It’s always heartbreaking to learn that a cat was surrendered to the shelter because he or she wouldn’t use the litter box because there are medical reasons or perhaps a competition with another pet in the house that causes a cat to not want to use the litter box. It is only in rare cases that a cat would choose to not use a litter box for no good reason. Here are some different factors to consider if your cat begins to stray away from the litter box and what you can do to help:
If a cat suddenly stops using a litter box, get them checked out by their vet ASAP. This could be a sign of a medical condition such as a UTI, cystitis, diabetes or thyroid issues to name a few so ruling out any medical issues is the first step.
If medical reasons have been ruled out, it’s time to start looking at factors in your own home. Changes in a cat’s environment, even if they seem minor to humans, can completely alter a cat’s use of the litter box. Things such as a new baby in the home, changing the location of the litter box or even a new type of litter can all be reasons for a cat to reject their routine.
Adding additional litter boxes in different locations, cleaning the accidents thoroughly with a neutralizing enzyme such as Nature's Miracle, adding Cat Attract litter to the litter box, and using Feliway diffusers (a synthetic pheromone) are excellent and cost effective remedies. Another important tip to remember is most cats prefer their box very clean before they use it so cleaning it frequently will encourage your cat to go back to that space.
Location of the litter box can also play into a cat’s comfort in using that specific box. If their box is placed next to a noisy appliance or in a location they have trouble accessing that could deter them from using it and finding a place more convenient and comfortable instead (like your new rug or favorite pair of shoes).
In a multi-cat home having multiple litter boxes is a must. Some cats prefer to not share a box or may prefer a very clean box so having multiple litter boxes helps avoid potential issues. This may mean using different litter for each cat or using covered and uncovered boxes depending on the preference of each cat. Another critical issue can be not only other cats but dogs as well. Making sure your cat has a litter box away from where a dog could chase or frighten them allows your cat to feel comfortable in that location.
If these suggestions fail to work and feel that surrendering your cat is the best option please reach out to your local veterinarian, pet sitter, or shelter staff for further advice.