Cat ownership brings much joy and companionship into a person’s life. But when kitty begins “missing” her litter box, the relationship between a cat and owner can become strained. Not knowing what else to do, often the owner will surrender kitty to a shelter or rescue. Left abandoned, these troubled cats are usually not re-adopted. Don’t let this setback, which is easy to address, prompt you to needlessly give up on your pet.

The very first step when kitty is not using her litter would be a trip to your veterinarian to get your cat a thorough exam. There are medical issues that could be leading to your cat avoiding the litter box, such as urinary tract infections, urinary crystals, or bladder stones.

Once a medical issue has been ruled out or cleared up, try these seven things to correct the problem, or even prevent it so it never starts in the first place.cat_litter_box

  1. Make sure you have enough litter boxes. While most experts agree that you should have one more box than the number of cats that share them, this isn’t always practical. If you have 1 for every two cats, that should be sufficient if they are scooped often.
  2. Place the litter box in a low-traffic area that is easily accessible by your cat. If you put the box in an area that is constantly occupied, your cat may not use it. Likewise, if your cat has to walk past Rover’s sleeping spot to get to the box, she is likely to choose another place to “go.”
  3. Don’t put food and litter box next to each other. Cats will not eat where they eliminate, so a litter that is close to the food bowl will probably not be used.
  4. Make sure the litter box is large enough to accommodate your kitty. If her hind end sticks out when she is inside, she either will not use it or her aim will be directed toward your floor.
  5. Your cat may prefer a litter box without a lid. Although you might like that the lid helps contain spillage and odor, your cat may prefer the wide open spaces of a non-lidded box.
  6. Provide a cat litter your cat likes. You might have to change brands or types a few times until you find the one your cat prefers. Be mindful that some types of cat litter are hard on tender paws, especially if your cat is declawed. Fine textured sand-like pieces are easier on paws than large chunky pieces with sharp edges.
  7. Clean the box often. Scooping alone isn’t enough. At least once a month, empty the box and wash with hot water and an enzyme killing product such as Nature’s Miracle or Zero Order. Then refill with fresh litter.

Iris Goldman, a long-time client of mine, was amazed at how these simple tips could make such a big difference. “Until I followed this advice, my Cinderella would often find other places to go. I made just a few adjustments to where I place the litter boxes and the type of litter I use, and it made the problem disappear.”

If you follow these steps, your home should stay odor free. Should kitty begin missing the box despite having taken these precautions, this could indicate a serious medical issue. Have your cat thoroughly checked by a veterinarian before assuming the issue is behavioral. Once your cat is given a clean bill of health, consult a cat behaviorist to work with you and your cat. There are solutions if you are committed to working with your cat, your veterinarian, and your behaviorist.