“Inappropriate Elimination”, aka “Kitty has been peeing outside the litter box”

Over the years probably one of the most common issues I hear about from cat owners is “inappropriate elimination”, which is more commonly known as “peeing outside the litter box”. If not due to a urinary tract infection, or the cat has not yet been spayed or neutered, the most common reason I’ve seen as to why a cat won’t use their litter box is because of an issue with the litter box itself. If the cat owner is not caring for the litter box, or not properly cleaning up after a cat urinating outside of the box, the problem will continue.  Here are some tips I have used over the years, and I hope this helps some:

  1. A litter box should be filled at minimum with at least three inches of cat litter. Most cats like to dig and cover their “deposits”. If you only leave a tiny amount of cat litter in the box, this is a problem! I can imagine the litter box is most likely just a stinky pool of urine and feces as there is no cat litter to absorb it. I personally use Fresh Step litter. I like the fact that it’s clumping so I can just scoop the poop and pee out, instead of dumping the whole thing like with clay litter. It’s quick to clean, saves time and money, and works great with the cats.
  2. If you saw a toilet overflowing with crap, would you want to use it? Cats are the same way. They are very clean animals and prefer to use a clean litter box. I have two cats and three litter boxes, one on each floor of my house. When I clean the litter box, my cats watch me and it’s always a “race” to see which cat can jump in and use the clean litter box first. They are so funny!
  3. If you can’t clean the litter box daily, make sure to buy a larger box and fill it with more than 3 inches of litter. If there is more litter in the box, it will hide the smell and your cat will still be able to dig and bury their deposits. I do this and it works well for me.
  4. I do not recommend the self-cleaning boxes. I have had one before and I only used it for a few weeks before I got sick of it and stopped using it. They are very expensive, and so are the refill containers. They rake through the litter, but often the poop gets stuck in the rake. This is a HUGE pain to clean. Plus, some of these are so loud your cat could be afraid to use it. There may be better models for sale now, but this was my experience when I tried one about five years ago.
  5. If the cat pees somewhere in the house, that area has to be deep cleaned with enzyme cleaner specifically for cat urine, otherwise the cat will keep returning to the same spot to pee over and over.If the area is carpet, the urine can be in the padding below. I had this problem before and found I had to inject the cleaner into the padding to remove all traces of urine.
  6. After cleaning (and the area is dry), cover the area where the cat was urinating with something the cat won’t like. I have used double-sided tape, and in a large area of carpet, I put aluminum foil over the area. Kitty will not walk on foil and it is a cheap and quick fix.

Unfortunately, many new cat owners are uneducated when it comes to basic cat care. I think when the shelters have cat adopted, they should probably give the new owner a booklet on cat care 101. I saw many cats get returned to the shelter when I was a volunteer because of urine problems, and this could have been avoided had the owner been educated on litter box care. Here is a link to some more information on litter box issues:  The Litter Box from your Cat’s Point of View