Litterbox Lessons

Has your cat stopped using the litterbox? Learn the 10 most common reasons and how you can prevent them from happening in your home.

By Peggy Scott

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5. Box Size
The container itself may be the culprit. The truth is, size, at least where litterboxes are concerned, does matter. A small cat or kitten will need a box or pan shallow enough to climb into easily, Bebiak says. Expect your box to grow with your cat. The small pan that's perfect for your kitten won't do the job if he grows up to be a 20-pound adult. "Cats need enough 'prime real estate' in order to be happy with their boxes," Hunthausen says.

A litterbox is never one-size-fits-all, Johnson-Bennett says. Different cats have different tastes and needs. You may have to try a couple of different kinds of boxes before you find one that works best for you and your cat.

6. Privacy Issues
Privacy is an issue for some cats, Bebiak says, which could be a problem if the box is located in a high-traffic area.

Cats are solitary animals, says Myrna Milani, DVM, an animal behaviorist who works out of the Westminster Animal Hospital in Westminster, Vt.

"We don't think about being respectful of animals' feelings," she says. Cats are "evolutionarily programmed" to follow an elimination ritual to cover their scent to protect them from predators. This ritual calls for peace and quiet, she says.

7. Litterbox Count
Multicat households may not have enough boxes available to satisfy each cat's need.

In an ideal world there would be one box for each cat, Prange says. The problem is compounded if some cats are particularly territorial or aggressive about usage.

"There are cats that simply will not defecate and urinate in the same box, Milani says. "So you may have to have two boxes for one cat."

More cats in the household can introduce more litterbox problems. Some cats are able to use one box, whereas others are not. You'll have to experiment with the new addition and immediately address specific litterbox needs.

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Reader Comments

Donald    Mount Arlington, NJ

1/12/2007 9:18:47 PM

I have read your very good comments about the litter boxes, however, I have 3 cats Female 14,Male 13, Female 13. It is the Female age 13 that suddenly stopped using the litter box 8 months ago. She will urinate in it but will not deficate. She deficates on the livingroom and dining room carpet. Can you explaion this? Donald F. Ruby

Susan    High Point, NC

12/8/2006 9:29:07 PM

My experiences have included :
A large orange tabby prone to destroying furniture when we left home for any length of time. It became necessary to confine her to a cat room when we left for the store. This displeased her greatly and she broke litterbox training. Our vet evaluated her behavior and said we could pay for kitty paxil or return her to the shelter. Unfortuneately we could not afford kitty paxil so back she went to the shelter. Her name was Boogie and we miss her dearly but not her mess.

Perhaps if I had found Cat Channel earlier we could have resolved issues and kept her.

My other experience was with a shelter cat we tried adopting and bringing to live with our other cat, Tigger. You've probably seen Tigger on this site's photo pages. The newcomer was Angel Missy of Peoria County, IL. Angel and Tigger (even with multiple boxes) would have "potty competition". Sometimes one would not wait for the other one to get out of the box. I tried to discourage this and Angel started going on my carpet even after I added a third litterbox to ur 2 cat household. We did not end up keeping Angel.

Now I am happy to say that our current cats Tigger and Maggie do not regress that badly nor that often. It helps that they adore each other. I use a long under the bed plastic tote without its lid in an unused laundry room. Both cats love it because they can scratch in the deep sand and actually stretch to scratch. These two only regress if its a cleanliness issue and then never on the carpet. They usually go on the tile just outside the box as a hint! I only had to clean up once or twice to make new cleaning habits for myself to keep them happy.

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