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Litter Box Issues

Posted 05.04.16 by Emily Lindsey

Litter box problems are the most common behavior issue with cats. Unfortunately, it often leads to banning the cat outdoors, abandonment, or even surrender to the shelter when their owners cannot handle it anymore. While stress is often a common cause of litter box issues, medical conditions can also lead to this problem. If your cat is having litter box issues, we always recommend letting a veterinarian examine your cat so that they can better discuss your options.

Medical Conditions that can lead to house soiling/accidents:

-Cystitis (bladder inflammation or a bladder infection)

-Bladder stones

-Kidney disease



-Arthritis (arthritic kitties often have a hard time climbing into and out of the litter box)

If your veterinarian rules out medical issues, they will likely discuss other situations that can lead your cat to avoid the litter box.

litter box issues2

Some common causes include:

-too few litter boxes for the number of cats (the official rule is one more litter box than the number of cats in the household)

-hooded litter box (hoods should be removed until the problem resolves)

-dirty litter box

-litter box location (cats prefer litter boxes in quiet, secluded areas)

-recent change of litter type or liner type

-side height (elderly cats or small kittens can have difficulty climbing in to large boxes)

-size (most cats prefer a very large box)

-too many cats in the household

-a new pet or new person in the house

-other stressful events in the household

The smell of urine in carpet, bedding, or furniture, will continue to attract the cat, so a thorough cleaning is a must. If the item is washable, we recommend washing it in hot water and bleach. Use a black light to identify soiled areas of carpet. The litter box issues 3carpet should be thoroughly cleaned and a cleaner can be injected into the carpet pad using a needle and syringe. There are many odor eliminating cleaners out there, but “Zero Odor Pet” products have been highly recommended to us.

Unfortunately, feline litter box issues can be very complex and there is no easy solution that will fix every cat. Diagnosing and treating underlying medical conditions can help many cats. Healthy cats can benefit when stressors are identified and removed, and litter box issues are corrected. Soiled areas should be identified and properly cleaned. When these efforts have failed, we will try anti-anxiety medications if indicated. However, these medications are rarely effective by themselves.  We recommend making an appointment with your veterinarian to discuss any litter box issues your cat may be having.

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