Cats are naturally clean creatures –and this desire for cleanliness extends to their litter box. Just as you would choose not to use a filthy bathroom, your cat will seek another location if the litter box isn’t up to his or her standards. If you have a cat that is avoiding the box, you may want to consider these steps:
• Location, Location, Location. Place the litter box in a convenient site that offers as much privacy for your cat as possible. If you can, have one more litter box than you have cats. If this is impossible, try to give the problem cat access to the litter box, alone, for several minutes twice a day.
• Play Favorites. Use a brand that your cat likes and keep it very clean. Clumping litters such as ARM & HAMMER™ Super Scoop™ keep the litter fresher longer because odors caused by waste are removed. Once you find a brand your cat likes, stay with it.
• Hot Spot. If your cat has found a spot other than the litter box for eliminating, you must make that spot unappealing. Use an enzymatic cleaner to eliminate the odors that draw the cat back to the site. It may be helpful to put plastic or aluminum foil over the area. Another technique is to condition your cat to use the box by placing a new litter box at the site the cat prefers and after the cat begins using the box, gradually moving it to the site you prefer. Don’t rush this process or your cat will stop using the box and return to the original spot.
• Health check. Cats may stop using the litter box because they’re ill. Take your cat to the veterinarian to rule out illnesses such as cystitis (a bladder infection or inflammation) and diseases that cause frequent urination such as diabetes and hyperthyroidism. If there are no medical problems and you’re keeping the box clean, then the problem is probably behavioral.
• Leaving a mark. Both male and female cats mark their territory, more commonly in multi-cat households, especially if there are five or more cats. This problem can quickly become overwhelming. Consult with your veterinarian about ways to address this behavior.