Kitty Litterbox Lessons

CatChannel behavior expert Marilyn Krieger, CCBC, explains why multiple cats need multiple litterboxes.

By Marilyn Krieger, CCBC | Posted: June 20, 2008 2 a.m. EDT

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Q: We just acquired two new kittens. They share a litterbox that is in a quiet, out-of-the-way location. I have seen them both use the litterbox, but one or maybe both of them are urinating and defecating on a specific spot of our sofa. We have removed the section of the sofa for now, but what can we do to stop this? Also, can you recommend a cleaning process to ensure the odor will not be detected in the sofa when it is brought back into the house? Any advice would be appreciated.

A: Based on the information you’ve provided, your current litterbox set-up is not working for your kittens. One box located in a quiet, out-of-the-way location is not ideal for kittens. You need more litterboxes, and they should be located throughout the house, especially in the rooms where the little ones like to hang out. The number of boxes for kittens depends on the size of the house. Sometimes youngsters have difficulty making it in time to a cat box that is a distance away. Also, because of their youth and lack of experience, boxes should be nearby in order to help reinforce their litterbox etiquette. Litterboxes for kittens should be shallow, uncovered and readily accessible. Many veterinarians recommend non-clumping litter since kittens sometimes eat cat litter. Boxes need to be scooped frequently, at least once a day.

When the kittens are older, the number of boxes can be decreased. There should be one box per resident cat and then one for the house. If you have two resident cats, then the number of boxes should be three. They should be located in different parts of the house.

Use an good enzyme cleaner on the areas that have been targeted. Cats will continue to urinate in the same locations unless the area has been thoroughly cleaned with the enzyme cleaner. Unfortunately, all enzyme cleaners are not created equal. I recommend doing research on what’s available before investing in one.

Clean the targeted areas by first soaking up as much urine as possible with paper towels. Then thoroughly spray the enzyme cleaner on the areas so that it soaks in. Allow the enzyme cleaner to dry naturally. It might take a couple of applications to work. It can be an impossible task to remove the smell from items such as sofas, pillows and mattresses if they’ve been targeted repeatedly and soaked with urine.

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Reader Comments

CatChannelEditor    Irvine, CA

8/3/2012 8:16:25 AM

Kathy -- Try increasing the amount of litterboxes in your house. As Marilyn says, there should be one litterbox per resident cat and then one for the house. This could decrease some territorial marking. Also, give your cats ways to express their hierarchies without marking. Provide vertical territory (tall cat trees) where alpha cats can rest on the top to show their status in the household.

After you add litterboxes and cat trees, clean the areas that have been marked, following Marilyn's advice above. If this does not deter the behavior, you can contact Marilyn for advice directly using the email link on her landing page: LINK

Kathy    Highlands Ranch, CO

8/2/2012 5:55:45 AM

I have four cats and 6 litter boxes but someone has been urinating all along the walls for my living room and dining room. I have a senior cat that has kidney disease and I think he does this. But now the other cats follow. I clean the spots a lot but it doesn't help. Also, my 2nd older cat (8) thinks she is the queen and doesn't like the younger 2 (ages 2+3). After my senior passes away, if I have the rugs professionally cleaned, will this behavior stop? I spent a lot of time with my cats. They have a basket of toys, 2 jungle gyms in front of a suction cup bird feeder (they love this!). I just don't know what to do. My rugs are only a couple of years old. They only started this about 6 mos. ago. I've had cats for 25 years and this has never been an issue. Thank you very much.

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