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Head of the Class Dog Training LLC 

Winchester, VA

Litter Box Blues – Part II

Last time, we discussed the different types of soiling cats do outside the

litter box and the negative effects this can have on your bond with your

furry four-legged friend. This week, we want to delve into why cats may

be soiling and what you can do to help them stop.

The first thing you should investigate is a potential medical problem.

Your cat could be soiling outside the box because of constipation, food

sensitivity, a urinary blockage or other medical problem. So if your cat is

soiling, the first thing you should do is consult a vet. If all comes back okay,

then consider some of the following.

As we said last week, cats thrive on routine and can get stressed out if there is a break in routine or if they’re left alone for long periods of time. This kind of anxiety can cause cats to soil outside of the litter box. Forming a strong bond with your cat and spending quality time together can help alleviate the soiling issues. Play interactive games with your cat using wand toys. You can also try giving your cat perches and places to hang out. Cats love to play and then nap, so a 10 minute play session could help reduce your cat’s anxiety and wear him or her out for a good nap.

Cats are hunters by nature, so a food ball would help keep your cat entertained during the day. Your cat will have to bat the ball and “hunt” to get the kibble out. This is also a good tool for fast eaters, as it slows them down, decreasing the likelihood of vomiting.

Your problem could also be that you have the wrong litter box. Most standard litter boxes are too small. Many cats also hate covered litterboxes. A covered box makes them feel trapped and vulnerable. They may not like the feeling of being confined or having their fur touch the top and sides of the box. Try a large, translucent sweater box as a litter box.

You may want to check the type of litter you’re using. Cats tend to dislike heavily scented litter, as they have very sensitive noses. They also don’t like to eliminate in dirty litter for the same reason. The best option is to use unscented, scoopable litter and scoop at least once or twice daily.

Placement of the litter box is important to your cat. Cats naturally want to urinate and defecate in different areas, so if you have space for two litter boxes, have them (and definitely have multiple litter boxes if you have more than one cat).

Don’t place your litter box near the cat’s food and water, because cats don’t want to eat next to their bathroom (for obvious reasons). Also keep the litter box out of small, enclosed spaces, noisy areas and places where the cat may be interrupted by dogs or children.

If you’re using a litter box liner, this could also be the culprit. Instinctively, cats like to scratch a hole to eliminate in. If you’re using plastic litter box liners, your cat may scratch a hole in the liner (making the liner pointless for cleaning purposes) and making your cat averse to using the litter box. Ditch the liner and just scoop your litter daily to keep it clean.

Finally, if you’ve tried all the recommendations above and your cat is still soiling, you may want to ask your vet for a referral to a specialist.

-Lisa Marino

Lisa Marino, CPDT-KA, KPA-CTP, PMCT, has taken her varied teaching experiences and applied them to helping owners understand and train their beloved four-legged family members. She has more than four years’ experience leading group dog training classes at Best Paw Forward in Hartland, WI, and opened Head of the Class Dog Training LLC in Winchester, VA in 2012, where she conducts group classes and private lessons, as well as helps owners to modify their dogs' problem behaviors.

Lisa earned her CPDT-KA in 2012, is a 2015 graduate of the prestigious Karen Pryor Academy and is a Pat Miller Certified Trainer.

She has 4 registered therapy dogs and is a Pet Partner Therapy Team Evaluator and a member of HOPE AACR. As a former middle school teacher, she works well with families and children and does school presentations on various dog related topics.