Cat Litter Box Problems

Jackson Galaxy Learn: Solve Litter Box Problems

Litter box or inappropriate urination problems can be disheartening for any cat owner. Cats do not stop using the litter box to retaliate against you or to take revenge. Typical reasons are medical or emotional.

There are some things you can do to determine why your cat is urinating outside the litter box and to correct the behavior.
This issue is common and very frustrating, but we really need our cat lovers to try everything in their home to keep their cat. We urge you to try one or more of these suggestions before giving up on your cat. When a cat comes to a rescue because he/she is not using the litter box correctly, we need to disclose that the cat demonstrates “inappropriate urination” or “litter box problems” and it makes it extremely hard for a new family to even consider adopting the cat. It is also very difficult for us to have the cat in a foster home.
Please, before you consider surrendering your pet to a shelter, try these suggestions:

  • Schedule a vet appointment first.
    Every cat that starts to house-soil requires a thorough physical examination and urinalysis to check for medical problems such as infections, cystitis, arthritis, kidney problems, diabetes, and other medical issues.
  • Has there been a change in your household?
    Cats are creatures of habit and sometimes urinate inappropriately when anxious due to a change. Use some of the tips below to redirect your cat’s anxiety. If there is conflict between your cats or a new pet has recently been introduced, please consult a behaviorist. You can also look at our documents on working with cat aggression and our document on introducing a new pet. You can also ask you vet about medication that can help with stress.
  • Feliway
    Try Feliway to calm your cat.
  • Do you have enough litter boxes?
    You should have one litter box for each cat plus an extra.
  • Try a different type of litter box.
    Cats like to dig so a deeper or larger litter box may be in order. Make sure you put plenty of litter as cats like to dig.
  • Place litter boxes in different places
    Sometimes another cat or pet or even a playful child can prevent your cat from reaching the litter box. This is another reason to have more than one box.
  • Cat like really clean litter boxes
    Some cats are extremely fastidious about their litter box and refuse to use a soiled one. Cleaning the litter box daily may be just the solution. Some cats will not use the litter box after they poop in it and some want one box for poop and another for pee. At least monthy, clean the litter box with soap and water. Don’t use anything with ammonia or anything with a strong smell.
  • If your cat is declawed the litter may hurt its paws
    Often the rough texture of even scoopable litter will hurt the paws of a declawed cat. This will make it so your cat would not want to the litter box since it is just too painful. Try putting a pee pad (you’ll need to look in the dog or puppy section of your local pet supply store) in a litter box. You may also want to offer a litter box with torn up newspaper. We recommend hand tearing into strips and using newspaper rather than shredded paper since the newsprint will better absorb urine. It may cause you more trouble in litter box cleaning; however, isn’t that better than having your cat pee outside the box?
  • Have you changed the brand of litter you use?
    Some cats are very particular about the litter in their litter box. You may need to go back to that previous brand or try a few to find just the right one. Many cats become sensitive to smells, try a scent free litter. Cats can also be sensitive to dust. Try a litter with low dust. For cats used to going outside and transitioning to inside, try dirt. You can slowly convert your cat to a soft clumping litter with time.
  • Cat Attract
    You can also try a litter additive called which contains a scent that naturally attracts kittens and cats to use the litter box.
  • Place litter boxes in different places
    The litter box may not where your cat really wants or needs it to be. Try moving a box closer to where the accidents occur until the behavior is resolved. Or put a box to a quiet location away from all the commotion.
  • Change the type of litter box
    If your litter box is enclosed or has a top, try leaving it out in the open without a top. Many cats feel intimidated going into a box with only one exit where they can be trapped. Place the box where they can see all around and make an escape. Try a larger litter box (you can also use a large tote).
  • Clean all areas the cat has soiled
    Thoroughly clean with an enzyme cleaner (Urine Off, Nature’s Miracle) This removes the smell otherwise your cat may continue to use these areas. You can use a blacklight to identify where accidents have occurred.

Do it yourself litter box video

Local Resources:

Consider an animal behaviorist to help determine the cause(s) of your cat’s stress and inappropriate litter box issues. There are several in the Eugene/Springfield community including those listed below that our volunteers and adopters have worked with successfully:

Kat Swanson
Feline Behavior Investigators
Certified Feline Training and Behavior Specialist

Jai Jamison, Animal Communicator

Elaine Slatore, AS Degree in Exotic Animal Training and Management