How to retrain a cat to use the litter box

Introduction

There are many cat owners who swear by litter trays in order to ensure that their pets do not have accidents in the house. Cat litter is generally used for inside cats or in cases where cats are not allowed out for some reason. Some owners also use them because they prefer their cats to be indoors at night.

One thing that many dog owners are interested in is whether their dog can use cat litter, and the simple answer to this is yes, it is perfectly safe for them to use litter and some dogs can be trained to do so quite easily!

How to retrain a cat to use the litter box

Signs Your Dog May Need to Use the Litter Box

If you are keen to train your dog or puppy to use cat litter, it is important to look out for the signs that they need to do their business. Unlike cats, dogs do not have the same instincts when it comes to using cat litter and burying their deposits. However, this doesn’t mean that you cannot train and encourage them to do this.

While many kittens are litter trained by their feline mothers, there are some cases where they have to be trained by humans. To do this, we have to look out for the signs as well as exercise common sense to encourage them to use the litter tray. Some of the signs that your dog may need to go to the toilet include sitting by the front or back door, whining and barking, attempting to get your attention, acting in an unsettled and restless way, sniffing around at the floor or doors or going around in circles

If you notice these signs, one of the things that you can do is pick up your pooch and place him in the litter box. Of course, if the dog is quite big, you will need to encourage him to get in himself. If you have a puppy, it is a good idea to place him in the litter box after he has had food or drink, as this can help him to develop good habits when it comes to litter use.

Body Language

If you notice these body language signs, this is a good time to try and get him to the litter box:

  • Barking
  • Whining
  • Scratching
  • Pacing
  • Sniffing

Other Signs

Here are some other signs that you can look out for when it comes to your dog using the cat litter:

  • Going around in circles
  • Sniffing around the floor
  • Unsettled and restless
  • Attempting to get your attention
  • Scratching or sitting by back/front door

An Invention for Cats that can Benefit Dogs

How to retrain a cat to use the litter box

Historically, cat litter was designed for use by, well, cats (hence the name) and was invented by the businessman, Edward Lowe. While it has been used for cats over many years, the reasons for training a dog to use cat litter have become more and more important over recent years.

While dogs generally do their business outdoors when they go for walks or a run around the yard, there are times when they may not be able to do this. For instance, if you are out at work all day, if the dog is not well, when the weather is really bad it may not be possible to get outside.

This is why more and more dog owners are now keen to get their dogs to use cat litter as and when the need arises. It helps to avoid accidents in the house, ensures that your dog is not left in discomfort without any toileting facilities, and provides you with peace of mind even when you are not home.

Choosing from Different Types of Litter

How to retrain a cat to use the litter box

As any cat owner will tell you, cats generally have their own preferences when it comes to the type of litter in their box. If they take a dislike to the litter, the chances are that they will steadfastly refuse to use it.

While dogs are unlikely to be that fussy, there may still be certain types of litter that your dog does not like, so you may have to try out different ones until you find one that he is happy to use. Once you find the right one, your dog will then be more likely to use it rather than feeling uncomfortable about getting into the litter box.

When it comes to types of cat litter that are available, you can get everything from crystals and wood chip litter through to clumping cat litter and odor control litter. Some are more expensive than others because of the quality and effectiveness.

It is always worth investing in a high-quality litter because it will not only be more appealing for your dog but can help to control odors, keep your house clean, and may need changing less frequently because of its more absorbent nature.

Training Your Dog to Use the Litter

How to retrain a cat to use the litter box

If you have a young puppy, you will find that training is easier than with a grown dog. Of course, it may still be something of a challenge based on your dog’s trainability and attitude. However, the best way to get him used to the tray is to keep picking him up and placing him inside whenever he shows signs of wanting to go to the toilet or after he has had food and drink. You can also use the scoop to run through the litter so that he can hear the noise and see how you are digging around in the litter, which can help to encourage him.

With bigger dogs, the training process can be far more of a challenge because you cannot simply pick them up and place them in the tray. One thing that you can do, however, is coax them into using the litter box outside in the backyard, when they are outside. That way, on occasions, when the box is indoors and they need to do their business, they will know that the box is the place to go.

