Litterbox Woes

Litterbox problems may stem from a cat's aversion to its facilities. Learn how to solve problems stemming from your cat's actual litterbox.

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One of the most common reasons healthy cats eliminate outside the litterbox is because they find some other place or surface more attractive. An aversion to the litterbox can arise for many reasons: The box may not be clean enough. It may be too close to the cat's food, water or large appliances that make frightening noises. Or other cats or dogs may harass the cat while it is in the box. Some cats may find a covered box too confining or be bothered by pan liners. Many cats are particular about the type of litter provided, and you may need to experiment to find a litter your cat is comfortable using. A preference study conducted several years ago by Peter Borchelt, Ph.D., a certified animal behaviorist in New York City, showed that most cats tend to prefer fine-grained sandy litters that are not dusty or heavily scented.

The key to solving problem elimination is to make the litterbox more attractive while making areas where the cat is house soiling unattractive. Sometimes, just cleaning the litterbox more frequently or changing its location while keeping the cat away from soiled areas may do the trick. Other cases may require careful observation of the cat's behavior, then systematic experimentation with the box or its contents to find the most attractive combination.

Cats can usually be kept off a soiled area by using a scent the cat finds offensive, such as a strong citrus odor, Ben-Gay or a strong floral room deodorizer; a mat that delivers a harmless static shock, such as a Scat Mat; or a device that produces a loud noise when the cat comes near. Of course, soiled spots should be thoroughly cleaned with a good cleaner recommended by your veterinarian to remove any scent that may attract the cat back to the area.

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Reader Comments

janet    bethlehem, PA

3/15/2012 4:26:01

good article, thank you

Michelle    norcoss, GA

8/19/2010 10:44:10

I have just adopted two cats from vets ofice, very sweet, and loving cats....BUT... they refuse to use a litter box, they think that the bath tub is their litter box. I have tried every thing from closing the bthroom doors and moving the boxes into the hallway to picking them up mid poo and placing them in to the litter box, to putting the box in the tub, and nothing seems to work, I hate to give them back because they are great cats outside of the litter box situation...any ideas please help.......

Glenn    Downingtown, PA

12/3/2009 1:43:18 PM

As I read about litterbox woes,I am reminded why I invented the onceoverlitterbox. After trying the litterboxes on the market, and being very dissapointed, I came up with my own. After getting my invention produced, A wonderful thing happened, everyone who bought one loved it! Unfortunatly, along the way I found that many of the people to get to this point in production were of less than moral. I now find myself with a solution to the litterbox woes and no way to bring it to market. If you are reading this please help. I would like to sell the patent, production tooling and website as a package. To see my invention, simply go to I also may be interested in a partnership. We cat owners need a simple and effective alternative to these overcomplicated and expensive litter devices, and this is it. To contact me, my email address is Thank You for your time and attention. Glenn

Angela    Hamburg, NY

9/24/2009 10:32:45

My cat has just started not using the litter box and we have tried everything, sprays, cleaning more often, and putting the box in a different spot. I helped a little but on some occasions he still refuses to use the box. We think the problem started when the new neighbors cats started to wonder into the yard. It is quite frustrating

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