Pet Behavior Digest - My Newsletter For Pet Owners and Pet Lovers 

7 Tips to Resolving Litter Box Problems

Cats eliminating outside of their litter boxes is one of the most common behavior problem reported to veterinarians. Here are some simple tips to getting your cat to reliably use its litter box:

Make sure the cat’s litter box is not overfilled; less litter (or absorbent material) is better. One inch deep is ideal. A shallow depth will allow your cat to quickly dig down to a hard surface and find a perfect spot for elimination.


Let your cat see you clean the litter box, but don’t let your pet watch you if you have to clean other soiled areas in the home. Use a mild soap or enzyme cleaner; do not use products that contain ammonia or leave a distinct odor.


Clean the litter box daily for two weeks with mild soap and water; rinse, dry, and refill the box with fresh litter. Between changes of litter, clean any stool or clumps of urine immediately after your cat’s elimination (whenever possible). After a two-week period, clean the box three times a week. After a month, your cat may be able to tolerate you changing the litter only twice a week.


Do not use a box cover or plastic liner; this may deter your pet from going into the box.


Help your cat make a positive association with its litter box. Several times a day, after giving your pet a little attention and affection, gently place the cat into the clean litter. Animals learn by association, so make this a pleasant experience. While your cat is standing in the box, give your pet a small, tasty treat. Your cat needs your help to change its undesirable behavior and its disdain for the litter box.


Feed your cat only two meals a day; your pet does not need to have constant access to food. Feeding your cat on a schedule will help you to predict your cat’s needs. Most pets eliminate shortly after eating, so when the cat is finished with its meal, take it to the litter box and give a treat as a reward for using the box.


All forms of punishments should stop. Do not yell or toss your cat into the box. Your pet needs to feel relaxed and happy; a stressful atmosphere will only interfere with the effort to modify your cat’s behavior.


Success is more likely if you follow all of my recommendations; trying only some of these procedures will not be as helpful. Your cat has a problem with its litter box and needs your assistance. Your patience in redirecting your cat’s preferences and a cheery attitude can turn this problem around.