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Why won’t my cat use the litter box?

At some point, most cat owners will be dismayed to find poop or pee somewhere unexpected. While the occasional litter box accident is an inconvenience, frequent ones are cause for concern. Cats don’t tend to respond well to negative reinforcement, so scolding your cat for turning your closet into his bathroom is likely to do more harm than good. Fortunately, cat owners are most often able to correct undesirable toileting behavior by taking the time to understand their kitty’s unique preferences and motivations.

Medical reasons your cat may be avoiding the litter box

Sad Grey Cat Why won’t my cat use the litter box?

If you have noticed changes in your cat’s toileting behavior with no apparent cause, it is important to rule out possible health
problems. Painful elimination brought on by illness can cause kitties to associate their litter box with discomfort, motivating them to avoid it. Several common medical explanations for household accidents include:

  • UTIs
  • Kidney stones
  • Feline interstitial cystitis 
  • Internal blockages
  • Age-related incontinence 

This list is by no means exhaustive, so it is important to keep in mind that litter box problems aren’t necessarily behavioral. It is always prudent to contact us or your vet to ensure there is no physical explanation for your cat’s change in bathroom habits.

Do multi-cat households need more than one litter box?

Pet parents should watch out for changes in toileting behavior after adding new cats to their family. Territory disputes between cats living in the same space often unfold inside (or worse yet, outside) the litter box. A dominant cat may be cutting off a more submissive sibling’s access to the bathroom, or shifts in the power dynamic may be motivating your kitties to urinate throughout the house as a way of marking territory.

If you sense that sibling rivalry may be to blame, try placing additional litter boxes throughout your home. Use an enzymatic cleaner on any existing accidents to help quell future marking behavior.

Am I using the best litter box for my cat?

Cats are individuals, and we love them for it. What pet parents may not realize is that cats can have litter box preferences as unique as their personalities, and, like us, those preferences can change over time. If you notice that your cat is avoiding the litter box, it may be because she dislikes the scent of the litter, the presence or absence of a litter box cover, or the use of a litter box liner. Many cats will choose to eliminate elsewhere in your home if their litter box is not scooped regularly.

Cats tend to prefer unscented clumping litter, but it is best to leave the final verdict up to your kitty. The simplest way to investigate your cat’s preferences is to experiment. Offer several litter boxes throughout your home with different types of litter and varying degrees of privacy, and notice which one your cat seeks out. 

Where should I put the litter box?

Where should I put the litter box?

Proper litter box placement can play a huge role in correcting undesirable bathroom behavior. If your cat’s litter box has been in the same location for a long time, and he or she is suddenly avoiding it, it’s possible that (at least in your cat’s view) there has been a change in its accessibility. In multi-cat households, the litter box may be in a place that makes your cat feel vulnerable, exposed, or cornered. Arthritic kitties may find it harder to climb stairs to reach their litter box, especially if they need to make more frequent trips as they age. Older cats often benefit from a floor-level box with lower sides. 

If you notice pee and poop where it doesn’t belong, try meeting your kitty halfway by placing a litter box in the area of the accident. If your cat shows a preference for the new litter box, a change of scenery may be just what he or she needed. 

 

Our cats can’t talk to us, but they often communicate what they need. When you approach your kitty’s litter box troubles with an attitude of curiosity, you are likely to arrive at the perfect solution together.