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Solving Cat Litter Box Problems

WebMD provides solutions to some common cat litter box problems.

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.

Surface or location preference and litter box problems

If your cat has developed a preference for eliminating on another surface or location, make that area less appealing. You can add bright lights or motion sensors to the area, or place tin foil, upside-down carpet runners, or double-sided sticky tape on the preferred surface to repel your cat.

What not to do if your cat has a litter box problem

Getting kitty to eliminate in the box is about patience, not punishment. Here are a few no-nos in retraining your cat:

  • Do not rub her nose in urine or feces.
  • Do not scold her and carry or drag her to the litter box.
  • Do not confine her to a small room with the litter box, without first trying other methods for resolving her elimination problem.
  • Do not place the litter box near the place where pets eat or drink.
  • Do not give her treats to entice her to use the litter box. Cats don’t want to be disturbed while they are eliminating. However, you can place toys and treats near the box to help her overcome her aversion to the box.
  • Clean up accidents with an enzymatic cleanser rather than an ammonia-based cleanser. Then, cover the area with foil or plastic sheeting and block it off for a few weeks to give the neutralizer time to work.


Last-ditch efforts to combat litter box problems

If kitty doesn’t do her thing in the litter box, despite your efforts to make it as cat-friendly as possible, you may want to contact an animal behaviorist or consult with your veterinarian.

Reviewed on March 02, 2011
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