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Cat is Not Using the Litter Box-Training a Cat to Use Litter Box-Zippy Pet

Amir Ali
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Are you curious and furious at the same time because your CAT IS NOT USING THE LITTER BOX? 

And, this indiscipline is hurting you in three ways. First of all, you are worried about the health of your cutie who is not behaving normally these days and suddenly started using mats or carpets to remove her waste. 

Secondly, it’s tiresome to clean her waste now and then (all day long) and you probably wish to get rid of this. 

And the third problem is the odour her waste is coming from every corner of your house that is making it difficult even to breathe.

Do you know? The problem which your cat has been dealing with is called ‘Inappropriate elimination’. It refers to a condition when a cat starts urinating and/or defecating in the house at all places except where he is expected to do ‘THE LITTER BOX’

cat litter box traning

But don’t be disheartened. The good news is this is curable and your cat will be back to normal again. A study reported that  83% to 100% rate of improvement in IE behaviour if you identify and start treatment within 6 months of the start of the problem

 Onward.

Now here is what you need to do. The first step which you must take is to understand the problem thoroughly, its causes. And then, follow the 6 simple steps solution to train your cat to use the litter box. 

Understanding the Problem of Improper Elimination(Cat Not Using the Litter Box)

To solve the problem of inappropriate elimination from its roots, first, you need to know what are the causes behind this behaviour of your cat? And, what should you do to train her to start using the box again? 

Well, experts say that when a cat refuses to use a litter box such behaviour (inappropriate urination or defection) falls into two broad categories termed as “aversions” and “preferences”. Let’s first learn what these two darn terms are! 

Aversions

A condition refers to a condition when your cat develops an opposition to using the litter box.  Cats may develop an aversion due to several reasons. 

Preferences 

When the cat prefers a certain place to do her business instead of the place where the litter box is kept. Previous studies have indicated that cats may have a preference for eliminating in areas where they spend the majority of their time; this is especially true for kittens and geriatrics who may not venture into other areas of the house often

Now, primarily there could be two major causes behind the problem of IE. These are: 

i. Behavioural Cause and 

ii. Non-Behavioural Causes

And.

To understand what these darn causes are you need to come with me to the next section. 

Behavioural Causes of Inappropriate Elimination

An image of cat sitting

When a cat associates the location of the litter box with any negative event or quality leading to the aversion of the litter box. Obviously, there can be several reasons behind this kind of behaviour of your princess or champ. And, according to research done by Zimmer Feline Foundation. These causes are: 

1.) Location of  the Litter Box

Cats might develop an aversion to the location of the box, as a result, they tend to stay away from the location and use some other place to remove their waste. They also do this because of fear and to prevent danger associated with that place. Aversion to the location can arise due to: 

i.) The Scent of Another Feline Near the Litter Box

This happens when your cat is not very social or have given her right over the place out of fear of another cat. And, because of her scent (which the cat intentionally sprays to mark their territory), she prefers to stay away from the litter box. This other cat can be her/his housemate or any outsider.

ii.) Previous Scary Experience with Other Cat(s), dog or even human. 

If your cat quarrelled with another cat near the box or any human has scared him/her near the box, then she prefers to avoid going to that place. This might be due to any object which is placed near a litter box that scares him/her for example, a mirror.  

iii) Unpredictable Noisy or High Traffic Area 

This is not your cat’s fault! Maybe you have placed a litter box in that area of the house that has high traffic, unpredictable(means anyone can go there at any time) or area with high noise.  

As a matter of fact, cats develop anxiety concerning the location of the box because of the above-mentioned reasons. 

2.) Spraying or Marking 

An image of cat marking her territory

Have you ever seen your cat urinating on the wall with her tail straight up in the air? 

Well, this is known as ‘Spraying’ or ‘Marking’ and the good thing is ‘IT’S NORMAL’. Cats start doing Inappropriate Elimination such as urinating or defecating due to spraying but eventually, this becomes a part of their habit and they continue to eliminate out of the box. 

Spraying or Marking can also due to many reasons:

i.) To Communicate or Mark Their Territory

The top reason in the list(associated with spraying) is the natural instinct of your fluffy friend to warn the other cats, “ Dude, this is my territory don’t dare to enter in that!”.

Generally, it is more common among tomcats but cats also do that at times. This problem can be solved by ‘neutering’ or ‘spaying’ your cat. It’s a simple surgery(to remove testes or ovaries) performed by a veterinarian after anaesthetizing your cat. 

Interestingly, marking territory is not the only reason for spraying. Spraying is also done by nondominant cats due to different reasons. They do it when they are scared by a dominant cat and by spraying, they communicate that they have accepted the dominance of the other cat. 

