Litter Box Training Problems in Cats

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Every year hundreds of cats are abandoned or dumped at shelters because they are not using their litter boxes. The causes and the solutions to the most common problems. A must read for any cat owner.

When people talk about their kittens, or cats, being litter trained it often implies that some effort was made on an owners behalf to actively “Train” them. To any experienced cat owner this is a bit of a joke. Most kittens learn by watching their mom. Even kittens who have never seen a litter box feel compelled to dig in anything with a light texture, such as sand or dirt. It is an easy step to covert this natural behavior into litter box usage.

The Reality

If a cat is not using its litter box correctly the problem is usually medical or human error. Sadly a lot of people discard their cats who are not using the litter box, rather than finding a solution. True, there are times when the behavior is mental, but even that can be treated. Some breeds are more commonly known to have mental issues with their litter boxes, these include Persians, Himalayans, and Manx.cat-using-litter-box

A kitty using his litter box correctly

Problems and Solutions

I.Human Error

1.Too much too soon

A new cat or kitten has a hard time adjusting to a new house, you need to reinforce where the litter is by confining it to a smaller area where their box is going to be kept, if you cannot confine the cat to a small area, shut other doors in the house so there are not so many other places to go.

2.Cats like their litter boxes to be clean

If you leave a litter box too long before you clean it, a cat may decide it would rather go someplace else Not enough boxes per cat. The rule is one litter box per cat, and ideally one more box in another place of the house.

3.Wrong choice of litter

Cats seem to prefer non-scented clumping litter. Use one with baking soda to control odors.

4.Bad placement of the litter box

If the box is placed next to the laundry machine or furnace, the cat might have had a scare when the cycle changed or the furnace kicked in.

5.Wrong choice of litter box

Some people find the self cleaning ones are easy, but these could scare a cat, some cats prefer covered boxes, and others like open boxes.

6. Declawing

 Declawed cats often refuse to use their boxes at some stage of their life because of the pain in their paws, while this may be considered medical, it is really human error since it is well known and preventable by human choice.

II.Medical Reasons

1.Cats are prone to urinary tract infections and bladder problems.

Many times these can be avoided by feeding a good quality pet food, one with low Magnesium. Calcium has also been linked to causing problems as such, cats should not get canned fish, or any dairy products.

2.Cats sometimes do not drink as much as they should.

Simply by adding some water to their canned cat food every day to make a soup, you can improve your cats moisture intake

3.Holding it too long.

If a cat is forced to hold their bladder too long, too many times, this can contribute to a problem. Such is common with people who do not provide indoor litter boxes and put the cat out to do its business.

4.Bacterial infections can be diagnosed and treated by a veterinarian.

If the cat is not spayed or neutered it may be marking its territory. Having the pet fixed should solve the problem, although if left too long it may take a while for results to show.


Although most problems involve a cat urinating out of the box, if the cat has bloody diarrhea or loose stool it may be a sign of worms which will irritate the cat to go inappropriately.

III.Behavioral Reasons

1.Some cats are more high strung and can be territorial.

Even a spayed or neutered cat with behavioral issues may spray inappropriately. A veterinarian can prescribe behavioral adjusting medications. You can try doing some fixes yourself. If there is a stray cat in the area and it is upsetting your cat you need to remove it, catch it and take it to your local pound or animal shelter. Make your place smell more like your cat, do not use chemical sprays. Simply wipe a towel on your cat, picking up his or her scent, then rub the towel on the area your cat is messing. This will take repetition over several days.

2.Try putting tin foil down where your cat messes, or food.

 Cats generally will not mess near their food. There are products you can buy to help correct behavioral problems. The first one to get is one to remove current urine odors. Most problems are with urinating, if a cat is defecating outside of the box this is often harder to fix if it is behavioral.

IV.Litter Box Hints

1.Better food means less waste, less poops.

If you feed a good quality food you wont be scooping the box as often.

2.Self cleaning boxes are handy

… but, as most diseases often show up first as stool changes you may miss out on early detection of problems.


A disease pregnant women can get and pass to unborn fetus, it is very rare, hardly worth mentioning, and can be easily prevented by having somebody else clean the box, or by wearing gloves. The cat has to catch it from an infected mouse before passing it on, and may only pass it on once after first being in contact with it. It is a parasite.


Sometimes a younger animal will simply need a bit of reminding. This can be done easily by confining the pet to a small room, like a bathroom, with food, water, and a litter box. As mentioned under “Human Error” giving a youngster or new pet free range of your house may not be the best idea in the beginning.


If you cannot find or fix your cats litter box problems, it is cruel to abandon your pet. It is unfair to punish your cat for its problem.  Giving to some unsuspecting new owner will only cause them grief and possibly add to the cats suffering. Turning it loose is considered a criminal offense (animal abandonment), in most areas and is cruel. A farm home may take a spayed, or neutered pet, but only if it is not declawed, and remember farm homes generally are not lacking in cats, if a farm needs cats there is usually a reason, like coyotes are killing theirs or disease. Not all farmers treat their cats the way your house pet is used to being treated.

Setting a house cat to live on a farm may not be a good answer as most farms offer a difficult life for cats who were house pets.

If you have given up hope of fixing your cats bad litter habits, and cannot find somebody willing to take it (never hide the fact that the cat does have a problem) then please take it to the veterinarian to be put down humanely.


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