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Issues with Kitty Litter?

Let’s talk about your cat’s kitty litter box. Cats are instinctively clean animals that are internally motivated to use a clean, private litter box.  They require very little if any potty training.  So why is it that your cat chooses to relieve himself outside of the litter box?  There are several reasons for you to consider.

kitty litter box

Medical Reasons

If your cat is uncharacteristically eliminating waste outside of the litter box, it is important to understand that this behavior is common when there is a medical problem present.  Urinary tract infections and crystals make urination painful for a cat.  They may relate the painful experience to the litter box, and begin to avoid it.  Before considering other possibilities for this behavior, first speak to your veterinarian about your cat’s health.


Cats are very particular about the cleanliness of the area in which they choose to go potty.  It must be clean (by their standards).  If the litter box is soiled, your cat may prefer to “go” elsewhere.  Be sure to clean your kitty’s litter box at least once a day.  If there are multiple cats, you may need to consider more frequent cleaning.


A common cause for elimination outside of the litter box is stress.  If you notice your cat is going potty in random places, take note of the environment.  Are stressful events triggering this behavior?  Some stressful events that could cause your kitty to “go” are: a new pet in the home, loud or boisterous kids in the home, or unusually loud noises around the home.  Whenever possible, pinpoint the origin of your kitty’s stress and find a solution for it.

Location, Location, Location

Cats prefer a quiet, safe, and private location for their litter box.  They also prefer to eliminate waste far away from where they eat. If the litter box is in a location that is noisy, high-traffic, or there is a chance that other household animals may disturb their peace, they may choose another safer location to do their “business”.  Be sure to choose a quiet, safe location for your kitty’s litter box, so he will feel comfortable while using it.  Also, place your cat’s food in a separate room from his litter box.

Consistency of the Kitty’s Litter

Studies show that cats prefer litter that has a “sand-like” consistency and is odor free.  Litter that is highly perfumed may be offensive to your cat and therefore, your cat may reject his litter box.  So, consider using litter that contains fewer harsh odors.  (Remember that clumping litters are NOT recommended for kittens ages 4 months and younger, as they may have a tendency to swallow litter).  Also, when cleaning your cats litter box, use the same consideration with regards to cleaning products.   Furthermore, allowing the litter box to dry in the sun will help to kill germs and provide a fresh, clean scent.

Ditch the Liners

Also, litter box liners tend to be an annoyance to kitties and they may avoid the litter box because of it.  Although you may enjoy the convenience of the clean-up, your kitty may not appreciate it.  Consider ditching the liners to prevent your cat from avoiding the litter box.

Two Litter Boxes?

It is common for cats to prefer two different locations for #1’s and #2’s.  If you feel that this may be the case for your kitty, you should have two litter boxes.  Keep them in separate locations.  If you have a two-story home, keep one litter box on each floor.

Someone New?

Inviting a new cat into the home, or moving can cause behaviors such as marking the territory and stress-related elimination.  If you have a new cat or a new home, you should confine your cat in one room including the litter box, bed, food and water.  This will allow the cat to feel safe and secure while getting used to his new surroundings.  Once the cat has used the litter box multiple times, and is showing signs that he is curious about exploring the rest of the house, you can then let him do so.

Stay Put Kitty Litter Box

Once you determine the location of your cat’s litter box, don’t move it or change it (except to clean it of course)!  Cats need the consistency and they resist change.

Pardon Me

If you find your cat in the middle of “going” somewhere in the house, don’t punish him.  Instead, do something to interrupt him like making a startling noise.  Then immediately direct your cat to the litter box.  Since cats often times relieve themselves outside of the litter box only in times of stress, by punishing them, you will only add to their stress and cause more accidents in the future.  Instead of punishment, try to discover the reason why your cat is eliminating outside of the litter box.  Only then, will you be able to alter the behavior.

For More Information

If you have questions about this topic or general questions about pet care, you can contact Kara Jenkins, Owner of TLC House & Pet Sitting. We are also available by email at info@tlcpetsitter.com. View more of our articles on pets here.