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7 Reasons Why Cats Stop Using the Litter Box

kitty-litterOne of the most frustrating things for a cat owner is when their cat suddenly stops using the litter box. An accident every now and then is one thing, but some cats will just start refusing to use the box completely, seemingly out of nowhere. Unfortunately, some cat owners look at litter box refusal as a deal-breaker, making it one of the top reasons why so many cats are taken to the animal shelter each year.

When an animal – any animal – suddenly has a change in behavior, chances are high that its a symptom of another problem. There are many reasons why a cat might suddenly start avoiding the litter box. It is important to take some time to figure out what is causing the change in behavior. Then you can try some ideas to remedy the situation or seek vet services in South Coast Massachusetts, if necessary, rather than give up on your feline friend forever.

Reason #1 – Medical Issue

Even if your cat appears to be healthy and is still eating and drinking properly, there could still be an underlying medical issue that might be causing the feline behavioral problem. Before you try anything else, take your cat in for regular veterinary care in Dartmouth to make sure he is healthy. Some cats may have pain that makes it difficult to get into the litter box or may have bathroom issues that cause discomfort.

Reason #2 – Dirty Litter

Would you want to use a filthy, dirty toilet that was untended for weeks at a time? Neither does your cat. Make sure to scoop the litter box at least once a day, twice whenever possible and completely clean and wash out the box on a monthly basis. If you are using regular litter, make sure to wash out and clean the box on a weekly basis. Avoid changing the brand and type of your cat’s litter if at all possible. Cats do not like change and some may stop using the litter box if you switch to a brand that has a lot of dust, has a different scent or a different feel than what they are used to using.

Reason #3 – Fancy New Box

There are a lot of specialized cat care products available on the market today. Many promise that you’ll “never touch litter again” or that it “keeps it fresh and clean for kitty” without you ever having to do anything more than take out a bag of waste once a week. These automated machines can be scary for some cats. While many don’t mind, some will get so upset by the noises and unexpected movement, that they’ll start avoiding the box. If you want to try one of these new boxes, make sure to keep your cat’s favorite old-fashioned box around as an option until you’re sure he will use the new box.

Reason #4 – Covered Box

While you might wish you had more privacy if you were a cat, cats just don’t really care. The real scoop is that these covered boxes hold in odors and turn your cat’s litter box into a stinky port-a-potty experience for the record books. The litter can’t dry out properly if air can’t get to it, which can make the waste moist and prevent the litter from clumping. Covered boxes also make cats feel too confined. This is especially true in multiple cat homes where a cat might worry that he will get attacked by another cat while inside the covered box. Studies also show that cat owners who use covered boxes scoop less frequently than those who use a conventional kitty litter box, making it an all-around bad idea.

Reason #5 – Not Enough Boxes

The rule off thumb is that you should have the same number of boxes as you have cats. So, if you have three cats, you should have three boxes. If one of your cats is having a litter box issue, it is also advised that you get an extra box just in case. Even if you just have one cat, but you have a two or three story home, it is advisable to get a litter box for each floor. You wouldn’t want to have to run all the way upstairs or downstairs every time you have to go to the bathroom, would you?

Reason #6 – Bad Box Location

If you put your cat’s litter box in a high traffic location, chances are all of the anxiety issues discussed previously with other box types and situations will be amplified. Don’t think about your convenience, think about what is best for your cat. A cat may stop using the litter box or begin displaying other feline behavioral problems if he feels insecure about the location of the litter box. Don’t put the box near the cat food or water for sanitary reasons. Don’t put the box downstairs in a damp basement or near noisy appliances, such as a heater, washing machine, dryer or dehumidifier. If you have multiple cats and multiple boxes, separate the boxes into different rooms to give each cat some space. Think strategically about where you place each box.

Reason #7 – Liners and Mats

Kitty litter liners are sold as an easy way to remove litter and keep the box clean. Unfortunately, the plastic liners usually tear easily under kitty’s claws and the shape of the bag can make it easy for urine to pool underneath the litter, even with clumping litters. Many liners also have scents, which can be bothersome to many cats. Mats have similar issues. While it might seem like a good idea to give kitty a place to wipe his feet after using the litter box, some cats don’t like the feel of the rubber mats and will stop using the litter box entirely.

If your cat suddenly has a change in behavior or develops any type of feline behavioral problem, seek professional veterinary care in Dartmouth at Anchor Animal Hospital. Anchor has been serving pets and their owners, offering a wide variety of vet services in South Coast Massachusetts since 1975. In addition to cats and dogs, Anchor Animal Hospital provides emergency and general care veterinary services for reptiles, rodents, birds and a variety of pocket pets. For more information, call 508-996-3731.