How to Stop Litter Box Problems Before They Begin


Everyone becomes frustrated when cats, no longer favoring litter boxes, choose corners, sofas, beds, or other spots around the house as their personal powder rooms. Although a combination of factors usually contributes to the problem, in the majority of cases, cat parents can take steps to insure their cats consistently eliminate in their boxes. I have created an infographic that illustrates five actions aimed at helping prevent litter box challenges before they begin.

Please note that this illustration is a simplified representation of the most common issues that can cause cats to eliminate outside litter boxes. There are many other triggers, including medical issues, that can cause this unpleasant problem.

In addition to litter box maintenance, my infographic focuses on litter box sizes and stresses the importance of placement. Cat parents are often surprised when I emphasize finding boxes the right size and carefully choosing where they will live. Typically, these details are not considered — sometimes resulting in cats choosing to eliminate in the wrong places.

Most commercial litter boxes are too small for cats. Some cats hang their back ends out of the boxes; others ignore them, preferring to go to the bathroom on comfortable, spacious surfaces. Cats do not want to step in excrement, and they do not want to feel trapped.

Ideally, litter boxes should be 1.5 times the length of the longest cat in the household. This measurement does not include the cat’s tail. Felines should be able to comfortably turn around in their boxes. Large, uncovered storage containers make perfect litter boxes — an added benefit is that they are less expensive then commercial ones.

The locations can also make the difference between litter box usage and avoidance. Many people place the boxes in locations that are convenient for them, but not ideal for their cats. Although cat parents adore their kitties, many people do not want to see cat boxes in high visibility places in their homes. Out of the way and discrete places may work for them, but not so much for their cats.

As a general rule, cats do not want to go to the bathroom where they can be potentially ambushed by another animal. Cats can feel trapped in places such as basements, garages, closets, laundry rooms and cabinets. Another problem with hiding litter boxes in out-of-the-way places is that it is inconvenient for the cat — some cats cannot make it to the box in time.

The best locations for litter boxes are those places that have unobstructed views. Great views allow cats to see what is going on in their environment and to identify and then escape potential threats, such as other resident animals. Additionally, boxes should not be placed in high traffic areas — where people walk or where there is a lot of noise. They also need to be convenient for cats. If a cat lives in a three-story condominium, then she needs a litter box on each level.

With the right setup, many litter box challenges can be stopped before they begin. If your cat does start eliminating in unappreciated areas, have her examined by a veterinarian. After all possible medical causes for the behavior are ruled out, contact a certified cat behaviorist to help determine the triggers and help you develop a plan to stop the behavior.

A picture is worth 1,000 words. If you find this infographic useful, you are welcome to download it, but only if you do not alter it in any way.

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Got a cat behavior question for Marilyn? Ask our behaviorist in the comments below and you might be featured in an upcoming column. If you suspect a behavioral problem, always rule out any possible medical issues that may be causing the behavior by first having your cat examined by a veterinarian. Marilyn can also help you resolve cat behavior challenges through a consultation.

About the Author: Marilyn, a certified cat behavior consultant, owner of The Cat Coach, LLC is also an award winning author. Her book Naughty No More! focuses on solving cat behavior issues through force free methods that include clicker training, environmental changes and other behavior modification techniques. Marilyn is big on educationÔÇöshe feels it’s important for cat parents to know the reasons behind their cats behaviors. She is a frequent guest on television and radio, answering cat behavior questions and helping people understand their cats.

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