10 Tips For Getting Your Cat To Use The Litter Box

| Published on October 1, 2014

Hazel C. Carney, DVM, MS,DABVP is a Feline Behavior Medicine Clincian at WestVet Emergency and Specialty Center. She has provided us with 10 expert tips to getting your kitty to use his litter box every time. The Trick? “All tips revolve around the basic concept that the closer an owner mimics a cat’s natural latrine, the more likely the cat is to like, and thus use, its litterbox,” Dr. Carney says.

#1 – Litter Choice

Use a litter that the cat likes to feel with its paws: you can tell how much a cat likes its litter by how long the cat “plays” in the litter box, i.e. rakes, before urinating or defecating. The longer the cat rakes, the more it likes the litter.

Image source: @mynikfoto via Flickr

Click page 2 below for the next tip!

#2 – Start with Soil

A feral cat that becomes a house cat most often will adapt to a litter box that contains garden/potting soil or peat moss. Once the cat is routinely using the litterbox, you can very gradually replace the garden soil with a commercial litter.

Image source: @rochellehartman via Flickr

#3 – Keep it Scent Free

Most cats, if they have a choice, will select a finely textured litter like sand that has no added smells. Do not use litter box additives like perfumes, litter box deodorants, and baking soda.

Image source: @Drumattica via Flickr

#4 – Keep it Clean

Scoop BOTH urine and stool out of every litter box at least 2 times daily. Wash the box with just soap and water and replace the litter ideally every week but at least once a month.

Image source:  @Rikki’sRefuge via Flickr

#5 – Multiple Boxes

Even for 1 cat, have multiple litter boxes in different locations around your house. To a cat 2 litter boxes side by side are the same as just one box.

Image source: @AdamKeys via Flickr

#6 – Location, Location, Location

Litter box locations that are quiet, safe, and out of the main areas of household activity are best. Avoid placing litter boxes next to noisy items such as the washer, clothes dryer, built-in floor vacuum cleaner openings and audio speakers.


#7 – Lots of Room

Give the cat a BIG litterbox-at least as big as 1 and ½ times the measurement of the cat from the tip of its nose to the base of its tail which for the average cat means a minimum of 24-30 inches square.

Image source: @TomThai via Flickr

#8 – Enough Litter

Adjust litter depth to your cat’s preference: kittens need only about 1” deep, adult cats seem to prefer about 3” deep.

Image source: @LauraBittner via Flickr

#9 – Easy Access

For older, arthritic cats, have one side of the litter box much more shallow than the other 3; this acts as a “front door” that is easy to access. You can but concrete mixing tubs from home building supply stores or cut down one side of a large plastic storage bin.

Image source: Petmate

#10 – Keep it Positive

Never trap a cat in a litter box to give it medication or reprimand a cat by picking it up and tossing it into the litter box after it has soiled outside of its litter box.


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