Originally Answered: I have a cat that will not use the litter box?
You didn't say if you just got the cat? Do you have other cats? Is it a kitten? Was she litter trained before? Need more information...
Where did you put the litter box? It needs to be in a private, low-traffic area or she may be to anxious to use it. If possible, after cleaning up the feces, put it in her box so she can make an association with the two.
Here are some suggestions to your litter box problems:
- Provide a box for each cat
- Provide constant access to a box
- Go back to previously used brand of litter and/or
- Discontinue new disinfectant
- Move box to where it was previously used
- Eliminate new or frightening noise near litter box
- Move food and water away from litter box
- If cat is only going in one spot, put the litter box at the exact location and gradually move it back to where you want it at the rate of one foot per day (OR you can simply place a bowl of food there, because cats do not like to go where they eat)
- If there are several places, try putting dishes of cat food in those areas to discourage further elimination there
- Experiment with different textures of litter (cats prefer sandy litter)
- Use a covered litter box for cats that stand in box but eliminate outside of it
- Keep in mind that some cats are rather picky, and prefer to have two separate boxes (one to pee in and one to poop in)
Problems arise when your cat doesn't like or develops an aversion to the litter box that you have provided. Let's be fair here. There is absolutely no reason to expect every cat to like the same material, or even for one cat to prefer the same material over an entire life span. First lesson learned: You did not train your cat to use a litter box. At best, you offered the cat something recognizable as litter material. If your cat is having litter box problems then you will need to figure out how to make the litter box appealing to the cat. Here are a few options:
1) Pain or illness can cause a cat to stop using the litter box. Cats are very adept at hiding illness, so if your cat is having litter box problems then the first thing you need to do is take the cat to a vet for a medical exam.
2) If you aren't scooping the waste out of the litter every day then you need to start and start now.
3) Perfumes or other odors can drive your cat away from the litter box. Scented litters are unacceptable to many cats, and the leftover scent from a cleaning product could also be a problem. Get rid of the perfumes, and scrub those cleaners away before giving the box back to the cat. Remember that cats have an acute sense of smell.
4) Your cat may feel vulnerable when in the litter box. Is it in a noisy location (such as next to the washing machine)? Is it secure from little marauders like dogs and children, or even other cats? If the box is not semi-private, move it to a better location.
5) Remember those preferences that we talked about earlier. You may need to offer several different types of litter before finding the right one. Strange but true, some cats will not use the same box for urine and feces, in which case you'll have to provide two boxes. The type of box could also be a problem. If the box has a cover, try removing it.
6) Anxiety can lead to litter box lapses. Did some event scare your cat? This could be anything from a new couch to a new cat or even a new person in the house. If you suspect anxiety, confine the cat to a safe and secure place (maybe a bed room) until the anxiety has passed. Cats seem to hang on to their emotions, so the anxiety could last much longer than the actual event. No need to rush, leave that safe haven available to the cat for as long as possible.
7) If you have multiple cats, chances are you'll need multiple boxes, maybe even with different materials in them.
There is one more important distinction that you'll need to make. Is the cat refusing to use the litter box, or is the cat spraying? Spraying is a territorial behavior and has nothing to do with disliking the box. For more information on litter box problems or spraying, consult with a trained behaviorist.
Correcting the Problem
The key to solving elimination problems is to make the litter box more attractive, and the area where the cat is soiling instead, unattractive. Sometimes, just cleaning the litter box more frequently or changing its location will correct the problem. Other times, you may need to experiment with different combinations of location and kitty litter to find a solution. You may even want to offer your cat the choice of several different boxes, each with different kinds of litter, to see which he or she prefers. At the same time, you must break the cat's habit of soiling in the new location. Be sure to clean the soiled area thoroughly with a pet odor remover to get rid of any urine scent -- or your cat may be attracted back to the same spot. It's important to keep the cat away from the area. Try covering the spot with carpet runner, prickly side up, or use a device that delivers a harmless static shock or that produces a loud noise when the cat comes near, to help redirect kitty to his litter box. Adding a room deodorizer with a scent the cat finds offensive - such as a strong citrus or floral - can also keep the cat away from the area.
