One of the most common reasons people give away their cat is frustration with the cat’s refusal to use the litter box. Instead of taking the cat to the veterinarian, they assume the cat has a behavioral problem and just get rid of it. Most of these cats are wonderful animals. They would have made great pets, if the owners had a better understanding of the underlying problems that caused the cat to refuse to use the litter box. So, I thought I would share some tips in the hope of preventing a perfectly good cat from ending up in a shelter.
Reason #1-The most common reason a cat will refuse to use the litter box is that they have a medical issue. This is especially true if the cat has been using the box and then suddenly stops. There are two main underlying medical issues that will cause a cat to stop using the litter box:
First, a bladder infection. Cats are notorious for getting bladder infections. Their bathroom (i.e. litter box) isn't always the cleanest place in the world.
Second, urinary crystals. These are caused by mineral deposits that build up in the urine and then form crystals.
Both of these medical issues cause urination to be very painful for the cat. The cat doesn't know why it hurts to urinate. She then blames the litter box for the pain and starts trying to go other places. To make matters worse, she feels like she has to urinate all the time, so she starts urinating everywhere. That is the most common complaint from the owner, "She just started peeing all over the house." Please, if your cat starts doing this, take it to the vet!
Reason #2-Cats are very sensitive about where they go to the bathroom. Think about it. They are very vulnerable during this time. They want to feel secure about where they are going. A big mistake that owners make is to stick the litter box next to something that makes a loud noise (i.e. dryer or water heater). The cat is just plain scared to urinate in those locations and will find somewhere they feel safe.
Reason #3- The number of boxes, type of box, or litter used in the box will play a big role in whether or not your cat feels comfortable using the litter box. First, the rule of thumb for number of boxes is one for each cat plus one. So, if you have three cats, then you should have four boxes. This can become very inconvenient, but if you have cats that don't particularly care for each other, then the last thing they want is to smell each other’s scent while they use the litter box.
The next issue is the type of box. Some cats like boxes with a lid and door to enter and some don't. Finally, some cats prefer sand-like litter in their box, some prefer paper, and others like crystals. If you want your cat to use the box, then you will have to get them the type of box they prefer and place it in an area where they can feel secure. It's really not asking that much. In the outdoors, they can go anywhere they choose. You are asking them to use a particular box placed in a particular area. The least you can do is make it comfortable for them.
Reason #4- Clean the box regularly! I can't tell you how many times I have asked the question, "How often do you clean the box?" and have been told something like, "Whenever it starts to smell bad." Do you like to use the bathroom in a place that smells bad? Remember, by the time it smells "bad" to you, it smells like something died in there to your cat!