I can't tell you how many calls I get from people that have to do with cats going to the bathroom anywhere but the litterbox. It doesn't take long for me to determine why? 80-90% of the time can be traced back to the litterbox. You do not want to scrimp on the purchase of a litterbox or the litter that works. Cats can't talk, so you need to watch for the signs.
The top 10 reasons for litterbox problems:
10. Urinary Tract Infection (UTI).
If your cat recently starting peeing outside the litterbox, it could very well be a UTI. You know how miserable it is to have a bladder infection. Don't let your cat suffer because you think it is a behavorial problem. The first thing anyone needs to do if the cat is peeing outside the box is to take it to the vet to rule out a UTI. It's simple and the treatment is inexpensive.
9. Your cat is being ambushed.
Too many instances, especially when you only have that one litterbox and multiple cats (whether it's two or more), you might have a bully cat or dog. These are the cats that hide under the bed, or behind that door stalking the other cat or waiting for it to walk by. Sometimes it's in play, sometimes not. If a cat is ambused enough, especially when they are trying to get to the litterbox, they will avoid the areas they are repeatedly ambused in. They will stay in the area or room they feel comfortable in. If you have a cat that doesn't venture far or prefers to stay in one room, put a box in that room.
8. The litterbox and food/water are in the same room or close to one another.
I don't know about you but the last place I want to eat a meal is in the bathroom. That goes for some cats too. Yuck, talk about losing your appetite. Find a better location.
7. The box is too small.
Come on, have you ever tried to fit in the restoom at some of the department stores. You have to maneuver between the toilet and door just to get in and get the door closed. Cats seem to come much larger these days and some of those litterboxes people actually pay money for aren't good for anything but perhaps a kitten. As your kitten/cat grows, so should your litterbox.
6. The litter is scented, or you've changed litter.
There are so many different types of litter out there, which one do I use? All cats are different and they all have their own preferences. We need to buy what they like and will use, not what we like. It may require experimenting to see what works best. Once you find the litter that your cat(s) like, stick with it. Give your cats multiple choices. In one room I have one litterbox with Costco brand scoopable and two with The Worlds Best Litter. About half the cats use one and half prefer the other.
Cats are very sensitive to smell. Most do not like the perfumed smelling litters. They were created for the human, not the cat. Have you ever smelled that one person who is a walking perfume factory. It's enough to make me barf and we wonder why our cats (not all cats) boycott the box.
5. You're using a covered box.
Some cats like the cover, others don't. If you have one and are experiencing problems, try taking the cover off and see what happens. This of course after checking the other reasons on the top ten list.
4. Location, location, location.
I know everyone sticks the litterbox in the most obscure places. The heater room, laundry room, down in the basement, that tiny space back in the far corner of the house. Not only is it inconvenient for us, sometimes it's a pain in the butt to get to. Also, it can be loud. If a cat gets startled, either by the heater suddenly coming on, the washer and dryer going, buzzers sounding, or something falls down on them when they are in the midst of doing their business, they will associate the litterbox as a scary place to be and avoid it.
3. You don't have enough boxes.
Did you know the rule of thumb is 1 box per cat plus one? Deciphered, that is if you have one cat, you should have two boxes. For two cats, 3 boxes and so forth. Some cats like to poop in one box and pee in the other. If you have multiple floors in your house, you should have a litterbox on each floor. This is especially important for senior cats.
Something has changed in your household. Look back and see what change has happened within the past months. Cats are creatures of habit and not fond of change. Did you move recently? Get a new pet? Have a baby? Get married? Relatives/friends who stayed for any length of time? New roommate? Vacation?
Once you figure out what is causing stress, work on it immediately. Too many people wait until they can't stand it anymore, then the poor cat gets dumped off at Animal Control or taken to the vet for euthansia. Don't let yourself get to that point. The sooner you identify the problem, what triggered it, the sooner you can rectify the situation.
1. The #1 reason for litterbox problems is a dirty litterbox.
If you are not scooping at least daily, then you are not scooping enough. I personally think litterboxes should be cleaned out at least twice daily, especially if you have multiple cats. Isn't it worth keeping the litterbox clean then dealing with the repercussions of a dirty one?
Answer me this. What do you do when you walk into a public bathroom and someone before you didn't flush the toilet? You do what most people do, and that is to walk out and go into a clean one, yet we expect our cats to continue to use a dirty litterbox and get upset when they don't. Come on people....it doesn't take but a few minutes each day to scoop.
Also, it's not just a dirty litterbox, it can be the litterbox itself. They were never meant to last the life of the cat. I buy new litterboxes annually. In between times, litterboxes need to be thoroughly scrubbed out with bleach and covered litterboxes need to have their filters changed. Tell me....if you have a covered litterbox, when was the last time you changed your filter?
If everyone who owned a cat was a little more proactive when it came to the litterbox, there would be a lot less frustration for both cat and owner. Everyone needs to be diligent when it comes to the litterbox and if inappropriate bathroom habits surface, figure out why it's happening, when did it start, the circumstances and deal with it immediately. Don't wait until you are at wits end, as at that point, I find, most people don't want to hear or try the solutions. The key to success is early intervention.