Our Behavior Team is often asked about what to do in the event that their cat starts to have issues with using the litter box. It can be puzzling when you find pee stains on the carpet, even though your cat has been using their litter box properly for quite some time. In this article, we will address the conundrum of the misused litter box and how to help your kitty get back on track. While humans may view the litter box as a minor thing, to a cat, the litter box holds great significance. There are several factors as to why cats may suddenly feel uncomfortable with their normal restroom routine. Here are some tips to help turn this around!

Medical Checkup
Whether you have a new cat or your longtime resident cat is suddenly not using their litter box, the first recommendation, ALWAYS, is to set up an appointment with your veterinarian to make sure this isn’t a medical issue. Quite often, a cat will try to communicate to you that they are not feeling well by not using the litterbox.

Environmental Changes
If everything checks out medically, let’s take a look at your cat’s sense of security in their territory. Cats are territorial and can be sensitive to change, therefore, changes to their environment can lead to inconsistent bathroom use since cats associate using the bathroom with marking their territory/environment. Examples of simple changes in the home can include: owner wearing a new perfume, rearranging of furniture, and new family members moving in. Since these types of changes are natural and bound to happen, keep an eye on your cat’s territory and habitat they have created for themselves and that it is to their liking.

Litter Box Considerations
Along with supporting your cat who is struggling with litter box life, here are some basic do’s and don’ts when setting up boxes in your home:

  • Amount of boxes: The rule of thumb for how many litter boxes to provide for your cat(s) is to have one more than the amount of cats in the house. So, if you have one cat, provide two boxes. If you have three cats, provide four boxes. Cats use their litter boxes to mark their territory, so having multiple litter boxes gives your cat(s) appropriate outlets to do so, and will reduce the potential for marking their territory inappropriately (carpet stains).
  • Placement of boxes: Be sure to place the litter boxes in the area in which your cats normally roam/hang out. If they like to hang out on the second floor, asking them to go to the basement to pee is like asking them to go to the neighbor’s house to pee. This isn’t to say that it should be right next to their food dish or cat tower, but putting it in the same vicinity will help your cat feel like it is part of their territory.

Box Conditions
There are many conditions and styles of litter boxes, so once you find a setup that your cat likes, stick with it! From scented pellets to open or closed, your cat can be sensitive to the small things in their environment. If your cat seems unpleased, play around with types of pellets, style of box, and where it’s located and you will most likely eventually find a setup that appeases your furry friend!