Tips For Cat Guardians: Dealing with Inappropriate Elimination Part 3 of 3


Welcome to part three in our series on dealing with litter box issues. You can see part one here and part two here.

Multiple Cat Households

As a general rule, keep one litter box for each cat living in your home. Adding an extra box to the number of cats you keep is ideal. By nature, cats are territorial and giving them their own space can encourage box use. Place boxes in different areas of the room, if not in different rooms entirely.

If you’ve recently introduced a new cat into the home, your current cat may be reacting by marking her territory. Should this be the case, try a slow re-introduction of the cats to ensure that they both feel comfortable.


To discourage continued soiling it is important to use a cleaner that neutralizes the scent left behind in floors and carpets. Enzymatic cleaners work best for this purpose. Planet Pet suggests Absolutely Clean, a non-toxic cleaner that removes both stains and odors. Keep in mind that many non-enzymatic cleaners simply cover up odors rather than removing them. While you may not be able to smell anything offensive, your cat can still detect her own scent or that of other cats without full removal of the stain. A small blacklight can be helpful to identify stains that are not easily visible.


Sometimes confining your cat to a single room when you are not at home, or when they tend to soil can help to get your cat back to regular litter box use. In this case, you will want your cat to have access to food and water, but place it as far away from the litter box as possible. Once the cat is regularly using the litter box, increase the amount of space in which the cat is confined, ideally, just one room at a time. Many times this will reacquaint the cat with the litter box as they do like to keep their territory clean.

The Declawed Cat

While we strongly oppose declawing cats, we recognize that some cat owners have chosen to adopt a declawed cat or had their cat declawed. Cats who are declawed are often very sensitive about their feet and clay litters can actually be painful. Softer, natural litters may be the way to go, along with an easy access litter box for the declawed cat. Additionally, if your declawed cat seems to be in any pain outside the litter box, it may be worth having your veterinarian x-ray their paws to make sure that bone fragments are not present or that new claws are not growing within the foot. To learn more about declawing cats, we encourage you to read the work of Dr. Christianne Schelling at

Miscellaneous Tips and Tricks

While it may seem like your cat is avoiding the litter box out of spite, chances are it has more to do with unmet needs. Does your cat feel safe and secure in her environment? Is she getting enough exercise? To keep your cat feeling safe, make sure there are high places she can access. Ideally provide your cat the ability to get around at least one room in your home without touching the floor. A cat tree or shelves designed for cats are great options to give your cat safe climbing space.

Play with your cat! Cats are hunters and need the act of hunting simulated daily to help them burn off energy. Fifteen minutes of daily interactive play with your cat will often resolve many common behavioral issues in cats.

Pheromone sprays or diffusers can also be an option to help cats who are avoiding their litter box. They work by releasing the scent of a mother cat, which can reduce stress in many cats and kittens.

Litter box issues are one of the primary reasons cats are given up by their owners. While it can be a challenging issue to solve, it’s not impossible. Spay or neuter your cat, provide a high quality diet, and keep a clean litter box and you’ll most likely be able to prevent litter box aversion and inappropriate elimination.


Tips For Cat Guardians: Dealing with Inappropriate Elimination Part 2 of 3


This is part two of our series on solving litter box issues. You can see part one here, and part three here.

What if the Problem Isn’t Medical?

Behavioral issues can be a bit more challenging to solve, but there are solutions! Start with your cat’s litter box. Is the litter box clean? Is is really clean? Scoop at least twice a day to make sure your cat has a clean place to do her business. Have you ever seen a bathroom you wouldn’t want to use? Cats don’t want to use a filthy bathroom either. Scooping more means you’ll actually spend less time cleaning. Remove the litter, (you don’t necessarily have to replace all of it, just take the litter out to get to the box), and clean the box thoroughly once a week. Replace litter completely once a month. If you keep the box clean, you can just top it off as needed, which will save you money on litter. If you hate scooping, you can try a self cleaning box, although they are pricey and can frighten some cats, or a sifting litter pan, which allows you lift the pan, clumps and other waste intact and dump it right in the trash. Sifting pans can also be used with liners, but if you ask us, liners are a waste and cats may dislike them creating further issues. Cats are much more likely to use a litter box that’s kept clean and sometimes inappropriate elimination can be solved simply by keeping a cleaner litter box. Your cat will thank you.

