If your cat eliminates outside his litter box, there is a reason. Unfortunately, it might not be obvious to you. He could be telling you he is ill, stressed or unhappy with his litter box. If your cat is not using his litter box, begin by taking him to your veterinarian.
Take your cat to the vet in case he has a urinary tract problem. It is important for the overall health and well-being of your cat to look for any physical problems first because they can be painful and even life-threatening. Kidney stones can cause blockages, which in turn cause pain. Your cat may have experienced pain in his litter box and made a negative association between the two. Other urinary tract conditions, like feline interstitial cystitis and urinary tract infections, or UTI's, can result in litter box aversion the same way.
If your cat has no physical condition that could cause litter box aversion, look for causes of stress. Cats sometimes urinate outside the litter box when stressed. Cats are both territorial and creatures of habit, so any disruption to their lives or territory can be stressful. Try to eliminate causes of stress such as being chased by a dog or being kept away from the litter box by another cat. This may mean moving the litter box to a location where he feels safer. Cats tend to like their litter boxes in quiet locations, but not places where they could be cornered. They like to be able to see their surroundings and need multiple escape routes.
If physical problems and stress have been eliminated, focus on the litter box itself. Scoop and change it once a day and clean it once a week with baking soda or unscented soap. Use no more than 1 to 2 inches of unscented litter. Cats can develop an aversion to scented litter. Most cats do not like litter box liners or hoods. If your cat is large, make sure his litter box is big enough for him. If you have multiple cats, provide a litter box for each one and an extra one.
- Keep your cat's food or water away from his litter box.
- Try playing with him near his litter box to create a positive association with his litter box in his mind.
- Try putting his litter box in places where he has eliminated, or place his food, water and toys there. This should help discourage him from continuing to go back there.
- Make the area less appealing by putting motion-activated lights in the area or carpet runners, tinfoil or double-sided tape.
- Clean areas where your cat has eliminated with an enzymatic cleanser. Most pet shops have this.
- Do not physically place your cat in his litter box. This will only stress him more and cause him to avoid it more.
- Do not punish your cat in any way for eliminating outside the litter box. This will only damage your relationship with him.
Leslie Carver has been a professional author since 2009. Her work appears on multiple websites. She has an associate's degree in English with progress toward her bachelor's at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She has been awarded an Outstanding Student Award in English and twice nominated for creative writing awards.