According to research done by Meghan E.Herron Doctors of Veterinary Medicine(DVM), social anxiety from the social atmosphere can lead to both Inappropriate Elimination and Marking. 

3.) Problems Associated with the Litter Box: Mismanagement of the Litter Box

Another cause behind your cat’s refusal to use the litter box could be the terrible experience that they get in using the litter box which makes them uncomfortable. If your cat is not comfortable using the litter box why would we use it? 

Naturally, there can be several reasons behind it. And, your cat is not using the litter box because any one or all of the following reasons: 

i.) Uncleaned Litter Box

Do you scoop the waste at least once a day? Do you change the litter at least once a week? Do you wash the litter box minimum of once a month? 

Ask these questions to yourself. If your cat’s box is full of faeces and gives out odour then it’s not right to blame your cat. Focus on your cleaning schedule instead. Ensure to scoop the litter every day, changing the litter once a week(minimum) and you must wash the litter box thoroughly once a month. 

ii) Lack of Litter Boxes

How many cats do you have in your house? Remember! You should always keep more litter boxes than the number of cats you have. As a general rule, always keep one more litter box than you have the number of cats. So here’s what you do: buy two little boxes if you have one cat, but three if you have two, and so on…

iii) Inappropriate Size of the Box

If your cat’s litter box is too small that she faces difficulty while getting in and out or it’s too narrow that she can hardly turn in it then this might discourage your cat from using it.

Similarly, if you have a kitten, old or geriatric cat(cats with physical limitation) then they might find it difficult to climb on the top in case you are using a top entry litter box.

iii.) Hood of the Litter Box

As you know, the Hooded litter box is best for your perspective as they reduce the odour and also prevent the litter from dispersing across the house. But, you need to rethink from the cat’s perspective. Pay attention to the next sentence. “CATS PREFER OPEN LITTER BOXES OVER HOODED BOXES”.

Do you know why? 

Aha! You don’t know this. Because open little boxes give them a feeling of security that they can escape anytime from the boxes with a blink of an eye if they find something or someone dangerous approaching them. 

iv.) Problem with the Litter 

If you have changed the type of litter this can also be a reason for your cat not using the box. Cats have a very sensitive sense of smell which can also influence the behaviour of the cat. Possibly, your cat has developed a preference for a particular type of litter.  As a consequence, she might refuse to use any litter except the one which is their favourite. 

On the contrary, you can also try replacing the usual old litter with a new type if your cat is not happy with the old one. 

Apart from that, the depth of the litter in the box might be the cause behind aversion. Normally, cats prefer litter depth up to two inches. 

v.) Preference to a Particular Surface or Place

Like the litter, cats can also develop a preference for a particular surface or place such as a corner in the house or garden or any other place. After developing a preference she might resist doing her business anywhere else.

Non-Behavioural Causes of Inappropriate Elimination

If you have tried everything still your cat is not using the litter box then it’s time to take her to a vet. 

According to the research of the American Veterinary Medical Association(AVMA) which they have performed on 136 cats several health issues can be the cause behind the refusal of your cat to use the litter box. 

So, read carefully, probably your cat is suffering from one of the following health issues.

i.) Separation Anxiety

One of the reasons for inappropriate elimination could be separation anxiety in cats. According to the research of Stefanie Schwartz (2002) separation anxiety can become the cause of the indiscipline and toileting of cats outside the litter box.

ii.) Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease(FLUTD) 

You might have heard this name for the first time. Feline Urinary Tract Disease(FLUTD). It’s a common occurrence in the lower urinary tract of cats. Basically, it can be of two types: 

a.) Interstitial Cystitis: It refers to the inflammation of the bladder of a cat due to both infection and non-infection causes.

If you are observing some changes in the behaviour of your cat such as licking themselves after urinating(at a place of urination) or have seen blood in its urine.

It’s a serious condition that can cause a cat to eliminate waste outside of her box due to— urgency to urinate and/or experiences pain while urinating. 

PLEASE DON’T WASTE A MINUTE AND TAKE YOUR CAT TO THE VET! 

b.) Urolithiasis is a multifaceted disease that causes the formation of stones in the urinary bladder of animals. Multiple factors can cause it, but the prominent among them are nutritional factors. A cat may exhibit IE as a symptom of Urolithiasis. 

According to vets the best treatment against Urolithiasis is an alteration of diet but, “DON’T TRY TO TREAT HER BY YOURSELF!” You must consult a vet to rule out this problem 

iii.) Stones in Kidney

Stones in the kidney(s) or a blockage may cause your cat to frequently enter her litter box. Observe your cat carefully when she tries to eliminate her waste. If she is making meow or cry this is a symptom that she might have stones. But how is this related to IE? 

