Common Cat Behavior Issue: A Complete Guide For Litter Box Problems

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It is not very often when a cat decides to neglect the litter box for doing its business like urinating or defecating. But still, it happens. There can be a lot of reasons behind a cat avoiding litter box. The fact that some people don’t clean their cat’s litter box can make their cat sick, which is maybe one of the reasons why a cat may avoid the litter box. Also, there can be more than one cat in the house which may cause conflicts and sometimes because of too many cats and one litter box, to avoid waiting they end up avoiding litter box which can become a problem for both the cats and the owners as a cat neglecting a litter box can become a habit.

Once they stop urinating or defecating or both, in the litter box, they find some other place. That other place can be your bedroom, living room, door, window or plants. Anything that best suits them, they will eliminate there instead of doing it in the litter box. So if your cat has just started ignoring the litter box, then now is your time to deal with it because once it comes into their habit, it will get out of hands.

Also, there can be more than one cat in the house which may cause conflicts and sometimes because of too many cats and one litter box, to avoid waiting they end up avoiding litter box which can become a problem for both the cats and the owners as a cat neglecting a litter box can become a habit. Once they stop urinating or defecating or both, in the litter box, they find some other place. That other place can be your bedroom, living room, door, window or plants. Anything that best suits them, they will eliminate there instead of doing it in the litter box. So if your cat has just started ignoring the litter box, then now is your time to deal with it because once it comes into their habit, it will get out of hands.

That other place can be your bedroom, living room, door, window or plants. Anything that best suits them, they will eliminate there instead of doing it in the litter box. So if your cat has just started ignoring the litter box, then now is your time to deal with it because once it comes into their habit, it will get out of hands.

There are many complex reasons for this behavior of the cats. Some problems, make cats hide in the dark places, and some make them sleep all day and some make them aggressive, but very few of them are the reasons to make them avoid a litter box and it could be anything from stress to a medical issue. Whatever the reason is, a cat avoiding litter box can’t be neglected. If something is bothering your cat, then it is your job to find out the reason behind it and solve the issue. Here are some reasons that might be behind your cat’s behavior.

If something is bothering your cat, then it is your job to find out the reason behind it and solve the issue. Here are some reasons that might be behind your cat’s behavior.

Reasons for the Behavior

1. Change in litter box-

If your cat just started doing that then it might be in some way related to the litter box. The problem can occur if you have bought a new litter box for your cat. Since most of the cats prefer certain kinds of boxes or have a habit of littering in the same kind of litter box, that’s why if you’ll introduce a new litter box then your cat might ignore it. They might not like the new design or the smell.

2. Unappealing design-

If you haven’t changed the litter box, but still your cat is avoiding it and littering all over the house, then maybe it doesn’t like the litter box or maybe the litter box is too far from the cat’s reach. Cats usually like a litter box that is not too small or not too big and depth should also be taken into considerations. A litter that is 1 to 3 inches is fine. Also, if you have more than one cat in the house then make sure that each cat has its own litter box because having only 1 litter box for 2-3 cats can create conflicts.

3. Trauma-

Sometimes some things happen that can really affect the cat’s behavior and attitude towards using a litter box. In rare cases, there can be any other animal around that might be making it uncomfortable. Also, there can be reasons like pain while defecating or peeing. This pain can cause discomfort in cats and this might be one the reasons why your cat is avoiding the litter box. But sometimes, this kind of pain can cause trauma which can form a fear in the cat’s mind whenever it goes for peeing even after it is healthy.

4. Accessibility and other issues-

Accessibility can also be an issue. If your cat’s litter box is too high or near the edge of a table or something, then it might become hard for cats to access the litter box. Also, if the litter box is near a window where the cat can see the other stray animals outside, then it can also become a problem because such kind of situations make them feel exposed, insecure and uncomfortable. Maybe that’s why your cat is avoiding the litter box.

5. Conflict with other cats-

Like we said above that cats usually prefer a litter box of their own, so if you have a litter box that is serving more than 1 cat, then it is most likely that one or two of them avoid using that litter box. Maybe they hate waiting or don’t like to share their litter box. This can become a problem because then they start to defecate or pee on the bed or near the door or anything that feels comfortable and easily accessible to them to mark it as their territory.