Reacting to Your Dog Using the Litter Box

How to retrain a cat to use the litter box

Written by a Boston Terrier lover Reno Charlton

Published by Lil nudists on October 4, 2018 October 4, 2018

Inappropriate Litter Box use is cited as the number ONE reason cats are displaced into shelters! Correcting inappropriate litter box use is critical to your cat and your home.

There are Many different reasons why a cat stops using the litter box. However in this video I discuss the possible causes common to a new kitten or cat in the home. One cause could be the mistake of not ensuring you are using the same type of litter your kitten or cat was used to at the breeder, the shelter, or the previous home you adopted from.

Secondly, you may have a situation where your new cat or kitten has just become “distracted” in your home and either forgets where the litter box is located, or has a hard time getting to it quickly enough!

To Re-Train” your cat/kitten to the litter box simply follow these steps:

1. Put kitty into a quiet room with no other pets. This can be a bedroom, a guest room, a bathroom or laundry area.

2. Put TWO small, flat litter pans in the room with your kitty.

3. Fill one pan with your current litter, and fill the second pan with a Cat Attractant litter like this one by Dr. Elsey’s : chewy.com/dr-elseys-precious-cat-attrac…/…/32365

4. Keep your kitty in the room for 7 days with their cat bed, cat toys, food and water of course.

5. After the 7 day re-training period, begin letting your cat out of the training room under supervision at the rate of:
1 Hour day one
2 Hours day two
3 Hours day three
4 Hours day four

6. If all has gone well after the 7 day retraining period,and the following 4 days supervised outings, then you are free to now let your cat back out into your entire home. (if any accidents happen during the extended outing periods go back a few days in the process and start again.)

7. Put the two litter pans that were in the room with your cat into quiet places in your home out of the way of foot traffic.

Keep those Kitties Happy & Healthy!

It’s of course very frustrating when your cat is urinating and/or defecating outside the litter box. Fortunately, the reason for this behavior can typically be identified and the problem likely resolved.

In fact, there are only five reasons why your cat is avoiding the litter box:

1. Your male cat is not neutered and has an impulse to mark his territory.

Make a vet appointment as soon as possible to get him neutered. This will typically resolve the problem, although it may take a few weeks after the surgery for this marking impulse to stop.

2. The litter box setup is not meeting your cat’s needs.

Cats prefer to eliminate in a large, open box in a quiet, but accessible area of the home that allows them to see their surroundings. Cats prefer an unscented scoopable (clumping) litter that is scooped twice a day. Also, be aware that the location of the box may no longer be meeting your cat’s needs. For example, as cats age, their agility declines and they can get arthritis. An older cat who used to have no problem going to the litter box in the basement may now have trouble doing so. Another example: Your cat was comfortable using the litter box until something spooked them in that location (maybe a sudden noise or the appearance of an outdoor cat in the window) and they now do not feel comfortable using this box.

Often, the easiest solution is to place a new litter box where the cat is choosing to eliminate. Cats don’t think in terms of right or wrong. They think in terms of meeting their needs. For example, if your cat routinely pees in the dining room, this means that, for whatever reason, the dining room best meets your cat’s needs as a place to eliminate. You could try denying your cat access to the dining room (if possible), but the other option is to place a litter box in that location. It may not be an ideal location for you, but it’s ultimately going to be easier to scoop waste out of a litter box than to consistently clean the floor.

Also, if you need to add a litter box to a location, don’t move an existing litter box in the home that is already being used by the cat. Always add boxes, don’t move boxes.

Sign up to receive our exclusive e-book full of training techniques, problem-solving and important information about caring for your pet.

How to retrain a cat to use the litter box

3. Your cat has a medical issue.

Medical issues can cause cats to avoid the litter box for a variety of reasons. For example, they feel discomfort when eliminating and associate this negative sensation with the litter box and choose to avoid it; or they may have a condition that requires them to eliminate suddenly and often before they can get to the litter box; or they may not want to eliminate because of pain they feel and only eliminate when they can no longer hold it in (wherever they may be).

Make a vet appointment, particularly if you notice your cat eliminating more or less often than normal, vocalizing or appearing in discomfort when eliminating and/or notice other changes in the cat’s behavior or routine.

