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What to do if Your Cat Stops Using the Litter Box

 by jaime on 30 Jun 2014 |
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Litter box problems can cause even the most dedicated cat owner to rethink their pet of choice. Cats are clean and fastidious by nature, so it can be perplexing when they suddenly start urinating and defecating outside of the litter box. There are some obvious things to look out for – like making sure the litter boxes are scooped and cleaned on a regular basis – but there are also some subtler things that could be causing the problem.

One of the most important things to do is to rule out any health problems. There are a number of issues that can cause a cat to stop using the litter box, and some of them can be quite serious. Male cats in particular are prone to urinary tract infections that make urination difficult and painful. Male cats can also suffer from blockages – and these blockages can be life-threatening.

The first thing cat owners should do is schedule a comprehensive exam for their pets. A veterinary exam may reveal some underlying health issues that are causing the cat to not use the litter box. If that is the case, the cat should resume is previous litter box habits as soon as the underlying health issue is resolved.
The location of the litter box can present problems and cause the cat to stop using it. Many cats are reluctant to use the litter box if it is in a high traffic area of the home. Others may be disturbed by scents and odors in the area. Keep in mind that cats have a far better sense of smell than humans do and can detect subtle odors their human caretakers may not notice. Sometimes moving the litter box to a quieter part of the house is all it takes to resolve problems with inappropriate elimination. Try setting up the litter box in a quiet part of the home – away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. Be sure to show your cat the new location and give them time to get comfortable with the new surroundings.

Some cats will object to a certain type of litter, or to a change in the formulation of the litter. If you have recently changed brands of cat litter, try going back to the old brand for a few weeks to see if that resolves the problem. If you have been using the same brand of litter all along, look for any subtle changes in texture and color that could be putting your cat off. Litter manufacturers often tweak their formulations to make them more cost effective – those changes could be making the litter less attractive to your cat. If the type of litter is the culprit, it can take some time and experimentation to find a better fit.

Litter box problems can be difficult to deal with, but it is important to be persistent. Since a number of things can cause cats to suddenly stop using the litter box, the best solution is to work through each of those possibilities one by one. Once you find the source of the problem, you can restore the peace in your home and start enjoying your cat again.


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