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 www.declawing.com.
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.