4. You have multiple cats and one or more cats is feeling stress, possibly being bullied by another cat.

First, make sure you have several open litter boxes throughout the home so the cat being bullied has various options of where to eliminate. Second, work on improving the relationship between the two cats. This will take time and, likely, a consultation with a cat behaviorist. The cat doing the bullying needs to learn that it’s not in their interest to do this behavior. For example, the bullying behavior leads to timeouts, while neutral or positive interactions with the other cat leads to human attention and treats. This will help the bullied cat to feel safe and secure in the home, as will more interactive play.

5. Stress is causing the cat to mark territory (even if spayed/neutered) and/or to seek out areas to eliminate other than the litter box.

There are a vast number of potential stressors for your cat to experience. For example, new people or animals in the home, unfamiliar routines, smells, sounds in the home, animals outside the home or loss of people or animals from the home. There is a good chance you may not figure out the exact cause of your cat’s stress and that’s OK because often stress can be addressed without knowing the cause. That said, it’s helpful to determine if there is a pattern to when the cat eliminates outside the box. For example, is it overnight? Or when left home alone? Or when you went on vacation?

Resolving litter box issues that are stress-related can be challenging as they often require a detailed understanding of the cat and the home environment. These cases in particular may require the guidance of a cat behaviorist. The following solutions are general:

If you can identify the stressor, try to remove it (if possible) or limit impact on the cat or change the cat’s association with the stressor from negative to positive.

  • Example 1: If your son’s decision to play the drums is the stressor, perhaps he can practice in a location other than the home.
  • Example 2: If outdoor construction is the stressor, try to isolate your cat in a room away from the noise with some classical music or white noise to muffle the construction sounds.
  • Example 3: If a new animal in the home is the stressor, work on creating positive associations.
  • Make sure your litter box setup meets your cat’s needs. For example, if your cat is peeing overnight in an open area of the home and the litter box is a covered box, the issue may be that your cat doesn’t feel safe at night (maybe because of outdoor cats) using a covered box which doesn’t allow them to see their surroundings. In this case, the solution could be as simple as having an open, instead of a closed, box.
  • Provide your cat with two to three interactive play sessions a day. Play is the best way to reduce stress.
  • If your cat continues to eliminate in a specific are of the home, temporarily denying them access to that location may be necessary.

Final notes

If the above guidance does not resolve your cat’s litter box avoidance, contact a cat behaviorist.

If your cat is consistently peeing in the same location and it’s not possible to limit the cat’s access to that location and it’s also not possible to place a litter box in that location, then it’s important to deter the cat in other ways. For example, if your cat is peeing on your couch you should temporarily cover the couch with thick plastic (a tarp, or a shower curtain or shower curtain liner). Your cat is less likely to pee on the plastic and if they do it will be easier to clean.

Clean the areas where the cat has peed with soap and water and then use an enzymatic urine cleaner which can be bought online or at any pet store. This will help to remove the urine smell.

In rare cases, there is a sixth reason that cats avoid the litter box: They have a preference to urinate and/or defecate on surfaces other than litter. For example, the cat prefers to pee on a hard surface. If you have likely ruled out the other five causes as the reason for the cat avoiding the litter box, contact a cat behaviorist.

Your cat may have an underlying health condition

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How to retrain a cat to use the litter box

The Spruce / Ana Cadena

A host of circumstances could explain why your cat might be missing the litter box. Sometimes it’s a behavioral problem, but sometimes a health condition may cause your cat to go outside its box. If left unchecked, a health issue, such as a urinary tract infection, can lead to a potentially life-threatening condition for your cat.

An early warning sign that your cat may start pooping outside its box: When a cat that’s previously always “covered” its litter box deposits stops doing so, more litter box surprises may follow.

Why Do Cats Poop Outside the Litter Box?

Most often, litter box problems are caused by a change in the cat’s routine or issues with its litter box. But if your house-trained cat suddenly stops using its box, your first step is to take your kitty to the vet to rule out any health issues.  

Health Problems

Sometimes if your cat has diarrhea or constipation, the urge to go may be sudden and overwhelming, and it may not make it to the litter box in time.   This situation should be temporary, however, provided your kitty has no underlying health conditions.

If your vet determines that the issue doesn’t have a physiological basis, she’ll probably move on to exploring whether your cat has a behavioral problem.

