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Litter Box Training & Issues

Help your cat learn where to 'go'.

Litter-box issues or "going outside the box" is the number one behavioral issue people have with their animals and is the number one behavioral issue as to why cats are surrendered to shelters. Often times, there are a few easy solutions to ensuring your cat will use their litter-box!

FIRST! Make sure it’s not a medical issue.

If your cat has been litter-boxed trained and has suddenly stopped using the litter-box, your cat could be suffering from a urinary tract infection or other medical issue. Once that issue has been addressed, the litter box issues stop. Have your cat checked out by a vet to rule out a medical condition - check out Philly's low-cost vet options.

Here are some tips on how to litter-box train your cat:


  • Make sure the litter-box is large enough for your cat. When cats get older, or become overweight, often times they cannot fit in the litter-box, and will opt to go elsewhere.


  • Set the mood! The litter-box needs to be comfortable as does the area in which the litter-box is kept. If it is kept next to a heating duct or vent, the area may be too warm and they will not use it. Don't leave the box in a high-traffic area. A dark and dingy area is also a poor choice for the box, such as a corner of a basement.


  • Pick the right type of box. Many cats prefer uncovered boxes. Cats tend to not want to be in situations where they can be ambushed. They also don't want to be contained in an area with the lingering odor.


  • Keep that litter box clean! This tends to be the number 1 reason as to why cats won’t use their box. Just as we don’t enjoy using an unclean toilet, cats do not want to use a dirty litter box! Don't use harsh chemicals while cleaning the box, as you don't want lingering odors. Scoop the box once or twice a day and change litter completely every couple weeks.


  • Keep their eating area separate. Don't keep the cat's food and water near the box. If they are kept in the same room, place them on opposite ends. Cats don't use litter-boxes that are close to where they eat.


  • Try a new type of litter! The actual litter may be why your cat isn't using the box. Sometimes the texture of the litter is rough on their pads or they find the scent unpleasant. But don't just change litters if your cat is comfortable with the one you're using. If you do change, transition to the new litter slowly.


  • Keep your kitten safe! Kittens tend to taste their litter. Because of this, using a synthetic clumping litter may cause a bowel obstruction that could result in severe intestinal issues including death. For that reason, it is generally better to use a non-clumping litter for the little ones. If you adopt a kitten less than 6 months old and do you choose to use a kitty litter that clumps, use something made of a natural material like corn or wheat.


  • Have multiple cats? Get multiple boxes! For multiple cat households, try to provide at least one litter-box per cat and put them in different areas of your home. Some cats prefer to not smell the ‘smells’ of other cats in the area where they eliminate, causing litter box troubles!


Recap! If your cat is suddenly not using the litter box, rule out a simple medical condition such as a urinary tract infection. If it’s not medical, try relocating the box to a new, easily accessible area, cleaning it more frequently, or trying a new type of box or litter all together!

DISCLAIMER OF LIABILITY: Any advice provided by Citizens for a No-Kill Philadelphia ("CNKP") is for informational purposes only. The Community Help Desk is managed by volunteers of CNKP and does not necessarily represent the views of CNKP. Behavior and training advice and suggestions provided through its Help Desk are not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a professional animal trainer or qualified animal behaviorist. Any and all advice from CNKP regarding housing assistance, surrender prevention, or veterinary referrals is to be used for informational purposes only and does not substitute for the advice of a professional. CNKP expressly disclaims any and all liability, expressed or implied, with respect to the service and advice received via its Help Desk. Your reliance on the advice provided and/or content of CNKP's website or Help Desk communications is solely at your own risk.

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