When to See the Vet
If your cat continues to eliminate outside of the litter box, a trip to the vet is in order to check for health problems. No behavior techniques will help a cat with a problem that requires the attention of a veterinarian.
Urinary tract infections are a common cause of litter box problems, which your pet's doctor can diagnose and treat. A urinalysis can also rule out diabetes. Other conditions that may affect elimination behavior include arthritis - which makes is painful to climb in and out of the box - and constipation.
Always scoop litter boxes twice a day. When cleaning the litter box, use a mild detergent and finish by rinsing very thoroughly. Never use strong-smelling pine cleansers or ammonia. If you want to disinfect the box with bleach, dilute it with water first. Rinsing the box with boiling water is also effective. With covered cat boxes, the smell can be worse, especially with high humidity, so you must be willing to clean it more.
It's also VERY important to thoroughly clean the spots she's been going in, to prevent her from wanting to go there again. Remember a cat's sense of smell if FOURTEEN times stronger than that of a human. So even if you believe you've cleaned the spots up, chances are she can still smell her urine/feces there. Here are some odor removing tips:
To remove the smell of urine from just about anything, first clean it with some sort of soap or kitchen cleaner. Then clean it with lemon juice. If you don’t like the smell of lemon juice follow it up with a little bit of vanilla extract. One of the most effective formulas I’ve found for removing ANY odor was from Popular Science Magazine. Mix 1 quart of Hydrogen Peroxide, with 1/4 cup of Baking Soda, and one tablespoon of liquid dishwashing soap. Saturate the affected area, rinse thoroughly with clean water, and the smell is gone. This is non-toxic and safe for your animals and children, and those with allergies. This is especially helpful for removing skunk odor from your outdoor animals. As always, test a small portion of fabric for color fastness, before treating a large area.
What Won’t Work… There are many home remedies for treating pet stains and odors, and let me stress that most of them are not too bad as far as removing odors for humans’ noses. Vinegar, ammonia, baking soda, laundry detergents, lemon juice, fabric softeners, and commercial strength pet stain removers are all great for removing the odors that humans can smell. However; you will need more to remove the odor for your cat’s nose. An enzymatic cleaner is the best answer, but it is slow and may take more than one application. (Nature’s Miracle is one of them.) The Hydrogen Peroxide/Baking Soda combo is fast, but can alter the colors of some fabrics. In the end, you must decide which application is best for your situation.
Even if you clean a pet stain with soap and water certain micro-organisms remain behind and your pet can smell them. Enzymatic Cleaners are designed to completely eliminate the source of the odor by using enzymes to eat away the micro-organisms that cause the odor. The one drawback to these cleaners is that they are slow; it could take several weeks for them to completely eliminate an odor. Enzymantic Cleaners are available at most pet stores, organic/natural/health food stores, and even some hardware stores. You can also ask your vet for suppliers.
If she is still a KITTEN:
If the kitten was born and raised outside, they may have a tendency to want to maintain those outside habits inside your home. You may find that they might try and use your plants as a litter box. A kitten that was born and raised, for the first several weeks, inside by its mother will have the advantage of its mother's help in the litter training process, and other domestications. Kittens, generally, can begin to use a litter box at about four weeks of age, and a kitten being raised without its mother or adult cat will take slightly longer to litter train; so, keep this in mind when you begin the task of litter training your kitten.
- Place the kitten in the box 1/2 hour after play or meals.
- Stimulate interest in the litter by stirring it.
- Let the kitten jump in and out of the litter box instead of restraining him.
- Place some stool in the litter box (builds associations between litter box and bathroom needs).
- Use a litter with pellets as these mask the wet feel.
Cats are naturally a remarkably clean and fastidious animal and will usually learn quite quickly how to use a litter tray. Some kittens can be put in the litter tray and they