Speaking of litter…

Sometimes cats object to the type of litter being used. Did you recently switch brands? If you’re brand loyal to your toilet paper, think of it in the same way. Your cat may just like their usual litter. If you are switching types of litter, it’s usually best to slowly combine the new litter in with the old to make the transition go smoothly.

That said, let’s get into the different types of litter. Some scents may appeal to you, but could drive your cat away from her litter box. Strong florals or strong pine may just be a turn off for your cat. A cat’s sense of smell is exponentially better than yours and just like some strong perfumes are irritating to people, they can be to cats too.

The composition of your litter may also be driving your cat away. Some cats won’t touch pine litters, others will have nothing to do with clay litters. With clay litters, it’s important to note that silica dust can irritate the lungs of both cats and humans. Additionally, most types of clay litters won’t biodegrade once bonded with cat urine. Litters that are more natural can be more appealing to many cats and have the added benefit of being biodegradable. Most people know about standard clay litters. They are available at most supermarkets and discount stores. While readily available, they may not be the best option. Consider other types if your cat is not using the litter box regularly.

Wheat based litter tends not to be terribly dusty, clumps decently and does not hold lots of odor. It’s biodegradable and some brands can be flushed. If you are on a septic tank system or have old plumbing, err on the side of caution and stick to dumping waste in the trash.

Corn based litter is another option. It clumps a litter better than clay and also tends not to hold in odors. World’s Best Cat Litter is now widely available in their standard formulations and specialty pet stores carry their Advanced Natural line. Lindsay Barrett, manager of our rescue and pet boutique uses this litter exclusively because it clumps so well and doesn’t stick to the box. A medium sized bag lasts her about two months in a single cat household making it an economical and environmentally sound option.

Pine pellets are ecologically sound and now available at most discount stores, however, as mentioned earlier, cats may object to the scent and there is little clumping action with these litters. They can however, be a great option for cats with sensitive feet as they are generally soft.

Newspaper litters like Yesterday’s News are a great option for cats with injuries to their feet and many declawed cats prefer them.

Attractant litter can often help resolve issues where other litters have failed. Dr. Elsey’s Cat Attract or their litter box attractant can be mixed in with your regular litter or substituted to help bring cats back to the box.

If you’re considering a litter change and have the space, try a second litter box with a different litter substrate and see which your cat uses more, letting your cat choose can be easier than trial and error with new types of litter.

Is the type of litter box an issue?

Covered litter boxes are popular with people, but not always with cats. If you’re not scooping daily because you don’t have a visual reminder to clean the box, it may be unpleasant for your cat to use. If something has happened to startle your cat while they are in the box, they may feel threatened. Because cats can’t see out of many covered boxes, something as simple as a loud noise that occurred while they were inside may have spooked them and created a negative association with the box. Does your dog try to nose in while your cat is taking care of business? Because cats can’t see out of covered boxes they can feel cornered while inside. You can try taking the door off or better yet, remove the lid entirely and see if your cat returns to regular litter box use.

If your cat is older, high sided litter boxes may be difficult for her to enter. Try a box with lower sides or one that has a deep cut entry in front to allow for easy access.

Size Matters

If you cat is going near the litter box, consider it’s size. Does your cat fit comfortably inside the box? If you cat is just a bit outside, try a larger box, that may be all it takes.