You see, due to frequent elimination sessions your cat might prefer to eliminate outside the litter box because of urgency. 

How Can I Teach My Cat to Use the Litter Box?

At this point, you have understood all the causes that give rise to IE. If you wonder, ‘O.K’ now I know the possible causes of IE. But, the question is, how can I train my cat to use the litter box?  

So, let’s dive into the process of “Management of Inappropriate Elimination in Cats”.

 Easy Solutions to Train Your Cat to Use the Litter Box

1.) Solutions to Behavioural Causes of Inappropriate Elimination in Cats

The first step is to modify the environment. Since there could be many factors related to the environment which are forcing your cat to eliminate outside the box. Hence, you need to solve each of these problems with a different solution.

i.) The Solution to the Problem of Scent of Other Cats

The first step you do is to remove all the olfactory components of house soiling and make the place as much unattractive to the cat as you can. And, to do this, you need to DEEP CLEAN  the place thoroughly. Make sure to use cleaners that contain enzymes to eliminate the odour.

You may need to confine yourself from going to that area until you are sure that the IE behaviour has been resolved. How will you do this? Well, it’s simple. Use some materials such as plastic, double-sided tape, aluminium foil, threatening objects like a mirror to confine your cat. 

ii.) The Solution to the Problem of Aversion and Preference to the Location

To identify if the location aversion is the cause behind your cat’s refusal to use the litter box, move the litter box to a new place and observe. If she has started using the box again then it’s a confirmation the Inappropriate Elimination is due to the location. And the problem has been resolved. 

The second option is to place more litter boxes at different places in your house. This way she can use the litter box at a place other than the site of Inappropriate Elimination. 

However, if it appears that your kitty is not using the litter box not because she is averse with the location but it prefers the darn location of the Inappropriate Elimination over the location of the litter box(your cat is arrogant lol!). Don’t worry, you can still solve the problem by placing a large litter box on the exact location of Inappropriate Elimination.

iii.) The Solution to the Problem of Litter Box

Choosing the right litter box is of astounding importance. Understand that your cat won’t be going to use the litter box if she finds it uncomfortable or unsafe. While choosing a litter box, keep your perspective aside and think from the perspective of your cat. 

The open litter box is considered as the best and preferable by most of the cats over hooded or top-entry boxes(except those who prefers privacy over safety). The size of the box should be large which allow her to manoeuvre in and out smoothly and gives her ample space to turn around. 

If you have an old cat then never buy a top-entry box because she will face difficulty in entry and exit to the box. 

Another aspect which you should look upon is the number of boxes in the house. As aforesaid, you need to have one more box than you have the number of cats in the house.

Also, place the litter box at a location that has minimal traffic and noise. Additionally, you need to keep a watch that any outsider cat or other animal which may scare the cat should stay away from the location of her box.

And the last important tip is, never to place the food bowl near the litter box. As cats never like to have a litter box and the food bowl a the same place. Just like you don’t like to eat in the toilet. Doing, so will not only give rise to the problem of Inappropriate elimination but an aversion to food also. 

iv) Solution to the Problem of Aversion or Preference to a Litter

‘Litter Box Cafeteria’. Thinking what is it? It means experimenting with different litter types such as clumping, pine shavings, pellets etc. First of all, observe, upon which material your princess is doing elimination. Whether it’s laundry, it indicates that she prefers soft substrate. So, serve her with fine granules such as pine or culpable. On the other hand, if she eliminates outdoor at one point then the litter similar to dirt would be a great choice, to begin with. 

Tip: “Cats generally find unscented litters more attractive than the scented litter” 

v.) Time To Clean It Up

If you are too busy to clean th litter box then honestly you need to reschedule your activities. Remember! And never forget this! You must do the following three tasks at their time:   

a.) Scoop the waste. At least once a day. No matter how bad it smells.

b.) Change the litter regularly. At least once a week. 

c.) Wash the litter box thoroughly. Minimum once a month. 

BUT USING DEODORIZERS IS NOT RECOMMENDED AS THEY ARE OFTEN HARMFUL TO YOUR CAT’S HEALTH IF YOU DON’T USE THEM JUDICIOUSLY 

vi.) Solutions to the Problem of Another Dominating Cat or Other Animal 

If you have tried all the above solutions but the problem of Inappropriate Elimination still prevails then watch out closely, your cat and her social interactions. Possibly your cat could be a victim of bullying other dominant fellow cat or the outsider. 

Yes, it’s difficult to settle the disputes among the cat, but you have to do this! It is advisable to separate your cat for some time from the aggressive environment. If you have many cats in your household and don’t know which of them is soiling in the house. I recommend you to confine one cat at a time this will help you to discover the victim. 

