12 Things To Do When Your Cat Won’t Use The Litter Box: Thinking Inside The Box

It can be frustrating when a cat won't use the litter box.If your cat won’t use the litter box, try thinking inside the box. And remember, the box should be designed for the cat’s comfort and convenience, not yours!

Covered boxes, scented litter, plastic liners, the wrong location and wet litter can all make a cat decide he’d rather just use the floor.

Here are 12 tips for creating the perfect potty for your cat.

1. Scoop daily. Many cats won’t use a litter box that’s dirty. Scoop clumping litter every day. If you use clay litter, change the box as soon as the litter feels damp.

2. Go topless. If your cat’s litter box has a top or “hood,” take it off. Tops are one of the main reasons a cat won’t use the litter box. Why? Cats like to be able to see an escape route from their boxes, and that’s not possible if the box is covered. And tops trap unpleasant smells that are noticeable only to a cat.

3 Consider the location of the box. Choose one that’s convenient for the cat, even if it’s less than perfect for you. Would you want to walk through a dark basement every time you had to use the bathroom? Your cat doesn’t want to either! And avoid laundry and furnace rooms. The washer going into a loud spin cycle or the furnace coming on could be so startling the cat won’t use a litter box in that location ever again.

Bathrooms and powder rooms are usually good places for litter boxes. Ideally, you’ll have a box on every level of your home. If you have dogs or small children, make sure your cat has at least one box he can get to without being chased. 

4. Put two boxes side by side. Many cats like to urinate in one box and defecate in another. Putting two boxes side by side can prevent litter box issues.

5. Provide big boxes. Cats appreciate having enough room to move around and dig in the litter. The plastic storage boxes designed to slide under beds make great litter boxes because they’re roomy and have low sides.

6. Have enough boxes. The rule of thumb is one box per cat, plus one. But even cats who live alone appreciate having more than one litter box. 

7. Wash the box with hot water but no soap. Soap and detergent can leave a residue that disguises the cat’s own scent. Your cat won’t use the litter box if it doesn’t smell like him. 

8 Use less litter, not more. Many cats are happiest with just a couple of inches of litter in their boxes. Two inches is deep enough for the cat to dig in the litter, but not so deep he has to slog through a lot of sand to get in and out of the box.

9. Use clumping litter. It keeps the box dryer than clay litter does. Buy a brand that makes very hard clumps and doesn’t fall apart when scooping so the box stays neat and dry.

10. Use unscented litter. Scented litter is another of the main reasons why a cat won’t use the litter box. Cats want their boxes to smell like them, not cheap perfume.

11. Do without litter box liners. They inhibit digging and discourage some cats from using the box. 

12. If your cat won’t use a litter box, try alternatives to litter. Some cats prefer shredded newspaper or torn up T-shirts or shop towels to litter. And many like empty boxes with no litter in them at all. If you try an empty box, putting a puppy training pad in the box will make cleanup easier for you.

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