Location, Location, Location

The laundry room is often an out of the way place to put a litter box, but the sounds the machines make could be upsetting your cat and preventing box use. Consider a quiet place where your can have privacy and can make a quick exit should they feel threatened. If need be, try a little used room. You can move the box if necessary if you’re concerned about visitors, however, a clean box won’t give off objectionable kitty odors.

Try to choose a location where you cat will be able to see the area around her and is unlikely to be bothered by other pets. Additionally, your cat’s food and water should not be kept next to the litter box. In fact, if you find your cat soiling a particular area of your home, placing food and water in that location may be a deterrent to inappropriate elimination.

Well lit areas can be a deterrent to litter box use as well. While the litter box area does not have to be entirely darkened, bright lighting may cause your cat to feel more vulnerable.

A Quick Word About Litter Mats

Litter mats are a great way to prevent the tracking of litter, but make sure it’s a comfortable surface for your cat. If you’ve recently placed a new mat, try removing it to see if your cat goes back to using the litter box. For cats with particularly sensitive feet, an old bath mat or towel may be the best option.

Tips For Cat Guardians: Dealing with Inappropriate Elimination Part 1 of 3

Cat_houseOur rescue receives calls daily from people who want to surrender cats that are urinating or defecating outside the litter box. It’s a frustrating problem, but there are solutions. This is an issue that will take time and effort to resolve, but be patient, persevere, and you can get your cat back to regular litter box use.

Over the next few days we’ll bring you a series of posts to help you solve your cat’s litter box issues. Today we’ll look at potential medical causes of inappropriate elimination.

Part 2 can be found here, and part three here.

Is the problem medical or behavioral?

First and foremost, spaying or neutering your cat is perhaps the best way to make sure your cat does not urine mark simply for the sake of marking. If your cat has not been altered, (spayed or neutered), it’s best to get them fixed immediately.

Should your cat begin to soil areas outside the litter box, the first step is to determine the probable cause. Frequently, it’s a medical issue, especially if it’s primarily urination. Bladder, urinary, and kidney infections are fairly common in cats. Take your cat to your veterinarian first to rule out any of these potential problems. Your vet can determine if your cat is dealing with bladder crystals, kidney stones or a urinary tract infection and treat it.

Often, in addition to medication, your veterinarian may prescribe a veterinary diet. However, according to Dr. Jeffery Young, most cats do not need to be on prescription food for the rest of their lives. Cats can be moved to a high quality grain free diet after the causal issue has been resolved.

Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they should only eat meat. They lack the enzymes necessary to digest grains and vegetables. Diets high in corn, wheat, soy, and rice can lead to urinary issues down the road. We strongly recommend that canned or raw food be a part of your daily feeding regimen. Cats do not have a particularly high thirst drive as they obtain up to 70 percent of the moisture their bodies need through their food. Dry food alone does not provide for your cat’s hydration needs. Check out Cat Info for more in-depth information. Surprisingly, some prepared raw diets are even more economical than canned to keep your cat healthy.

Make sure your cat has fresh water at all times. A pet fountain that continually circulates water can encourage some cats to drink  more frequently. Also, some cats may dislike their bowl. We suggest staying away from plastic as it degrades over time and may leach chemicals or become porous and harbor bacteria. Stainless steel or lead free ceramic are better options. Some cats may be frightened by the reflection in stainless bowls, so if you don’t see your cat drinking frequently, consider trying a less reflective bowl style.

If you do choose to feed only dry, make sure you feed a grain free food and that your cat is drinking plenty of water. Fillers like rice, corn, wheat, and soy found in many foods do nothing to meet your cat’s nutritional needs. You’ll see less waste produced on a better diet and when it comes to dry food and you’ll feed your cat 30 to 50 percent less food than you would with a kibble that contains rice or other fillers.

If your cat is defecating outside her box, make sure her stool is normal. If it is softer than normal, contains blood, or looks in any way unusual, you may want to bring a sample to your vet. If your cat is having an issue controlling her bowels, you will want to have your vet make sure that all is well with her digestive system.