Stress and Behavioral Issues

A sudden change in your kitty’s bathroom behavior may be attributed to several different possible causes, many of which boil down to feline stress.

Smelly Litter Box: It’s very common for cats to turn up their noses at a litter box if it doesn’t meet their exacting standards for cleanliness and odor. If it’s not pristine, even cats that have been litter trained for years may reject the box in favor of another area (usually one that will get your attention).

Wrong Box Location: Is the location of the litter box problematic for your cat? If it’s near a door or in a part of the house that gets a lot of traffic or that the cat can’t easily get to, consider moving it.   This isn’t recommended if your cat has dementia as it may create more confusion.

Change in Household: If another cat or animal or even a new baby has been introduced to the household or if someone has moved in, moved out, or moved on, your cat may simply be marking its territory. This should be temporary until the cat gets used to the new situation. But be aware that any change to a cat’s routine or environment can cause stress, which may result in out-of-the-ordinary behavior.  

Recently Adopted Kitty: A cat that’s been recently adopted may take a few weeks or months to fully adjust and feel comfortable enough to reveal its personality. It may be that your adoptive cat was feeling a bit uncertain at first and was willing to share the litter box but later changed its mind.

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The Spruce / Ana Cadena

How to Stop Your Cat From Defecating Outside Its Litter Box

In the absence of health issues, take steps to prevent your cat from doing its dirty deeds someplace besides its litter box.

Clean the Box

First and foremost, scoop clumps from the litter box daily and deep clean it frequently. This means jettisoning the old litter, scrubbing the empty box with mild dish soap and warm water, rinsing it with clean water, letting it air-dry, and pouring in a fresh supply of clean, unscented litter (sometimes scented litter is unappealing to finicky cats). Whenever you handle your kitty’s litter box, always use rubber gloves and a face mask to protect yourself from microscopic bugs and litter dust.

Warning

If you’re pregnant, leave all litter box maintenance to another member of the household to reduce your risk of contracting toxoplasmosis.  

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The Spruce / Ana Cadena

Focus on Location

If you find that your cat is drawn to using a particular spot, such as a bath mat, as its latrine, try to block its access to the room by setting up a baby gate or closing/locking the door whenever possible. At the same time, encourage your pet to use its litter box as intended by locating the box well away from its food and water bowls in a quiet, private area that’s easy to get to.

Add Another Litter Box

If you’ve added a second cat, consider installing additional litter boxes rather than trying to make both cats share a box. The optimal number of litter boxes is one for each cat plus one more. This means that if you have two cats, you should provide three litter boxes. Note that the boxes need to be in totally different places. Otherwise, one cat may attempt to “guard” and own all the toilets and keep the other cat away.

Put Up Obstacles

If there’s a particular area where your cat has been going frequently and you can’t block its access, try laying down aluminum foil or spray the area with a kitty-safe deterrent. The goal is to make the inappropriate area as undesirable to the cat as possible.

Re-Create the Scene of the Crime

Take a look at the surface where your cat prefers to defecate and try duplicating that surface in the litter box. For instance, if your kitty likes tile, leave the bottom of the litter box bare. If it targets paper, line the bottom of the box with paper; if it goes on carpeting, install a carpet remnant in its box.

Erase Accidents

If, in spite of your best efforts, your cat defecates outside the litter box for any reason, thoroughly clean the area with an enzymatic cleaner so your kitty doesn’t catch the scent and think it’s OK to go there again.

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By: Christina Vercelletto Published: December 24, 2019

How to retrain a cat to use the litter box

New Pet / New Cat / Cat Not Using the Litter Box? Here’s Why (And What You Can Do)

Cat Not Using the Litter Box? Here’s Why (And What You Can Do)

You brag to your fellow cat parent pals about how quickly and easily your new pet took to litter training. Then, years later, your cat has stopped using the litter box. A cat not using the litter box definitely can be frustrating—and unsanitary. Instead of doing their business where they’re supposed to, your cat is pooping outside the litter box, peeing outside the litter or both! Yikes…

“Some may only urinate inside, while some may only defecate inside,” says Rachel Barrack, DVM, CVA, CVCH, owner of Animal Acupuncture in New York City. “Some cats abruptly refuse the litter box altogether.”

