooner or later. However, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) brings out the data that approximately 10% of cats develop one of a few elimination problems.
Some kittens may refuse to use this place for numerous reasons. The others use it for one of two ‘jobs’ but not for both of them. The third option is to use the box, but occasionally anything else can be an ideal place for a toilet. It depends on every particular cat.
Even though many experts claim that cats have no cognitive abilities to punish their owners by using something else for that specific purpose instead of a box, I don’t think so. My Clementine has used her litter box from the very beginning, but every time she was mad with me, she went to pee into one of my flowerpots.
However, after Josephine came to our home, Clementine stopped with this misbehaves. It is pretty strange because, usually, a new cat causes jealousy in the natives. In our case, it was the opposite. When Sofio came, he started spraying the new territory, but my girls found a way to teach him how to behave nicely almost immediately. Who can understand cats?
One thing is sure. Once your kitten decides to avoid the litter box, you will face a chronic problem. In this particular case, prevention is everything.
Some owners believe that expensive and beautiful litter boxes are a solution, but they obviously do not understand cats. They want what they want and often choose a shoebox instead of a fancy bed, as you probably know. It is the same with the box either.
My advice is to try to figure out what is the root of the problem. That is the only way to find the right solution.
Why Your Cat Refuse to Use the Litter Box
You can recognize two common reasons why your kitty refuses to use the letter box. The first one is connected to the environment. The second one occurs as a result of more severe issues. Let’s see.
Medical issues – If your kitty, especially tomcat, suddenly stops using the litter box and you notice that it licks genitals too often, it is the warning sign. The kitty likely has an infection or blockage of a urinary tract. Therefore, it avoids the place connected with painful urinating. Go to your vet right away!
Stress – When your cat feels unsafe, especially in the new territory, it will begin using the litter box for sleeping instead of for regular use.
Negative association – Once something upsets your kitty while using the litter box, it can start avoiding it. Occasionally, you will notice that it comes to the litter box, but quickly leave the place before using it.
Company – If you have more than one cat, one of them may prevent the others from using the litter box.
The litter box is dirty – You can expect your cat avoids its litter box if it is not clean enough.
The cat does not like the letter box – If your furry friend finds the box too big, small, low, high, or challenging to get into, it will refuse to use it.
The cat does not like the litter – Some types of litters can be repulsive for your baby. Some cats avoid clay, too smelly or unscented, as well as too hard or too soft litter.
How to Teach Your Cat to Use the Litter Box
Litter box selection
Honestly, I did not want to spend too much money on the litter box and purchased two plastic washbowls for my cats. The green one is in the bathroom, and the yellow one is on the terrace.
Surprisingly, they prefer using the green one early in the morning, but enjoy the one on the terrace during the day. I have no clue on what are their reasons.
However, if you have an issue to teach your kitty to use the litter box, you should try to pick the model it likes.
Number – If you have a few cats, you can provide separate boxes for each one, but it is not essential. It depends on their temperaments and mutual affection.
Size – The litter box should be large enough since your cat needs to turn around a bit before starting to use it.
Depth – Provide a deeper box to give your kitty enough space to bury waste.
Cleaning – Once again, if you want your cat to use the box, you need to clean it regularly without any exception.
Let’s be realistic. You cannot train your cat like a dog, but you can find appropriate ways to convince it that using the box is not a subject for negotiation.
The type of the litter box – Choose the simple litter box filled with the clean litter, because they are friendlier to the cat. The models with lids are more comfortable for you, but they are often tricky for the kitty to access and use it.
The right litter – Usually, all you have to do is to place your kitty into the litter box. Keep in mind that the right litter can be crucial. My cats hated commercial ones from the very beginning, and I had a lot of problems to find the right solution.
After trying all possible brands, sand, and even fine gravel, I found an unbelievable solution. All three adore doing their business when I put pellets for heating in their litter boxes.
Pick out the natural and unscented cat litters. Too fragrant ones may deter your furry friend from using the box. Once you find the perfect litter for your cat, don’t change it. That way, you will prevent the confusion, which the kitty may feel.
The right location – Locate the litter tray in a quiet and safe place. Easy accessibility is critical in this particular case. Probably the best option is to place the litter box in your bathroom, laundry room, or terrace. The floor in these rooms is usually covered with tiles, and you can quickly clean them if necessary.
If you choose to place the box in the bathroom, avoid putting it near the washing machine since sudden movements and noises are scary for cats, especially for young kittens.
Avoid placing it in a garage as well, especially if you have a kitten. It can be pretty challenging teaching it to go downstairs to find the box. Also, if your cat is a senior, it can be hard for it to walk too far.
Your cat may need a smaller space to feel safe. You can try to put the litter box into a vari-kennel or cage. Once your kitty accepts its new home, you can move the box outside.
However, don’t do it too suddenly. Move the box a little bit every day until you reach the desired place eventually.
Be supportive – Some experts recommend sitting with your kitty until it familiarizes itself with the new environment. The purpose of this is to encourage the instinctive reaction of covering the feces. Be prepared that it is not an ideal approach for every kitten.
Reduce stress – You can expect that your cat stops using its box when it feels stressed. Try to eliminate or reduce the source of frustration, and your furry friend will begin using its litter box as usual.
Clean without yelling – When your cat misses the litter box and uses some other site instead, do your best not to overreact. Clean the area thoroughly to neutralize the scent.
The perfect solutions are enzyme-based cleaners and white vinegar. Avoid ammonia-based products since they smell similarly to urine and can attract your kitty to use the same place again.
Never place food, treats, or toys into the litter. Your kitty will not want to eat or play at the same place where it defecates. After all, you don’t want to do it either, do you?
Yelling and hitting the cat is counterproductive. All you can achieve is to get your cat scared, but this attitude will not make it do what you want it to do. The only option you have is to be patient and consistent.
Love your kitty, be supportive and gentle, and everything will be just fine. Based on my experience, I can tell you that these are the only things that will lead to the desired result.
Emily is an animal lover and a content writer at CatCaveCo.com. She has a passion for writing about pet care & health. Through her writing she is spreading awareness on how people can live better happier lives with their pets. Till now she has adopted 3 stray cats & always encourages people to adopt animals from shelter homes.