My cat urinates outside of their litter box. What do I do?
There is a plethora of reasons why your cat may prefer to use your couch, bed or corner of the living room instead of their litter. First and foremost, it is important to take your cat to their veterinarian so as to rule out a medical cause, such as a urinary tract infection. If they are healthy, then their environment must be studied. Are there enough litter boxes? Are they placed in the spots that your cat prefers? Are they easy to access? Are they big enough and made in your pet’s preferred style (covered or not)? Do they have the type of litter your cat prefers (paper, clumping, perfumed or not)? Are the litters shared with another animal that shares your cat’s environment? Is your rhythm of life stressful to your cat or does your cat suffer from anxiety?
You can be secure in the knowledge that there are almost as many solutions as causes and a specialist in cat behaviour should know how to partially or completely solve your litter avoidance problem. Before taking out your wallet though, her are six pieces of advice that may help you solve the problem yourself. This advice should set the standard on how every cat owner should treat their cat, whether they have litter avoidance problems or not. Finally, if none of these solutions fixes the problem, an edu‘cat’or should be able to propose yet more solutions.
The solutions to this problem are twofold: the first part offering recommendations as to what to do and the second part serves to explain the reasons behind those recommendations.
Are you against the idea of putting a litter box in your kitchen or in the living room despite the fact that that is where your cat does their business? Is your apartment too small for you to add extra litter boxes?
We strongly suggest that you give it a try for about 2 weeks (the minimum time needed for a cat to change their behaviour). This will help you determine if, by adding litters or placing them in different spots, the problems are solved. Is your cat using their litter again? Then success! Everyone is happy, because no matter how displeasing a litter in the kitchen might be, it’s certainly preferable to finding a pipi pool on the couch. Once your cat is back to having good habits, you can try gradually moving the litter box to a more preferred location.
Why do you need 2 litters for 1 cat? Why do you need an extra litter? First and foremost, some neat freak kitties will refuse to do their business in a litter box that is already soiled; it’s a good idea to put a second litter at their disposition. Other cats will refuse to defecate in the same litter that they urinate in, and so 2 litters are needed. Cats sure are particular!
Where to place litters? The place in which a litter is place is as important as the number. Litters must be placed in different rooms.
Why? Your cat’s routine dictates that they rest and survey their territory from different spots at different times. By placing litters in different locations, your cat will be more likely to use them as he/she passes by them as a part of their daily routine. They can also use the litters as territorial markers, as if the litters were signs saying: “You are home!” This will encourage your cat to mark their territory in the litter rather than on your couch. Placing a litter in an unappealing location can have the opposite effect. The best example would be a litter placed in the laundry room. The noise of the washer and dryer can actually discourage your cat from using a litter even if it is in the adjoining room. If your feline really has to go to the bathroom while the washer and dryer are working, they will seek out another place to do their business. By offering a litter in another room, you are offering your cat a second option that you can both agree on.
That being said, it is with multiple cats living under the same roof that it is especially important to have multiple litter boxes, each in a different room. Even if your cats get along, they still have to share different territories, which change depending on the hour of day. To give an example, let’s say you have 3 cats who share one litter box, or even that you have multiple litter boxes placed together in the same room. Since your cats share their territory by rotating ownership based on the time of day, placing the litters in the same place will inevitably make the fall under the ownership of one cat at a time. The others will respect that cat’s ownership and might avoid using their litter boxes when it is not their turn (ie while it is under the ownership of another cat). They will therefore relieve themselves elsewhere. This is a problem easily solved by having multiple litters in multiple places, which will ensure the litter boxes don’t fall under the ownership of only one cat at a time, and are shared simultaneously instead.
Your cat may not want to urinate in the same place as they defecate. They might even pee in one corner of their litter and poop in the other, thus the necessity for a large litter box. Having a large see-through container without a lid will allow your cat to see their surroundings and react if need be. Having a litter box that is 12 inches high will help keep the grains inside when they get stuck to their paws and need to be shaken off. Now, a 12 inch high litter box may sound excessively high for your cat, but if they can jump on your table, sofa, or chairs, you don’t have to worry about the litter being too high. If your cat is elderly or infirm however, you might want to cut a door into the plastic or even placing steps on the side of the litter.
Finally, the last thing we want to modify when we encounter a litter avoiding cat are the grains. If you are using a litter that contains clay like corn cob pellet litter, litter composed of pine shavings or newspaper, it’s best to see to it quickly. A cat’s instinct’s dictates that they bury their droppings to make sure predators and prey do not catch their scent and know that they frequented the area. For this reason, they usually pick a compact sand which will allow them to dig a hole that is big enough to cover their droppings quickly and effectively while keeping their paws dry. If your cat decides that the type of grains you have chosen do not fit their needs, they will relieve themselves elsewhere.
It is important to note that the advice presented here only represent the most basic of solutions for litter avoiding cats. Many other solutions exist to fix the problem of an uncleanly cat. The next step would be to get a consultation (by phone, skype, or ideally a home visit) with a specialist in feline behaviour. Don’t give up hope, and most of all, do not euthanize your cat for a simple problem of litter avoidance. It is entirely solvable in the majority of cases.