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Healthy Cats

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Solving Cat Litter Box Problems

WebMD provides solutions to some common cat litter box problems.

When kitty eliminates outside the litter box

If your veterinarian has ruled out a health problem, you can make a few changes to see if you can steer your cat back to the litter box:

  • Scoop and change your cat’s litter at least once a day.
  • Thoroughly rinse out the box with baking soda or unscented soap once a week.
  • Use less litter. Cats like a shallow bed of litter -- no more than two inches deep.
  • Use a larger litter box.
  • Use clumping, unscented litter of a medium to fine texture or the litter she used as a kitten. You could try putting a few clean boxes side by side, each with a different type of litter, to see which one your cat prefers.
  • Don’t use box liners or lids.
  • Try a self-cleaning box, which is generally cleaner than a traditional litter box.
  • Move the litter box to a quiet, low-light location where your cat is able to see anyone approaching and can escape quickly. The litter box should be out of sight of her food and water dishes.
  • Add a few litter boxes in different locations, all of which have multiple escape routes. Make sure that children or other animals don’t have access to the boxes.
  • If your cat is old or arthritic, use a litter box with low sides so she can climb in easily.
  • Provide a litter box for each of your cats, plus one extra. If you live in a multi-storey residence, place a box on each level.

Multiple cats and litter box problems

If you have several cats and can’t figure out which isn’t using the litter box, you can ask your veterinarian for fluorescein, a harmless dye that makes urine glow blue under ultraviolet light for 24 hours. You’ll need a UV light to shine into the litter box to see which cat is using the box. The dye must be given (usually in food) to each cat, one at a time.

An easier way to determine which cat isn’t using the box is to temporarily confine your cats, one at a time, with a box nearby. Do this only for a few days, and try to use a room without carpet or a laundry pile. If you’re using the bathroom, block off the bathtub or keep an inch of water in it to discourage kitty from using it to eliminate.

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