Your cat may have many valid reasons for not wanting to use their litter box anymore. They may be due to behavioural or medical concerns. Unfortunately Fluffy isn’t going to write you a scathing letter as to why the litter box is no longer acceptable so you’ll have to do some detective work to determine what is going on.
Let’s start with the medical issues as they are the most important issues that need to be addressed quickly. If your cat is having a urinary issue such as a urinary tract infection, crystals in their urine or a urinary blockage the litter box can become a very painful activity. Every time your cat goes into the litter box to urinate they associate the pain from the urinary issue with going into the litter box. Fluffy will then try to urinate in other places throughout the house in hopes that it will not hurt when they pee there. It, of course, is going to be painful no matter where they go, so they need to be brought into the veterinary clinic as soon as possible. If your cat is suffering from a urinary blockage, this can be a very serious issue very quickly so if you are noticing signs always bring your kitty in right away. Signs of urinary issues other than avoiding the litter box can include frequently going to the litter box, having very small urinations in the litter box, crying while trying to urinate, excessively grooming their private parts or blood in their urine.
Cats are fickle creatures. They may have no issues with their litter box one day, and the next refuse to use it. Some cats are a little nicer and seek out easy to clean places to do their business such as the bathtub or a sink. Unfortunately, others will decide your pillow is now the best spot to pee. The smell of cat urine is a very difficult smell to get out so let’s get your kitty loving that litter box again. Location is very important to a cat when it comes to their litter box. The litter boxes should be in a low traffic area so that they have some privacy. You may think that a covered litter box is ideal as it provides privacy but it in fact just provides and lid to trap in all those litter boxes smells. Cats have an amazing sense of smell so if the litter box smells bad to you just imagine how bad it smells to them! So the best option is an open litter box so that it doesn’t trap smells. Having litterboxes all over the house isn’t ideal for us humans, but for cats, more than one is better. It is suggested that you have 1 box for each cat plus an extra. So 3 litter boxes for a 2 cat household and of course not all in the same spot. If one cat becomes territorial of a litter box, the second cat will always have other options.
As your cat gets older, the litter box can become more difficult to get to and get in and out of. Arthritis can make it painful to step into the litter box and more difficult to lift their paws up to get in. If you are unable to find a litter box that has a low front to make it easier for them to enter you can always make your own litter box from a Rubbermaid bin which you can find tutorials online for. If you have a multi-levelled house, you might need to move your litter boxes to the level your ageing cat stays on. Most people like having the litter box in the basement out of sight but if your ageing cat is having difficulties going up and down the stairs, they may stop using the litter box in the basement. A change in the type of litter can also make your kitty avoid the box. It may have a scent or texture that they find unappealing. So if you’ve recently changed the type of litter you use and your kitty is avoiding the box you may need to switch back or try another type. If you are unsure which type of cat litter is best, check out our blog on cat litter types: https://www.millcreekvet.com/scoop-cat-litter/
The litter box doesn’t have to be something your cat dreads going into. With a few little changes, you can make the litterbox a more positive experience for your Kitty. Your local Veterinary clinic is always a good source of information so don’t forget to give us a call if your cat is having urinary issues.
Written by: Nicki Payne, RVT