Recently we’ve had an influx of cat parents asking how to help cats use the litter box when they’re eliminating in other areas of the home. Because this is the number one reason cats are given up to shelters (and subsequently euthanized), it’s important for us to understand why they’re going outside the box so we can fix this behavior. There is always a solution. We just need to take certain steps to get there.

Each case will be different, but we’ve found 5 basic rules that fix the issue 95% of the time.

How To Help Cats Use The Litter Box

  1. First, if your cat suddenly starts going outside the box you want to see a veterinarian. Often times cats will eliminate outside the box to let you know that they don’t feel well. Since cats can’t talk and mask pain instinctively, this action gets your attention. Call your vet and bring your kitty in for a checkup to rule out a health issue first.
  2. If the health is okay, then next check to see if you have enough litter boxes. Cats often prefer to pee and poop in separate boxes, so the going rule is to have at least one more box than you do cats. You may be saying, “Fluffy has always used just one box” but feline experts say that cats will tolerate certain situations… until they don’t. Sometimes a stressful situation will trigger that ‘fed up’ point for our cats and they’ll no longer tolerate just one box. We have 6 cats and 8 boxes, just to be on the safe side.
  3. Make sure the litter box is big enough. The litter box should be a length and a half the size of your cat from the nose to the hind end (not including the tail). Most litter boxes are too small for our kitties to be comfortable in them.
  4. Try testing different litter types to see if the issue is the litter itself. Also be sure that it is scooped daily. This, too, can be a “tolerated until not tolerated” situation.
  5. Also, be sure that the litter box is in a comfortable, low traffic area. If you put their litter box in the laundry room, for instance, it could be stressful to use while the dryer is going. If it’s in an area where people or animals are constantly walking – also not ideal. Cats like to do their business quietly and in private just like us.

Never punish your cat for going outside the box and please do not surrender him to a shelter for this. Finding out what’s causing this behavior and making adjustments will allow you and your kitty to live in harmony again.


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