Cat Litterbox Training: Don’t Give Up!

Cat urine doesn’t smell good. The odor is sharp, persistent, and if your cat isn’t using the litterbox regularly, it could be spread all over your house. 

It’s easy to be frustrated with a litterbox-avoiding cat. But know this. Creativity and patience can help ease unwanted behavior and prompt your cat to use the box like a champ. 

Here’s how to get started. 

Step 1: Visit the Veterinarian 

Urinary tract infections, back pain, and other physical ailments can keep your pet from using the box regularly. Sometimes, inappropriate urination is a cat’s best way to tell a human that something hurts or isn’t working quite right. 

If your cat or kitten stops visiting the box after months or years of faithful use, ask your veterinarian for help. 

Step 2: Choose the Right Litterbox 

The boxes humans appreciate can be versions cats really hate. In general, your cat’s box should be the right:

  • Size. The box should be at least twice as big as your cat. When in doubt, get the next size up!
  • Height. Older cats may struggle to climb into and out of a high-sided box. Similarly, tall cats may shoot streams out of low-sided boxes. Watch your cat to see how tall the box should be.
  • Sound. Self-cleaning boxes cut down on your workload. But the motor can scare some cats. 
  • Texture. Plastic liners can stick to a cat’s claws and make a trip to the box less pleasant. 

If you’re not certain which box would be right for your cat, set up several close to one another. Let your cat choose the one that’s perfect. And know that most cats don’t like covered boxes. If possible, put the cover away. 

Step 3: Choose the Right Litter 

Cat paws are incredibly sensitive, and so are their little pink noses. The material you use to fill the box could entice kitty to choose a different location.

Some cats prefer fine, clay-based litter. Others like the feel of wood beneath their paws. Few cats enjoy litter that comes with a heavy scent. 

A litter trial could be wise. Pick a few textures and materials, and experiment with litter depth. Some cats like to sink into their boxes, while others like just a bit of grit beneath their feet. 

Step 4: Find the Right Location 

Cats prefer litter locations that are quiet and away from heavy foot traffic. If your box is in the hallway where your cat is always interrupted, she may look for a private spot (like your bedroom). 

If you have multiple cats, watch how they interact during box visits. If your cat has blocked sightlines while using the box, her cat friend can pounce on her during her entries or exits. A more open location that makes sneak attacks less likely could be right for her. 

Step 5: Keep it Clean

Some cats won’t use a box filled with prior offerings. Just as you don’t like to spend time in a filthy bathroom, your cats don’t enjoy hopping into a dirty box. 

Scoop solids several times per day, and give the whole box a thorough cleaning (with unscented products) at least weekly. 

Stick With It!

You may need to walk through these steps multiple times before you reset your cat’s habits. Your hard work is worth it!