In all scenarios, though, it’s exasperating to say the least, and it’s important to resolve the issue before your cat makes a habit out of eliminating in inappropriate places. But, you can’t resolve the issue until you figure out what is causing it in the first place.

“There are many reasons a well-trained cat suddenly stops using the litter box,” Dr. Barrack says.

While often the reason is one that is relatively easily resolved, other times it can be more serious. Even if you think you know the reason behind your cat not using the litter box, “it is recommended that you schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to rule out any underlying medical conditions,” Dr. Barrack says.

6 Reasons Your Cat Stopped Using the Litter Box

1. The Litter Box Is Different

Did you move the litter box to a new area, buy a new box or switch litter? It might seem like a minor thing to us, but “cats develop preferences to certain litter and boxes,” Dr. Barrack says.

For example, if you switched from an open litter box to one with a hood, the hood itself may be what is putting off your kitty.

“Many cats do not like [hooded litter boxes] because their instincts tell them that a contained space is dangerous,” Dr. Barrack says. “Even if there is no immediate threat, the fact that there is no space for them to escape in case of an emergency is enough to make a cat uncomfortable and avoid using the litter box.”

These switches can be especially problematic if you make them all at once and may lead to your cat peeing outside the litter box.

Solution:

You can avoid this litter box problem by making subtle changes.

“If you’ve found a new and better spot for the litter box, move it a few feet every couple of days until it’s in the desired location,” Dr. Barrack says.

The same goes for when you purchase a new brand or type of cat litter .

“Try mixing it with the old litter, adding less and less of the old litter with each litter pan cleaning,” Dr. Barrack says.

Dr. Elsey’s Precious Cat Ultra Litter Attractant can also be used to entice your cat to use the new litter.

2. The Litter Box Smells

The reason why your cat stopped using the litter box may be right under their cute, little (and very sensitive) nose: It stinks! Cats like a clean litter box and will have no problem opting for a potted plant if their designated space is not up to their standards.

Solution:

“The pan should be scooped out every single day, and then washed out and refilled with fresh litter at least once a week,” Dr. Barrack says.

You also can try a cat litter with strong odor-eliminating attributes. Frisco Multi-Cat Clumping Cat Litter, for example, is formulated to effectively eliminate any odors your cat leaves behind. For an extra odor-eliminating boost, try Arm & Hammer’s Cat Litter Deodorizer Powder.

3. The Litter Box Is Too Small

If your cat is peeing outside the litter box, take a good look at both your cat and the box. Did you buy it when your cat was a kitten? Or, maybe your older cat has put on some weight. Cats can outgrow their litter box and then refuse to do their business in a space that’s too small for them to get comfortable.

Solution:

“Make sure [the litter box] is large enough—about one and a half times the length of your cat is a good rule of thumb,” Dr. Barrack says. “They should be able to easily turn around in it. If they can’t, you should get a bigger box.”

The Omega Paw Roll’N Clean Cat Litter Box comes in a large version that is 23 inches long, making it the ideal choice for bigger cats.

4. Kitty Bullies

Yes, really. “Multi-cat households develop a hierarchy, and cats can pick on each by other preventing litter box usage to establish dominance,” Dr. Barrack says.

Solution:

Dr. Barrack suggests making sure that each cat in the household has their own box, ideally in different parts of your home.

“Some parents of multiple cats have one extra box to ensure this sort of problem doesn’t happen, which is a good idea,” Dr. Barrack says.

5. Stress

Cats can pick up on household stress, whether it’s in the form a new member of the family (human or pet), a move or a new job that requires you to be away more.

“Cats, much like preschoolers who regress in potty training, can act out when they’re stressed,” Dr. Barrack says.

Solution:

If you and your veterinarian determine stress is the cause of your cat not using the litter box, try to establish a routine for your kitty moving forward.

“If things are hectic at home, make an effort to keep your cat’s life as consistent as possible as far as feeding, playtime, sleeping goes. A few extra cuddles can’t hurt, either!” Dr. Barrack says.

6. A Medical Problem

If it hurts to urinate and/or defecate, cats can understandably be reluctant to use the litter box, says Dr. Barrack.

