Training Cats

Getting a Cat to Use the Litter Box – Tips and Tricks

One of the great things about a cat vs. a dog is that they do not need to be let outside or walked on a leash to do their business.  Instead of having to get up early and walk your pet – even in the rain, sleet and snow – you just keep the litter box clean and your cat will do his thing without you having to give it a second thought

The only work is teaching your cat to use the litter box.  The good news is that, most of the time, this is a relatively simple task that most cats pick up very quickly.  Cats have a natural tendency to go to the bathroom on dirt or sand, so Mother Nature has taken care of some of the training for you.

Many pet owners will report that all they did was toss their kitten or cat into the litter box a couple of times and they were trained.  While many lucky cat owners will have it just that easy, others will need a few more tricks in order to teach their feline friend the proper place to go.

Remember, cats are finicky.  If things are not just the way they want them to be concerning the litter box, they will find a place to go that they like better.  As silly as it may sound, you’ve got to sort of set the stage, so to speak, in a way that is pleasing to your cat.

Again, most cats will begin to use the box after being shown where it is just once or twice.  If you cat isn’t cooperating, here are a few possible reasons for the rebellion.

Aversion to the box
There are several styles of litter boxes available from the most basic to covered versions to fancy models that clean themselves.  If you are having trouble getting your cat to use the box it may be that he doesn’t care for the type of box you have chosen.  For example, if you chose an uncovered box, your cat may want more privacy so a covered box would be worth a try.  Or, if you bought one of the models that are self-cleaning, the cat may have been startled by the sound of the mechanisms and is now skittish around the box.  Luckily, if this is the problem, the fix is as easy as trying different types of litter boxes until you find the one that your picky cat likes.

Aversion to a certain type of litter
There are even more choices for litter than there are for litter boxes.  There are crystals, shavings, sand, clumping, non-clumping, even shredded newspaper has become popular in the last few years.  While you may have your preference based on what is least expensive or easiest to clean, your cat – if he is picky – will have his own ideas about which litter is best.  If your cat isn’t using the box, try experimenting with different types of litter.

Cat prefers another location
Some cats prefer more privacy.  Some cats don’t like a lot of noise.  Other cats may not want a long walk from their food bowl. Yes, sometimes location really is everything.  If you have noted that your cat always goes in the same place (a certain corner) try moving the litter box to that location.  It may be that he just prefers that spot for some reason.

Hopefully, the above tricks will solve the problem.  If not, you may need to consult a vet or animal behaviorist for advice specific to your cat.

When the Cat STOPS Using the Box
Sometimes, a cat that has used the litter box for years will suddenly stop.  In order to solve this problem, you’ll need to find the underlying cause.  Cats will not just stop using the litter box for no reason.

Contrary to what some pet owners may think, cats will not stop using their litter box because they are angry with their owners.  Nor will they “hold out” in the hopes of getting a special treat for agreeing to turn again to their litter box.  For these reasons, punishing your cat is not going to help the situation and, in fact, could make the behavior worse as she will become nervous.

Here a few possible reasons for your cat having stopped using the litter box.

Medical Problems
If your cat has been using the litter box faithfully and suddenly stops, you should first be sure that a medical problem is not to blame. Cats often don’t act sick or like they are in pain until the problem has progressed sometimes beyond repair. That’s why it is important to note behavior changes, such as not using the litter box, and to consult with your vet quickly.   One medical problem that is commonly associated with discontinuing litter box use is a urinary tract infection.  Since urinating with this type of infection can be quite painful, your cat may start to associate the litter box with pain and therefore not want to use it.  The best thing to do is visit the vet to be sure a medical problem is not the reason for the behavior.

But this Smells Like My Litter Box
If your cat, or another cat in the house, has soiled the floor in your home, the smell can linger even after a thorough cleaning.  If your cat tends to go in the same spot, try cleaning that area with a cleaner that is specially formulated to remove the smell of urine and feces. Household cleaners will not be effective.  Even if you can’t smell anything, remember that animals have a much stronger sense of smell.

Unclean Litter Box
Would you want to use the bathroom if it were filthy? No, and neither do cats.  In fact, cats are more particular than some humans!  For this reason it is very important to keep the litter box clean.   Scoop out waste each day, and thoroughly clean the box at least once a week.

Hopefully, your cat will be of the “very-easy-to-train” variety. But if she requires a little more training, just remember that she is worth every moment!

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