A cat’s rebellion against their litter box is a frustrating situation that can cause discord throughout the household. Determining why your cat is exhibiting this behavior is key to returning your home to a normal state. Our Cat Friendly team at Gentle Touch Animal Hospital wants to help you remedy the problem, by educating you on some issues that can cause your pet to eliminate inappropriately.

Health conditions that can cause your cat to eliminate inappropriately

If your cat suddenly begins to eliminate outside their litter box, your first step should be a trip to see our American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA)-accredited team at Gentle Touch Animal Hospital, to rule out a medical condition. We will perform a thorough physical exam, and run diagnostics to ensure your pet is healthy. Conditions that can cause this behavior include:

  • Metabolic diseases — Conditions such as diabetes mellitus can cause an increase in your cat’s urine production, affecting their ability to get to their box in time.
  • Kidney disease — As the kidney is compromised, your cat’s urine production is increased, and they may start to experience discomfort, resulting in inappropriate elimination.
  • Lower urinary tract disorders — If your cat experiences pain when they urinate, they may make negative associations with their litter box, and find other areas to powder their nose.
  • Arthritis — If arthritic joints inhibit your cat’s ability to get in and out of their box, they may find other places to eliminate. A box that has lower sides can help remedy this situation.
  • Cognitive dysfunction — Geriatric cats can develop cognitive dysfunction, which is similar to Alzheimer’s disease in humans. This may make them forget their litter box location.

Behavioral issues that can cause your cat to eliminate inappropriately

Once a health problem has been ruled out, we can determine if a behavioral issue is causing your cat to choose alternate bathroom locations. Conditions include:

  • Stress — Cats can become stressed for many reasons. Any change in routine can result in anxiety, and eliminating inappropriately may be their response. Whatever is causing their stress will need addressing, to stop the behavior.
  • Boredom — Bored cats often misbehave, including rebelling against their litter box. Ensure your cat exercises at least 10 to 15 minutes twice per day. Also, provide scratching posts and vertical landscape for them to climb. Many cats enjoy a window perch, so they can watch the wildlife in their yard. Rotate your cat’s toys frequently, and use food-puzzle toys to feed their meals.

Litter box issues that can cause your cat to eliminate inappropriately

Cats are extremely particular about their litter box preferences, and will rebel if their needs aren’t met. Considerations include:

  • Cleanliness — Your cat’s litter box should be scooped at least twice a day. The litter should be completely changed weekly, and you should invest in a new box once a year.
  • Number — You should have one box for each cat in the house, and one extra box. The boxes should be placed in different areas throughout your home, to prevent one dominant cat from guarding the box. If you have only one cat, they may prefer separate boxes for their different waste materials.
  • Size — Most cats prefer space to move around, and cover their deposit. Aim for a box that is at least one and a half times longer than your cat’s body. 
  • Location — Cats do not like to do their business in loud, high traffic areas, but they also like the box to be conveniently located. If their litter box is in the laundry room, they may be disturbed when the washing machine starts the spin cycle, and they likely will avoid a box that is located where family members pass frequently. Alternatively, they do not want to travel long distances to get to their litter box, and will likely not make the hike to the basement to use the bathroom. An additional consideration is the proximity to their food and water bowls. Most cats do not like their toilet near their dining room.
  • Litter — Cats tend to prefer only one to two inches of litter, rather than a large amount, in their box. They also typically prefer unscented, clumpable litter over scented options.
  • Accoutrements — Cats typically don’t like litter box liners or hoods. These additions help the clean up process, but your cat may rebel.

Clean appropriately after your cat to prevent repeat accidents

If your cat eliminates inappropriately, you should clean the area properly, to prevent a repeat performance. Steps include:

  • The blot — Use a paper towel to blot up as much urine as possible.
  • The soak — Use a carpet cleaning agent to soak the area for at least one hour. Avoid using an ammonia based product, which will attract your cat.
  • The scrub — Use a wet cloth or sponge to thoroughly scrub the area. 
  • The neutralization — Use an enzymatic cleaner to neutralize the odor. Do not allow your cat back until the area is dry.

Determining why your cat is rebelling against their litter box requires patience, and punishing them will only exacerbate the problem. If your cat is eliminating inappropriately, contact our Fear Free team at Gentle Touch Animal Hospital, so we can help find the underlying issue.