Young cat use the toiletHouse-soiling is one of the most common reasons cats are surrendered to animal shelters each year. Fortunately, with a little effort and proper training, this behavior can be changed or avoided altogether. Whether you are bringing home a new kitten or seeking to re-establish proper elimination behavior in an older cat, The Pet Experts at Naperville Animal Hospital can help!

First Things First

The general rule of thumb when it comes to litter boxes is to have one per cat, plus one extra. The boxes should be easily accessible and located throughout your home.

Speaking of location…

The following tips can help you determine where to place the litter boxes:

  • Do not place a litter box close to food and water sources
  • Cats like their freedom and privacy! If possible, situate the box in a quiet area of the home while still allowing kitty the chance to “escape” if he or she feels cornered. For example, a closet is not a good spot because a cat can feel blocked in if another pet or person stands in the doorway.
  • Do not put litter boxes too close together. A cat may mistakenly believe this is one big litter box and may be less inclined to use it.

Bringing Home A New Kitten

Most cats instinctively eliminate in sand or soil. Your kitten most likely learned about litter boxes by watching his or her mother and probably started using one before joining your family. Even if a kitten doesn’t need “litter box training”, you can help familiarize him or her with the process by:

  • Showing your kitten the locations of the litter boxes in your home.
  • Place him or her inside the litter box at “normal bathroom hours”, such as first thing in the morning, after meals and right before going to bed for the night
  • Although your kitten may not like it, take his or her front paws and gently wipe them across the litter, mimicking the action of burying waste. For some kittens, this may be a useful tactic in helping them to understand what the litter box is for.

Troubleshooting For An Older Cat

Even cats that have been using litter boxes for years with no problems can suddenly develop house-soiling issues. If you have followed all of the guidelines listed above for the proper situating of the litter boxes in your home and your cat is still eliminating outside of the litter box, you may need to dig a little deeper to get at the root of the problem.

Cleanliness is key – Ensure that you are removing all waste from the litter boxes on a daily basis. Most cats prefer to eliminate in a clean area and a cat may avoid a dirty litter box altogether.

Medical concerns – Call us to schedule an appointment for your cat. We can help rule out any underlying medical issues that may be contributing to house-soiling.

Physical limitations – Elderly cats or those with certain physical impairments may have trouble getting into and out of certain types of top-entry or high-sided litter boxes. Try switching to an easier access box in these cases.

Stress – Various household events can stress your kitty, leading to elimination problems. Moving, adding new pets or family members, even a change in your daily routine can shake up your cat. Keep things as consistent for your feline friends as possible with structured feeding, watering, and playtime routines.

Questions or concerns? Don’t hesitate to call The Pet Experts of Naperville Animal Hospital!