“Urinary tract infection, feline interstitial cystitis, bladder or kidney stones and constipation can all be a cause of your cat not using the litter box,” she says. “Also, older cats may have developed arthritis or another condition that makes getting into and out of the box challenging.”

Solution:

Dr. Barrack advises consulting your vet right away if your normally well-trained cat of any age abruptly stops using the litter box. They can test for and diagnose any possible medical reasons why your cat has stopped using the litter box, as well as provide recommendations for treatment.

When your feline companion mysteriously avoids the litter box, it’s upsetting—to you as much as to your cat! But by running through this checklist of common causes, and staying in close communication with your vet, you can get to the bottom of why your cat stopped using the litter box. Before long, your furry friend will be acting like themselves again.

By: Christina Vercelletto
Christina Vercelletto is a pet, travel and lifestyle content specialist and a former editor of Parenting, Scholastic Parent & Child, and Woman’s Day. She lives on Long Island with her Chiweenie, Pickles, and 20-pound Calico, Chub-Chub.

How to Stop a Cat from Urinating on Beds

An outdoor cat sees her environment as one big litter box and goes where she wishes. A no-fail confinement method trains her to use a litter box inside and become an indoor cat. Indoor cats rely on their owners for food, water and a snuggly lap for a purr-fect nap.

Step 1

Place a large pet crate in a quiet area of your home such as a bathroom or laundry room. Pour cat litter into a large litter box and place it in the rear of the crate. This location will give your cat privacy when she uses the litter box.

Step 2

Place a dish of food and water near the center of the crate. Position a cat bed or a blanket in the front of the crate so the cat can rest in that area and observe action in the house. Scatter a few cat toys on the bed for when she wants to play.

Step 3

Clean the litter box one or more times a day with a litter scoop. Remove the litter box at least once a week and dispose of the litter. Wash the litter box thoroughly with soap and water, rinse it well and allow it to air dry. Pour fresh litter into the box and replace it in the pet crate. Continue this schedule of cleaning the litter box so she will use it; cats do not like to step in a litter box with refuse in it.

Step 4

Remove the cat and all the contents from the crate and place them in a small room, such as a bathroom, as soon as she uses the litter box consistently. Store the crate in another area for later use. Let your cat have free run of the room. Keep the door to the room closed, but visit her often to calm her and observe the room for any accidents. Clean all accidents up immediately and apply an enzyme cleaner that masks the smell to the area.

Step 5

Place the litter box in a larger room along with all of the cat accessories and the cat as soon as she has no accidents outside the litter box. This can be a bedroom or laundry area.

Step 6

Choose an area that will give your cat privacy for the final resting spot of her litter box. The ideal place is quiet and without a lot of traffic, but an easy area for her to get to. You can now place her food and water dishes in a separate room and her bed in a cozy area.

It’s of course very frustrating when your cat is urinating and/or defecating outside the litter box. Fortunately, the reason for this behavior can typically be identified and the problem likely resolved.

In fact, there are only five reasons why your cat is avoiding the litter box:

1. Your male cat is not neutered and has an impulse to mark his territory.

Make a vet appointment as soon as possible to get him neutered. This will typically resolve the problem, although it may take a few weeks after the surgery for this marking impulse to stop.

2. The litter box setup is not meeting your cat’s needs.

Cats prefer to eliminate in a large, open box in a quiet, but accessible area of the home that allows them to see their surroundings. Cats prefer an unscented scoopable (clumping) litter that is scooped twice a day. Also, be aware that the location of the box may no longer be meeting your cat’s needs. For example, as cats age, their agility declines and they can get arthritis. An older cat who used to have no problem going to the litter box in the basement may now have trouble doing so. Another example: Your cat was comfortable using the litter box until something spooked them in that location (maybe a sudden noise or the appearance of an outdoor cat in the window) and they now do not feel comfortable using this box.

Often, the easiest solution is to place a new litter box where the cat is choosing to eliminate. Cats don’t think in terms of right or wrong. They think in terms of meeting their needs. For example, if your cat routinely pees in the dining room, this means that, for whatever reason, the dining room best meets your cat’s needs as a place to eliminate. You could try denying your cat access to the dining room (if possible), but the other option is to place a litter box in that location. It may not be an ideal location for you, but it’s ultimately going to be easier to scoop waste out of a litter box than to consistently clean the floor.

