How to Prevent & Solve Litter Box Problems

By August 24, 2016Uncategorized


We know scooping the litter box isn’t exactly the best part about having a cat, but did you know you might be making some common mistakes that actually make your life (and your cat’s life!) more difficult? Not to mention, a lot of these mistakes can lead cats to develop problems such as peeing and pooping outside of the litter box. If set up the right way, however, 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. A good rule is to get one that is 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 who has trouble climbing up, then opt for one with lower sides to make it easier on them.

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: As great as they may seem, 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.), then try a different color/style of litter box, use a different kind of litter, put it in a new location, etc., and let them choose which one they prefer.


Separate the litter boxes from one another in different areas of your home. Don’t try to hide them in a closet, basement, or garage. Put them somewhere with multiple possible 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 a difficult time making it 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 on 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 it’s no wonder 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 you are having other concerns related to their bathroom habits, then 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 are having problems to determine the cause and find the best way to move forward.

Note: If your cat is getting in and out of their box and is unable to urinate or looks distressed, then this is a medical emergency, and your cat should be seen by a vet immediately!


  • 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.

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