You can also change the timing of her feeding and playing to avoid the encounter with other cats. Keep the additional litter box at a place where the patient cat spends most of her time. And, make keep widows of your kitchen room closed (if your cat has been dominated by an outsider cat) to prevent the entry of outsider cat. 

Moreover, you can distribute the food, water and cat trees among your cats to make sure that everyone gets her essentials without a dispute.

2.) Solutions to Non-Behavioural Causes of Inappropriate Elimination in Cats

Till now you have applied every possible and feasible tactic to modify the behaviour of your cat. But, if, the problem still persists then there can be several non-behavioural(medical) causes behind her spoiling. 

You know that resolving the non-behavioural cause is not something not everyone can do by exploring the information available on Google. It’s bad, too bad for your cat. As the internet is filled with lots of crap! And you cannot give anything recommended by any Tom. Dick or Harry to your cat. Read carefully the next sentence. 

“NEVER GIVE ANY DRUG TO YOUR CAT WITHOUT THE PRESCRIPTION OF  A CERTIFIED VETERINARIAN”

And if you do, you would probably risk the life of your cat. Hence, you must consult the behaviour of your cat with a Certified Veterinarian. He will prescribe the medication according to the medical condition of your cat. 

Wrong-Ways of Dealing with the Problem of Inappropriate Elimination in Cat

After knowing all the solutions, tricks and tactics to stop your cat from soiling in the house or training her to use the litter box. I intend to discuss with you some improper behaviours of the owners that are not just wrong but INSANE. So, let’s have a glance at all the things which you must avoid doing. 

  • Never rub your cat’s nose in her urine or faeces this won’t going to solve the problem in any case but will make her more anxious.
  • Never scold her in loud voice. Listen,  she is an animal who cannot differentiate between right or wrong. So in case, she has done elimination out of the box keep your hands down and clean it with patience.
  • Neither drag her towards the box nor charge on her to beat her. This will terribly scare her. She can go into depression because of your unreasonable behaviour.
  • Never use ammonia-based cleaners to clean the spot of Inappropriate Elimination. You see, urine also contains ammonia and the smell of ammonia will attract your cat to the soil at the same spot again.
  • Never try to give drugs to your cat by watching videos on YouTube or reading the article on Google. Let the professional do their job. Take her to the veterinarian and follow his advice. 

Frequently Asked Questions About the Litter Box  Training

Q1. How can I litter train an old cat or an outdoor cat? 

If you have brought an outdoor cat to your house and she is old too. Then obviously, it’s a big challenge for you to train her because till this age she has been eliminating outdoor. Now, to train her such cats(older or outdoor) do the following steps:
1. First of all, keep a large litter box(preferably an open tray) at a place where she spends most of her time.
2. Now, fill the box with soil. 
3. Then mix a small amount of litter in that and gradually increase its quantity day by day till the litter completely replaces the soil. 

Q.2: How to train a kitten to use a litter box?

Reply- First of all, I suggest you buy a box which is large in area but not too high. Being large in size the box will suit the growing need of your kitten and you wouldn’t need to purchase a new box as she grows up. 
Make sure that the box’s walls are not too high this will make it difficult for your small kitten to get in and out. 
When it comes to the litter, use the one that has zero smell. Such litters are the most attractive for cats and they won’t trouble your delicate kitty. It is advisable to avoid a top entry litter box. Now as you have a box now, do these easy steps to introduce the litter box to your kitten.

Steps to introduce the litter box to a kitten: 

1.  Place your kitten in the litter box.
2. Start giving light massage to her ears and head. 
3. Use your hand to dig the litter to show her what it is. You can also teach her to dig the litter by holding her paw with your hand.
4. Repeat the same process multiple times till you are assured that now she has learned how to do her business.   

Q.3: How to train a blind cat to use the litter box?

Reply- Do this to teach your blind cat to use the litter box. 
1. When she poops, pick it up with something and scoop it in the litter box. 
2. The next step is to lead your cat to the litter box. 
3. Then put some litter on her ferret and allow her to smell the poop and litter. 
4. Give her something to eat and try to ake her stand in the litter box for some time. 

Have I Answered All the Questions? 

Well, this is the last section of this Huge article. And, I have tried my best to resolve all the queries concerned with Inappropriate Elimination in Cats, Its Causes and Easy Solutions. 

This article is written after pedantic research about the litter box problems of cats and their causes. I have invested a lot of time reading and researching because I am determined to bring the most authentic information to you. 

However, “to err is human”. So I have made some mistakes and you think that I am wrong on any point don’t hesitate to reach out to me and I will respond to you at the earliest. 

That’s all for today. 

ALL THE BEST!