Also, if you need to add a litter box to a location, don’t move an existing litter box in the home that is already being used by the cat. Always add boxes, don’t move boxes.

Sign up to receive our exclusive e-book full of training techniques, problem-solving and important information about caring for your pet.

How to retrain a cat to use the litter box

3. Your cat has a medical issue.

Medical issues can cause cats to avoid the litter box for a variety of reasons. For example, they feel discomfort when eliminating and associate this negative sensation with the litter box and choose to avoid it; or they may have a condition that requires them to eliminate suddenly and often before they can get to the litter box; or they may not want to eliminate because of pain they feel and only eliminate when they can no longer hold it in (wherever they may be).

Make a vet appointment, particularly if you notice your cat eliminating more or less often than normal, vocalizing or appearing in discomfort when eliminating and/or notice other changes in the cat’s behavior or routine.

4. You have multiple cats and one or more cats is feeling stress, possibly being bullied by another cat.

First, make sure you have several open litter boxes throughout the home so the cat being bullied has various options of where to eliminate. Second, work on improving the relationship between the two cats. This will take time and, likely, a consultation with a cat behaviorist. The cat doing the bullying needs to learn that it’s not in their interest to do this behavior. For example, the bullying behavior leads to timeouts, while neutral or positive interactions with the other cat leads to human attention and treats. This will help the bullied cat to feel safe and secure in the home, as will more interactive play.

5. Stress is causing the cat to mark territory (even if spayed/neutered) and/or to seek out areas to eliminate other than the litter box.

There are a vast number of potential stressors for your cat to experience. For example, new people or animals in the home, unfamiliar routines, smells, sounds in the home, animals outside the home or loss of people or animals from the home. There is a good chance you may not figure out the exact cause of your cat’s stress and that’s OK because often stress can be addressed without knowing the cause. That said, it’s helpful to determine if there is a pattern to when the cat eliminates outside the box. For example, is it overnight? Or when left home alone? Or when you went on vacation?

Resolving litter box issues that are stress-related can be challenging as they often require a detailed understanding of the cat and the home environment. These cases in particular may require the guidance of a cat behaviorist. The following solutions are general:

If you can identify the stressor, try to remove it (if possible) or limit impact on the cat or change the cat’s association with the stressor from negative to positive.

  • Example 1: If your son’s decision to play the drums is the stressor, perhaps he can practice in a location other than the home.
  • Example 2: If outdoor construction is the stressor, try to isolate your cat in a room away from the noise with some classical music or white noise to muffle the construction sounds.
  • Example 3: If a new animal in the home is the stressor, work on creating positive associations.
  • Make sure your litter box setup meets your cat’s needs. For example, if your cat is peeing overnight in an open area of the home and the litter box is a covered box, the issue may be that your cat doesn’t feel safe at night (maybe because of outdoor cats) using a covered box which doesn’t allow them to see their surroundings. In this case, the solution could be as simple as having an open, instead of a closed, box.
  • Provide your cat with two to three interactive play sessions a day. Play is the best way to reduce stress.
  • If your cat continues to eliminate in a specific are of the home, temporarily denying them access to that location may be necessary.

Final notes

If the above guidance does not resolve your cat’s litter box avoidance, contact a cat behaviorist.

If your cat is consistently peeing in the same location and it’s not possible to limit the cat’s access to that location and it’s also not possible to place a litter box in that location, then it’s important to deter the cat in other ways. For example, if your cat is peeing on your couch you should temporarily cover the couch with thick plastic (a tarp, or a shower curtain or shower curtain liner). Your cat is less likely to pee on the plastic and if they do it will be easier to clean.

Clean the areas where the cat has peed with soap and water and then use an enzymatic urine cleaner which can be bought online or at any pet store. This will help to remove the urine smell.

In rare cases, there is a sixth reason that cats avoid the litter box: They have a preference to urinate and/or defecate on surfaces other than litter. For example, the cat prefers to pee on a hard surface. If you have likely ruled out the other five causes as the reason for the cat avoiding the litter box, contact a cat behaviorist.

How to retrain a cat to use the litter box

Senior cat litter box problems happen all too often and aren’t necessarily a reflection of the cat’s previous habits. Whether your cat failed to learn faithful toilet etiquette as a kitten or simply developed litter box problems as it got older, such issues are common with advancing age.

