If you're a cat owner, you may find that at some point your cat starts toileting outside the litter box. It can be frustrating trying to work out why he's doing it. So what can you do if your cat isn't using his litter box? Try these tips to help you work out what he's saying, so that you can put it right …
Cats are fussy creatures, and very fastidious, so they don't like using a dirty box. Have you been letting the cleaning slide a little? Every day you should remove any poop and clumped litter, and add some more fresh litter. Once a week, clean the box completely using an unscented soap or baking soda.
The problem may be caused by the type of litter box. Cats may not like a box that is covered, and an elderly cat may find it difficult to climb into a high-sided box. Try removing the cover and see if that helps. Cats can also be fussy about the brand of litter they use, so if you've switched brands try going back to the previous one or finding a type that they prefer.
Perhaps your cat doesn't like where his box is, or another cat in the household is making access difficult. Cats prefer to use a location where they can see what's coming easily, so don't place the box in a corner or small space. You may also need to add an extra one if you have more than one cat. The general advice is to have one box per cat plus an additional box.
Stress or changes such as a new arrival in the household or a move can upset a cat and cause him to avoid his litter box. Your vet may recommend medication to help calm the cat. Alternative remedies such as Bach Flower Remedies can also help, but look for remedies that don't contain alcohol.
Clean the area where you discover your cat has toileted with a product that will neutralise the smell. Be careful not to use anything containing ammonia, as the cat's urine also contains ammonia, or they may think it's a great place to use again. It can become a habit for him to start using that place as a toilet.
If your cat's dish is near his litter box, move it to a different location. Cats don't like going to the toilet near where they eat - and neither would we! It can also be worth placing your cat's dish where he has toileted outside the box, which should discourage him from using the same place again.
Keep an eye on your cat and if you think that his behavior could have a physical cause take him to the vet. Soiling outside the litter box is frequently psychological, but there are also medical issues such as painful urination.
However annoying it is to discover that your cat has left you a 'present', don't scold him - that will only stress him further. Toileting outside the litter box is nearly always a response to something in the cat's environment. Your cat is trying to convey a message with this behavior; he certainly isn't trying to annoy you. What does your cat do to make you laugh?
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