There are rules for setting up a litterbox correctly and for maintaining it properly. Not following these rules means a less-than-ideal litterbox experience for Kitty. This is stressful for your cat and could eventually lead to litterbox avoidance.
No one wants their cat to go outside the litterbox, so make sure you're not making one of these common mistakes. If you are, please don't rush into making any changes. Read this through and follow the links in this list for more information on how to correct the situation. If in doubt, do ask in the cat behavior forum and our members will be happy to offer advice!
1. The litterbox is too dirty.
The litterbox should be scooped at least once a day. Some cats need their litter cleaned literally after every use or they'll stay away from the box and go elsewhere. If you find yourself unable to scoop at such tight intervals, consider getting an automatic litterbox. Read reviews of automated litterboxes by our members.
Read more: How Often Should You Clean the Litter Box?
2. The litterbox is too small.
The litterbox should be large enough to allow your cat room to turn around in comfortably. A good rule of thumb is to roughly measure the length of your cat, nose to the tip of the tail, and find a box that's 1.5 times longer than that. If you have a kitten, remember to adjust the size of the box as Kitty grows up.
Read more: How To Choose The Right Litterbox
3. There aren't enough litterboxes.
This could be an issue even if you only have one cat. A single cat can make do with a single litterbox if the area of your home is small. If you live in a large house, especially one with more than one level, consider keeping two litterboxes. Kitty shouldn't have to travel a long distance to reach the box.
In a multiple-cat household, there is a simple mathematical formula to follow: The number of litterboxes should equal the number of cats, plus one extra litterbox.
Read more: How Many Litterboxes Should You Have?
4. The litterbox is too close to the cat's feeding dishes.
Would you like to have dinner next to your toilets? Kitty doesn't want to either. Always keep food and water as far away from the litterbox as possible. If you must place them in the same room, it should be a large room and feeding dishes and the litterbox should be in opposite corners.
Read more: Litter Box Location Secrets
5. The litterbox isn't always accessible.
The litterbox should always be within your cat's reach. Make sure there are no doors separating Kitty from the litterbox and no other impassable obstacles are in the way. For kittens, senior cats or those with health problems, the box should be at floor level, and they should not be made to jump to get there.
6. The litterbox is located in a busy or noisy place.
A cat doesn't necessarily need visual privacy. However, it's important for your cat to be able to do his business in peace, without being interrupted by other pets or noisy toddlers. A washing machine starting its cycle could also be too scary. With some cats, one such frightening experience is all it takes to stay away from the litterbox.
7. There isn't enough litter in the box.
Make sure the box contains an even layer of 3-5 inches of litter. Some cats prefer a deeper layer while others a shallower one, so watch your cat's behavior in the litterbox. If he seems to be digging his way to Antarctica, try putting in just a little less litter next time, as your cat may actually like to feel that he's hitting the bottom of the box.
8. It's the wrong kind of litter.
There are many considerations when choosing cat litter. You may want it to absorb smells, be easy to scoop, eco-friendly and affordable. However the real question should be: Does Kitty like it? Cats can have their own unique preferences when it comes to litter, so if your cat shows an aversion to one type, you may consider trying another. More about this topic: How To Choose The Right Cat Litter
9. The litterbox is covered.
Some cats will happily use a covered litterbox while others detest it. If your cat appears to be shooting out of the box as soon as he finishes urinating or defecating, without covering or hanging around to check "the produce", he may not be feeling comfortable enough under the cover. Try removing the litterbox cover and see if your cat seems more relaxed in the box. If smell is an issue, make sure you clean the box often enough. A cover should never be used to mask smell and it can actually make the smell of a dirty box much worse inside. If your cat is the type that kicks litter all over the place, consider an open litterbox with high sides instead of a covered one.
Read more: How To Choose The Right Litterbox
10. You're making too many changes to the litter or litterbox.
Cats are creatures of habit and they love their routine. If you keep making changes, moving the box around or changing litter too often or suddenly, it could be very stressful for your cat. If you think there's need for improvement, the key is to do it gradually.
If you're reading this because your cat isn't using his litterbox properly and goes outside the box, there is more to look at than the litterbox. Possible reasons for litterbox avoidance include health problems and overall stress. Read this guide to find out why your cat has stopped using the litterbox and how to get him to use it once again -
Comments? Please leave your feedback in the comments section below. Question about your cat's litterbox habits? Post your question in the cat behavior forum and we'll try to help!