Some senior felines never have any litter box problems. But it’s good to be proactive and learn the warning signs in case any issues arise that lead to potential toilet challenges with your cat.

Older Cats and Litter Box Problems

Any major changes to your cat’s schedule, routine, or environment can cause disruption of litter box habits as can the type of litter you use and how clean you keep the box. A medical issue may also cause your cat to stop using its box or to use it sporadically. Whenever your cat’s elimination habits suddenly change for the worse, take it to the vet to rule out any underlying medical conditions or to assess treatment options:

How to retrain a cat to use the litter box

  • Diabetes, kidney disease, and lower urinary tract infections, all of which are conditions that are fairly common in older cats, cause more frequent urination. Your cat may not be able to get to the box in time every time.
  • Several medical conditions, such as arthritis, may cause your cat to associate the litter box with pain. Even though it’s not the litter box or the act of using the box that’s causing the pain, all the cat knows is that if it doesn’t use the box, it doesn’t have the pain. It may find another place to do its business where it doesn’t have as much discomfort.
  • Your older cat may have developed feline cognitive dysfunction (FCD), which is a form of cognitive decline characterized by such symptoms as deterioration in memory, sight, hearing, and ability to learn.
  • Separation anxiety, which your cat may experience when you’re away from home or the cat is placed in unfamiliar surroundings, is another reason it may not use its litter box as intended.

How to Solve Litter Box Problems in Older Cats

Regardless of the root cause of your cat’s litter box problems, you may need to try one or several approaches to help it use its box as intended. It is also important to address the issue as soon as possible, as the longer the problem goes on for, the harder it will be to correct.

Keep It Clean and Private

Cats are meticulous by nature and appreciate privacy. Senior felines, like some older people, become less patient and more particular as they age. Thus, a cat that may have easily tolerated a less-than-stellar litter box as a youngster may snub the box if it’s not pristine or may seek other places to eliminate if disturbed during the process.

How to retrain a cat to use the litter box

Avoid this by keeping the litter box immaculately clean, easily accessible, and in a private space. A low-traffic area—away from the cat’s bed and food bowl—is ideal.

Add Another Loo

Older cats may lose bladder tone as they age or have other physical ailments that make it difficult for them to hold it long enough to run across the house or down the stairs without an accident. Make it easier for your cat by placing litter boxes on each floor or at each end of the house.

Provide a Shorter Box

A regular commercial litter box may be too tall for arthritic cats to climb in and out of. More than 70 percent of aging cats have arthritis, so it’s important to have a litter box that’s the right height. Because it may hurt the cat to get into the box, the sides should be low and easy to climb over, and there should be plenty of room to allow the cat to take its time in comfort.

How to retrain a cat to use the litter box

Look for a plastic shirt-box-size storage container, use the lid of the container itself, or cut down the sides of a regular box. Aluminum disposable bakeware that’s about the size of a roasting pan may work as well, and the height of the sides can be modified if necessary.

Cope With Cognitive Decline

Some older cats develop cognitive decline that makes them forget where to find the litter box and what to do when they get there. If your vet has diagnosed your cat with cognitive decline, the vet may prescribe supplements and/or medication, such an anti-anxiety drug, to help ease some of your kitty’s issues.

You can also help your cat to cope by maintaining consistency in its surroundings and daily routines. Many cats of all ages don’t tolerate change well, but with older cats and especially those with separation anxiety and various degrees of cognitive decline, consistency in all things becomes even more important.

How to retrain a cat to use the litter box

How to retrain a cat to use the litter box

How to retrain a cat to use the litter box

How to retrain a cat to use the litter box

If your cat’s vision is also impaired, this is another reason not to change its surroundings. Blind cats memorize the locations of important property, such as a favorite nap spot, their food bowl, and the location of the litter box. You may not realize that your cat has lost its vision until you rearrange furniture or move the litter box.

To give your cat a better chance of finding its litter box without undue stress, it’s best to keep the box in the same spot. If you must make changes or move the litter box, leave one recent deposit in it to help your cat find it by scent. Try to be patient if your cat needs to learn the new location of its litter box and has a few accidents in the meantime.