6. Stress and Anxiety-

Stress and anxiety are very common in cats. If your cat is stressed or afraid about something, then it may start avoiding the litter box. Let’s say if you bring another animal in the family or there are a lot of stray animals around your house then this can make your cat feel vulnerable and insecure. This can result in avoiding the litter box. Also, if you haven’t taken out time to play with your cat, then it can result in your cat being anxious and stressed all the time. To express their emotions, they avoid the litter box, hide in the dark corners, and even become aggressive.

Sometimes small things such as changing a daily routine that involved the cat or even you going out can give cat trauma. They might not look like big problems, but for the cats they are.

7. Medical Reasons-

Most of the reasons mentioned above are psychological. There can also be some medical issues such as problems with kidneys. Cat’s kidneys can form stones which can result in extreme pain during urinating. Also, inflammation can be one of the reasons.

It is a deadly issue which can cause frequent urination. If your cat’s bladder is suffering from inflammation then controlling pee before reaching the litter box can look like an impossible task making them pee outside the litter box. There can be other medical reasons too. In such cases, consult a vet as soon as possible.

Some Solutions to stop your cat from avoiding litter box

> First things first, keep your cat’s litter box clean all the time. You can do this by cleaning the box twice a day to make it a healthy environment for a cat to relieve itself.

> Also, don’t overfill the litter box. Just fill it according to your cat’s comfort. Cat’s like their litter anywhere between 1 to 4 inches.

> Cats don’t like the smell of new or scented litter boxes that’s why they prefer to stick to the same one that they’ve been using for past few years. So try bringing your cat a litter box that is odorless.

> Cats like their litter box at a place which is not very isolated and also not very crowded. If a cat feels safe then it will not avoid the litter box.

> If there are many cats in a house then try to have separate boxes for every cat in the house. This can help them in feeling secure and it will also avoid conflicts.

> Don’t put the litter box near a window. This can make them feel exposed. Also, choose a place which is a little quiet. Everybody likes silence while relieving them. And if you can’t find that spot, then most probably your cat will find it.

> If you are serving your cat food near the litter box, then it can gross your cat out. This can sometimes result in avoiding both litter box and the eating bowl.

> If the cat litter box is having different patterns and designs or is having a lid, then it might become unappealing for the cat. Cats don’t prefer such kind of litter boxes. An uncovered traditional litter box works just fine.

> If your cat is eliminating at places other than the litter box, then there is one thing you can do. Put the drinking bowl or food bowl of the cat near those places. This can make your cat stop eliminating at those places. This solution works most of the time.

> If your cat has already started avoiding the litter box, then you can reward your cat with a treat whenever it eliminates in the litter box. This can make defecation more enjoyable for the cats.

> Other than cleaning the litter twice a day, also clean the whole litter box with detergent or special cleaners that can eliminate any bacteria and foul smell from the litter box.

> Don’t change your cat’s litter box if not necessary. Cats like to use the litter box that they have been using since they were kittens or since they came to your house. So it can become a habit of eliminating in the same litter box and changing it with a new one can give them anxiety. And hence they start to avoid the new one.

> If your cat is suffering from medical issues, then take it to the veterinarian. Sometimes a sick cat can also avoid the litter box.

> A stressed and anxious cat avoiding litter box is a very common issue. If you think that your cat is in stress, take it to the behavior specialist who can tell the reasons behind the stress. Mostly the reason behind stress is a lack of interaction. So try to play with your cat every day. Cats spend most of their time sleeping. This sleeping makes them more energetic.

So when they wake up they need to spend energy, being unable to do so can make them stressed and anxious. Also, if your cat sees you going out of the house, then it can also make the cat stressed. Cats tend to catch on hints like if you go towards your keys and shoes, then it will understand that you are leaving the house which can create a lot of stress in them. So teach your cat about that and hide any kind of hints if you are going to leave the house.

> For older cats or cats that are physically weak, use a litter box that has a side or two that make the entrance for the car easier inside the box.

> Remember not to punish your cat for littering outside the litter box. Punishing will only make things worse and it is far from solving problems.

> If your cat defecates at a particular spot very often then make that area inaccessible to the cat. This way, your cat will forget about that spot and maybe it will start to litter in the litter box.

> Adjusting can also be an issue. Like if you’ve moved into a new house then it takes some time for you to adjust. The same is the case with the cats. If cats are introduced to a new environment which is different from their previous one, then your cat might take some time in adjusting.

So if you want your cat to relieve itself in the litter box, then you have to give your cat extra attention and make it a comfortable place for your cat to live. If your cat is stressed then try to play with it and give extra care so that the cat can adjust in the new place without any problem.

