When a cat refuses to use a litter box it makes living conditions unpleasant, especially when furniture or carpet is the favored substitute. While the behavior may have a deeper issue behind it, such as an illness, many cats simply are not happy with their own bathroom conditions.
Use a large litter box rather than a small one. Cats need space to use the box, then turn around and cover their waste. Small litter boxes do now allow for this.
Provide your cat with two litter boxes (one for each cat plus an additional box) in a quiet place away from his food and water dishes. Place one on each level of the house and avoid placing them near noisy appliances, such as the furnace or washing machine.
Provide privacy for your cat's litter box; it should not be placed out in the open, but should allow him to view if anyone, such as a child or another pet, is approaching.
Use a fine, dust-free, clumping litter and pour it at least two inches deep into the litter box for your cat's comfort. A cat who previously has been outdoors may prefer garden soil or sand mixed into the litter.
Scoop the cat's waste out of the litter box daily -- twice a day, if possible. Change clay litter twice a week, or more often if it begins to smell or look overly used.
Wash the litter box with warm water and mild soap when you change the litter to present a clean bathroom to the cat. Avoid any cleaners with a citrus or ammonia scent as these can cause a cat to refuse to use the box.
Take your cat to the vet immediately if he appears to have any other physical problems, such as pain when urinating, blood in his feces, weight loss or sudden moodiness. If the improper elimination persists even after appropriate changes have been made, a trip to the vet still is in order to eliminate other issues, such as urinary infections or diabetes.
- If a recent litter change has been made, such as clumping litter to clay, for example, switch back. Your cat may be unhappy with the new brand.
- Confining your cat for a day or two to get him back into the habit of using the litter box may be a helpful tool to quiet and calm him.
- Avoid using scented cat litter of fancy litter box systems; all of these are for the owner's benefit, but may turn the cat off to using a litter box if it simply doesn't smell clean.
Lori Lapierre holds a Bachelor of Arts and Science in public relations/communications. For 17 years, she worked for a Fortune 500 company before purchasing a business and starting a family. She is a regular freelancer for "Living Light News," an award-winning national publication. Her past writing experience includes school news reporting, church drama, in-house business articles and a self-published mystery, "Duty Free Murder."