Litter Box Woes

How to prevent and fix litter box problems.


Jackie Johnson

4/8/20222 min read

I commonly hear that the number one concern of cat owners is that they are so afraid that their cat won’t consistently use the litter box. I can tell you that while this is a common problem, it’s mostly very easily rectified and even prevented.

Cats want to use their litter box! There are generally only two reasons that a cat will stop using their box: health or environmental stress.

If you find your cat not using their box, the first step is to head straight to the vet for a full check up, particularly looking for a UTI or other painful conditions. Your vet must do a urinalysis. Not treating a UTI quickly can result in crystals, a blockage, and might be life threatening. It’s also a very painful condition. Cats are masters at hiding pain and not using the box is a way of communicating that there is a problem.

If you’d like to learn more about UTI issues, crystals, and the healing process, I would encourage you to join the FaceBook group: “Feline Lower Urinary Tract”. Curing a UTI can be a long, involved process and that group is a wealth of amazing information that your everyday vet does not have. They take great care of every cat that is posted about and personally helped my own boy with his UTI issues after I had spent thousands of dollars and months of weekly appointments at three different vets.

If your kitty comes back from the vet with a clean bill of health, then we can start looking at possible sources of stress. Has anything in the cat’s life changed recently? Someone moving in or out of the home, a new addition to the home, weddings, divorces, nearby construction causing an audible change of atmosphere in the home, new strays hanging around the house, new cleaning products (particularly used in or around the litter box), a change of litter, new furniture, rearranging the house, routine or schedule change, food changes. This is not an exhaustive list!

***Please note! If your cat is declawed, litter box problems are very common here. The declawing procedure is the equivalent of amputating your finger up to the first knuckle. This creates a painful experience while walking or using their feet, including digging in the litter box. A declawed cat introduces an entirely different set of problems that may never be resolved due to the pain level the cat experiences on a regular basis.

When we find the source of stress, we can take steps to address it. If none of these appear to be the cause or you can’t think of anything, we can then take a look at the home and how welcoming it is from a cat’s point of view. Many times we do not set up our homes in a truly cat-friendly way, which takes its toll on our cat’s emotional health. This can sometimes result in poor behavior, such as aggression or not using the litter box consistently. Each cat will be happiest with a different specific assortment of places to hide, trees, and other enrichment options.

If you find yourself in trouble with discovering the exact answer to solving these issues, Claude Cross Country offers an in-home analysis called the Happy at Home Initiative that will give you actionable steps that will help solve these behavior problems. Please reach out for help!