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Nine behavioral causes of a cat litter box problem

A cat litter box problem stems from one of two kinds of causes. The first is physical, which I've discussed in another article, and the second is behavioral. Today, we're going to look at some of the behavioral causes. Since your cat can't talk, it is often necessary to use a diagnosis of exclusion in these cases. Rule out each issue one by one until you're left with the only answer.

In this case, it is always best to use caution and assume that your cat has a physical problem, unless your vet says otherwise. So, the first step is to have a consultation with your vet.

Next, after your vet has ruled out a physical problem, you have to assume that your litter box problems are behavioral. Let's think like a cat for a minute and try to understand some of the behavioral reasons for not using the litter box.

1. Dirty Cat Box - some cats prefer the box to be extremely clean, and others are willing to allow it to be somewhat less so. No matter what, you should clean your litter box at least once per day. You should also change your litter out completely at least every few weeks. Whenever you change the litter, wash the litter box thoroughly. Be sure to wash the lid too if you have a hooded box.

2. Box Odor - some cats will refuse to use a litter box if it doesn't smell right. Remember, that means smell right to the cat, not to you. You might be thinking that your clean box smells just fine. This is not always the case.

{typo_rounded_left3}You need to clean the box to your cat's satisfaction. Scented cleaners, not rinsing well enough, or not cleaning thoroughly are all reasons why yoru cat won't be pleased. It's recommended that you use a solution of one part bleach to 30 parts water for sanitizing. When you're finished, the box should be clean and dry and not smell like cat waste, soap, or bleach.{/typo_rounded_left3}

3. Litter Box Odor - some cats simply prefer the odor of one brand or type of litter over another. Even unscented litters have an odor your cat can detect and may not like. Be prepared to try different types and brands until you find the right one for your cat.

4. Litter Type - your cat may be turned off by the type of cat litter you use. Also, try not to switch litters too quickly. When changing litters, try adding 20 percent new litter to 80 percent old, and then increasing the amount of new litter over several days until you're at 100 percent.

5. Wrong Litter Box Type - the type of box, including the shape and size may matter. Some cats may like a hooded box, while others prefer the open type. Things like higher or lower walls, or a larger box may be preferred. If you've recently changed litter boxes, this could be your problem.

6. Number of Boxes - in multi-cat households, territory is at a premium. Use the one plus one rule when selecting how many boxes you'll need in order to prevent traffic jams. That means one box for each cat, plus one extra so that there is always a free box available. Having more boxes also keeps each box a little cleaner, which makes the scooping chore a bit easier on you.

7. Bad Location - this can be an issue since in some cases, you just can't find a good spot for the box. I've seen them in busy and noisy areas like laundry rooms and kitchens. If your cat is not pleased with the location of the box, she may stop using it. Always try to keep the box in an area that is low traffic and low noise.

8. Territorial Disputes - multi-cat households pose unique problems, and cats sometimes fight over territory, even when they normally get along. Some cats like to sneak up on others when they're using the box and pounce. If one of your cats keeps getting attacked every time she's in the box, she may grow to hate it. Keep to the one plus one rule to help avoid this situation.

9. Stress - if your cat is stressed by a recent move, a new addition to the household, or perhaps simply a behavior shift on the part of a family member, this may be at the root of the box issue. Try to think about what might have changed recently in your cat's life, and then try to ease whatever stress she's under.

Cat litter box problems can usually be solved, and the solution doesn't mean getting rid of the cat. Knowing which solution to use means knowing the cause. Use your veterinarian to rule out physical causes first, then work on the behavioral possibilities. A little learning on your part so that you can think like a cat may be in order, but if you keep at it, you'll come up with the solution.

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Wednesday, 29 March 2023

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