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Common Factors for Litter Box Troubles

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It’s always heartbreaking to see “wouldn’t use the litterbox” as a reason for a cat to be surrendered to the shelter. Often times there are medical reasons or perhaps a competition with another pet in the house that causes a cat to not want to use a litter box. It is only in rare cases a cat would choose to not use a litter box for no good reason. Here are some different factors to consider if your cat begins to stray away from the litter box, explained by New Hampshire SPCA Manager of Animal Care Riann Goodare.


If a cat suddenly stops using a litter box, get them checked out by their vet ASAP. This could be a sign of a medical condition such as a UTI, cystitis, diabetes or thyroid issues to name a few. “So ruling out any medical issues is the first step”, Goodacre says.


If medical reasons have been ruled out, it’s time to start looking at factors in your own home. Changes in a cat’s environment, even if they seem minor to humans, can completely alter a cat’s use of the litter box. Things such as a new baby in the home, changing the location of the litter box or even a new type of litter can all be reasons for a cat to reject their routine. Goodacre recommends “adding additional litter boxes in different locations, cleaning the accidents thoroughly with a neutralizing enzyme (like Nature’s Miracle), adding Cat Attract litter to the litter box and using Feliway diffusers which are synthetic pheromone.” Another important tip to remember is most cats prefer their box very clean before they use it. Making sure you are cleaning the litter box frequently will encourage your cat to go back to that space.

Location of the litter box can also play into a cat’s comfort in using that specific box. If their box is placed next to a noisy appliance or in a location they have trouble accessing that could deter them from using it and finding a place more convenient and comfortable instead (like your new rug or favorite pair of shoes). Age can play a factor into where the litter box should be placed. For kittens and older cats, having the litter box as accessible as possible is key. Luckily, it is in a cat’s nature to want to dig and bury their waste, so when it comes to kittens, “there isn’t much to litter box training.” If you do find your new furry friend is struggling to understand the litter box, Goodacre recommends “confining them to a smaller space and then increasing their space as they use the box more regularly and multiple boxes always helps.”

Multiple Cats

In a multi-cat home having multiple litter boxes is a must. “Some cats prefer to not share a box, or may prefer a very clean box, so having multiple litter boxes helps avoid potential issues,” says Goodacre. Now this doesn’t mean lining up a litter box for each cat next to each other; this may mean using different litter for each cat or using covered and uncovered boxes depending on the preference of each cat. Another critical issue can be not only other cats but dogs as well. Making sure your cat has a litter box away from where a dog could chase or frighten them allows your cat to feel comfortable in that location.

For questions and concerns about your cats litter box use, call our adoption center to speak with Riann or any of our staff members 603-772-2921 ext. 110

To see all the wonderful cats available for adoption at the New Hampshire SPCA, visit the adoptable animals page http://www.nhspca.org/adoptable-animals/

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