By nature, cats are fastidious animals and very particular about their bathrooms. They prefer a spotless bathroom; they like to bury their waste and prefer their box in a private location. If your cat(s) stops using the litter box and starts using your plants, laundry basket, or bed, it may be time to draw a line in the sand.

Let’s be clear; your cat is not pottying outside their litter box to annoy you or get revenge. There is always a reason your kitty stops using their box. With a little detective work, you can figure out why and get things back to normal again.

The reasons for box avoidance can be simple or complex, but some common problems are:

Medical problem – take your cat to the vet because they could have a UTI.

Unclean litter box – scoop at least once a day to keep the box up to your cat’s standard of cleanliness. Only put in about 2″ of litter.

Too few boxes – in a multi-cat household you need at least 1 box per cat.

Change in litter – did you change brands? If not, try another one, or get 2 boxes and try different litters in each.

Location – most cats like their box in a quiet, low traffic

Enclosed litter box – some cats don’t like a covered or cramped box.

High sides – Older cats especially may need a low sided box.

Two-story home – be sure to have a box on each level.

Now you may say, “My cat always has liked ABC brand litter.” Cats, just like people, change their minds. It may be time to try a new litter and a new box location. If your cat has had a negative box association (a loud noise when using the box or a dog that bothered them while pottying) try moving the location of the litter and getting them comfy with the new site. Play with them near the box. Leave a treat in the general area of the box (not in or next to the box because cats, like people, don’t find eating in the bathroom a good idea).

It may take some time to find out what is bothering your cat, but with some trial and error, you should be able to figure the problem out. Whatever you do, don’t scold your cat, don’t confine them to a small room with their litter box, and don’t rub their nose in a mistake outside the box.

You may have to “think outside the box” to resolve this issue, but often a few simple changes fix a box problem.

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