Litter box avoidance is a big issue – and we mean a BIG issue – for cat owners. In fact, statistics say it’s the #1 reason cat parents surrender their felines to shelters.
Dealing with a reluctant-to-train cat is one thing, but what if your cat used to use the litter box every time and has recently stopped? Why would your cat be avoiding the litter box, and what can you do about it?
The answer might be simpler than you think.
Avoidance Issue: Something’s Different
Cats are nothing if not creatures of habit. If your cat suddenly stops using the litter box reliably, ask yourself what else has changed in his life. Did you get a new litter box, especially if the new one is smaller than the old one? (No one likes to be cramped!) Is it in a new room? Did you clean it with some weird-smelling chemical? Change things back to the way they were to see if that solves the problem and if so, incorporate the changes as gradually and gently as possible next time.
Avoidance Issue: Lack of Cleanliness
Box-trained cats have been known to go on strike when their litter isn’t changed frequently enough. And think about it, aren’t you more likely to “hold it” (or go elsewhere) if you know your only option is a super gross, smelly bathroom? Be sure to clean your cat’s box at least once a day and to keep it in a room with plenty of ventilation.
Avoidance Issue: Territorial Spraying
What if your male cat isn’t always avoiding the litter box? He could be doing something known as territorial spraying. It’s a reaction some cats have to living in a multi-cat household or to the smell of another male cat prowling around outdoors. While it looks like regular urination, he’s actually just marking his territory. Talk to your vet about your options for spaying your cat and to test him for a urinary tract infection which can go hand-in-hand with marking.
Avoidance Issue: Painful Urination
If your cat has pain during urination, he might be associating that pain with the litter box itself. Many feline issues that can cause painful irritation – FLUTDs – fly under the radar. Cats are stoic, and sudden litter box avoidance may be the only sign you have that something’s amiss. Ask your vet to test your cat for common urinary issues so you can get him on a healing medication. Once the pain subsides, the litter box problems should as well.
Avoidance Issue: Mobility Problems
In the same way painful urination can keep your cat from going in his litter box, so too can painful movement. As cats age, joint pain, chronic arthritis, or old injuries can make it difficult for them to move the way they used to. A 3″ litter box rim can feel like Mount Everest when you’re sore! This problem can be easily solved with a limited-mobility litter box and by talking to your vet about which medications, anti-inflammatories, or supplements can ease your cat’s pain.
Cats don’t stop using the litter box for no reason at all. Getting to the route of what’s up with your cat is the first step in getting him back on track. And whatever you do, call the vet before you call the shelter. Many litter box avoidance issues have a medical route!