> In the case of any diseases related to bladder or kidney, provide your cat with medical attention. There are certain bowel related issues that can be life-threatening. So if your cat shows any sign of illness and expresses pain with yelling while defecating or peeing, then you should take it to the vet.

> Last but not the least, consult your vet. Consulting a vet before taking any step can be a good idea. A vet can tell you the exact reason for your cat’s behavior and also help you in dealing with it.

Tips to Avoid the Problem in the First Place

These are some basic practices that you can perform if there is no health issue. If there is any then don’t hesitate in booking an appointment with a veterinarian.

1. Never drag your cat to the litter box and never scream at your cat for not using a litter box. A cat should be taught how to use a litter box, but must not be forced into it. If you do that then it will most probably start to avoid it and form fear and grudges against you.

2. Always treat your cat if it listens to you. So if your cat uses the litter box and then treat it if not, then don’t give any treats. This way you can teach your cat using a litter box in a healthy way.

3. Put the litter box in places that are easily accessible to the cat and never put the litter box in the same room where your cat sleeps or eats.

Training Cat for Using a Litter Box

Training your cat for using a litter box should be your first step towards solving any problem related to the litter box. If your cat is not trained in using a litter box, then you can’t expect from it to eliminate in a box. If you have a kitten then it is not very hard to train it but if it’s an adult cat then the task might be a bit hard because some adult cats don’t have any training of eliminating in a litter box. But it is never too late to start.

So, the first thing you need is a litter box. You can choose between traditional ones or the self-cleaning boxes. The response of cats towards the self-cleaning boxes is really great. If your cat hasn’t used any litter box before then you can use the self-cleaning ones, but if the cat has been using the traditional litter box then try to stick with it.

Cats usually know when and how to use a litter box, but sometimes seeing the box in a bad condition can make them choose not to. Try to keep the litter box clean and accessible to the cat. If a cat can’t reach it, then there is no point in using it.

Mostly, cats know how to use a new litter box if you’ve brought one home. But if they can’t then instead of scolding them, you should help them with that because they can’t understand the language we speak but they can understand the language of love.

If your cat defecates or pees somewhere inside the house and not in the litter box, then clean up the mess so that there is no odor left. Cat’s urine contains a high amount of ammonia which can mark the place as a territory of cat where it can eliminate frequently.

Now if your cat has started using the litter box, you have to maintain its habit. For that, try to keep the litter box in a calm and noise free environment where people can’t disturb your cat. Also, the placement of litter box should be in a place where your cat can observe the people in the house. Also, avoid placing food near the litter box.

If you have a dog in the house, then it is very likely that your dog will end up eating from your cat’s litter box and also disturb your cat. You can prevent this by installing a cage in which only the cat can climb. This can help in keeping dogs safe from eating the cat’s feces that contain bacteria and also helps the cat in having a peaceful time while defecating.

Cats like consistency and are less open to new routines. A slight change in a daily schedule can make them stressed. So try to teach them to be more open to new situations. But still, there are some things that cannot be dealt with. Like if your cat does not like the type of litter box you have bought for it, then your cat will most probably avoid it.

So think twice before changing the litter box. Also, if the size of the litter box is too big then it can become uncomfortable finding a spot for elimination. So keep the size of the box right for your cat. If you can’t train your cat yourself, then you can ask a veterinarian for help as they can suggest you the best ways to train your cat for using a litter box.

What do The Experts say?

When people asked the experts (classified veterinarians and cat behavior specialists) about some other reasons of litter box related issues, then they said that most of the time it is the UTI that’s bothering the cat. In such case, a urinalysis should be performed in order to spot the disease. This condition affects a lot of cats across the world and if the condition does not get any medical attention, then it might turn into a life-threatening situation.

If medical reports are fine and there are no health issues, then the problem might be stress and discomfort. That stress can be due to the litter box. Maybe the cats don’t like the box or the sides of the box are too low. This can cause them discomfort.

Summary

We can say that this behavior of cats is very normal and can be dealt with ease and patience. If your cat is avoiding the litter box, then you can take your cat for a medical check-up in case if there is any UTI, or kidney disease. Also, you can make some changes and even avoid some changes when it comes to your cat’s litter box.

If you are still worried then consult a specialist who can give help your cat and figure out the problem your cat is facing. And don’t forget to play with your cat, as this can reduce any kind of stress and anxiety that might be stopping your cat from littering inside the box.

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