How to Prevent & Solve Litter Box Problems

By August 24, 2016 December 9th, 2019 Uncategorized

gray tabby cat

We know scooping the litter box isn’t the best part about having a cat, but did you know you could be making some common mistakes that make things more difficult? Not to mention, a lot of these mistakes can lead to problems such as cats peeing and pooping outside of the litter box. With the following tips, you can prevent and solve many of these issues. Let’s dig in (so to speak)!

Number of Boxes

You should have 1 litter box per cat plus 1 extra box. For example, if you have 2 cats, then you should have 3 boxes.

Size & Shape

Make sure your litter box is large enough for your cat, at least 1.5x the length of your kitty. (Don’t be tempted to get a smaller box just because it fits better in a certain spot.)

Also, be mindful of the shape of the box. For example, if you have an older cat with arthritis, opt for one with lower sides so it’s easier for them to climb in and out of it.

Covered or Uncovered?

Uncovered litter boxes are preferable to covered boxes because those with hoods only allow for one exit (which is especially important if you have multiple cats so they can’t be ambushed by one another). Plus, they prevent air circulation, and cats have a very strong sense of smell.

Note: Many cats dislike self-cleaning litter boxes because they’re too loud, they’re uncomfortable beneath their feet, and/or they don’t like the special substances required to be used with them.

Type of Litter

Opt for unscented clumping litter. Also, avoid any kind of deodorizer because it turns many cats away. Just keep the area clean.

Note: If your cat has a history of litter box trauma (i.e. fear from being ambushed by another cat, an infection that caused them pain when urinating, etc.), try a different color/style of litter box, use a different type of litter, put it in a new location, etc. to let them choose which one they prefer.


Separate the litter boxes from one another, and place them in different areas of your home. Don’t try to hide them in a closet, basement, or garage. Put them somewhere with multiple exits because many cats feel anxious using the bathroom in an enclosed space. Cats don’t need privacy. They prefer to use the bathroom in open areas where they can “mark their territory”. Keep your cat’s limitations in mind too. For example, are they seniors that have difficulty with climbing up and down the stairs?

Also, don’t put your cat’s food and water by the litter box. (Would you want to use the bathroom by your kitchen table?)

How Often to Scoop

Scoop the litter at least once a day, if not more.

Don’t forget to wash the litter box and replace it with new litter once or twice a month. Cats are very clean animals so they may choose to eliminate elsewhere if their box isn’t cleaned on a regular basis.

Other Considerations

Remember, if your cat isn’t using the litter box, or if you have other concerns related to their bathroom habits, it might not be a problem with your litter box. There are several medical issues such as bladder stones, infections, inflammatory diseases of the bladder/urinary tract, hyperthyroidism, diabetes, colitis, constipation, etc. that could be affecting them so it’s important to have your cat examined by a veterinarian if you’re having problems.

Note: If your cat is unable to urinate, they need to be seen by a veterinarian right away because this is a medical emergency!


  • Moira Hadlock says:

    Will you please address the warning that clumping litter is a suspected cause of kidney disease, and the consequences of baking soda or like dust for kitty lungs. Thank you.

    • Cat Care Professionals says:

      Hello, Moira! Great questions. While there seems to be some talk on the internet about a link between cat litter and kidney disease, there is currently no evidence for it in any medical articles or studies. As for the dust in cat litter, there is speculation that really dusty litter could worsen airway diseases in cats. This is the reason why we use pellet litter in our clinic and boarding facility.

  • Thank you for sharing these important tips on how to prevent litter box problems, such as ensuring that we scoop the poo at least once a day. The other day my kids mentioned that they would like a pet cat. I will share with them this article before I bring them to purchase pet supplies.

  • Abigail says:

    This is a fantastic article. Luckily, my cat has never had any problems using her litter box (although when she was a kitten she used to jump in her freshly changed litter box and try to nap, now she just lays in it for a few minutes…). However, a friend’s mother had huge issues with her two cats which resulted the house constantly smelling of cat urine. The cause(s) of the problem came down to exactly what this article discusses: lack of cleaning, too few boxes, and inappropriate litter. It is easy to underestimate how critical providing the correct litter box conditions are for your cat(s) and the stress it can cause them. I hope more people are able to find their way to this information!

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