Tips and Tricks to Prevent or Solve Inappropriate Elimination

Cats can be exceptionally fastidious creatures. Litter box needs for an individual cat differ, therefore, cat owners need to be mindful about litter box etiquette to meet the demands of your individual feline friend. There are many aspects of litter box etiquette such as: number of litter boxes, litter box location, type of cat litter, type of litter box and litter box cleanliness.

If your cat begins to urinate out of the box, it is important to identify if it is marking behavior or truly urinating out of the box. When cats mark or “spray”, they back up to a vertical surface and produce a small amount of urine vs squatting and emptying their bladder on a horizontal surface. Neutering is the most important factor to avoid marking behavior.

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After you have ruled out marking behavior, it’s time to call your veterinarian to rule out a medical condition. For many cats, urinating out of the box is their way of communicating to their pet owners, “Something is wrong, please fix it!”. No matter the reason why your cat is urinating out of the box, it is most important to start working on a solution immediately, before the cat deems the behavior acceptable and continues to make a habit of it. Here are a few tips and tricks for the healthy cat to prevent or solve inappropriate elimination:


Number of Litter Boxes

Because many cats prefer to urinate in one box and defecate in the other, you need to provide one litter box per cat plus one more. Also, in a multi-cat household, one cat may subtly bully others from using his/her favorite box.


Litter Box Location

Litter boxes should be easily accessible in a low traffic area (not next to the loud washer or dryer). Litter boxes should be located on every level of the dwelling to which the cat has access. If there is more than one litter box per floor, they should be distant from each other. It is also important to separate litter boxes from eating, sleeping, and playing areas.


Type of Cat Litter

It is best to choose and stick to a specific brand or type of litter from day one. Most people have the best luck with clumping, low dust, unscented litter. Cats tend to enjoy small particle litters that resemble sand, possibly because cats were originally desert dwellers.


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It is easier for cats to dig and manipulate fine particles and it feels nicer on their paws. Scented litter may smell good to us humans, but your cat has a very sensitive nose that may dissuade him/her from the source of the strong scent. Most cats tend to prefer low dust litters simply because it is unpleasant to breathe in a bunch of dust, especially for a cat or human with asthma. The litter in the litter box should be about three inches deep. If you don’t have enough litter you will notice that the box is harder to clean because overly saturated litter will stick to the bottom. Also, shallower litter allows for more urine scent to seep into your plastic box and will produce a stronger smell.


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A few types of litter boxes should be provided. Some cats appreciate the privacy of a covered litter box, while some cats feel trapped and vulnerable inside a covered litter box. It is also important to take into consideration the age of your cat. Elderly cats may have a hard time stepping up over the high sides of the box as they develop stiff joints, therefore you may want a low sided uncovered box (all the litter clean-up is worth it for the comfort of your aging feline friend). Top entry litter boxes can be pleasant for cats agile enough to jump up to use them. If you’re into DIY and saving money, I urge cat owners to buy plastic storage totes and cut a hole in the lid to make a large, cheap, top entry litter box that doesn’t track litter out of the box.

Litter Box Cleanliness

Litter boxes should be emptied and scrubbed with a mild detergent every couple months. Some cleaning products are toxic to cats and products with ammonia or citrus can be too strong for the cat’s sense of smell. Never use bleach to clean up urine; the combination of bleach and ammonia can produce noxious fumes.

Litter boxes should be scooped daily (especially necessary if owner is pregnant), but no one is perfect. Having many litter boxes can be helpful since a cat or cats can dirty one box faster than two or three boxes. Baking soda can be helpful in helping maintain odor and many litters out there now contain baking soda to control odor.Image result for litter box

Some cats will cooperate with an automatic cleaning litter box but not all, so check the return policy and save your receipt! Litter boxes should be replaced every year or two as the urine seeps into the material of the litter box making the smell hard to control. Automatic litter boxes can be expensive and more so if you are replacing them every few years.

Even the type of cat litter scoop makes a difference in maintaining a clean litter box. Choose a metal litter scoop vs a plastic litter scoop. Metal litter scoops are stronger and allow for a faster clean. Saturated litter seems to stick to plastic litter scoops easier than the metal ones.

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In conclusion, cats are very picky. For your cat’s comfort, you should be mindful of many aspects of litter box etiquette to set your cat up for success. Make sure your provide your cat(s) with enough boxes in a smart location. Choose a litter and litter box they agree with and keep it clean. Remember, you are your cat’s voice and their litter box is an indicator of your cat’s health. While cleaning the litter box frequently, you will notice the size/consistency of stool and the amount of urine produced. With time you will learn what output is normal for your cat and be able to spot abnormal changes, so that you can bring that information to your veterinarian’s attention.


Article written by: Lindsey Q