Many cats end up at animal shelter because of “loo problems.” In other words, something has gone wrong with the use, misuse, or lack of use of the litter box. Often the cat has taken issue with some aspect of the litter box and refuses to use it. If your cat has been happily using the litter box for years and suddenly has a problem, it could be a medical issue, so first take the cat to the vet. If the cat is fine, it’s time to look into the environment.
When you get a cat, one of the first questions you will be faced with is where to put the litter box. It needs to be easily accessible. Hiding it in the farthest corner of the basement or garage that is freezing in winter is going to make your cat less inclined to visit. The box should be close enough to the rest of the house that the cat will make the journey, but far enough away to keep it private. For example, we have our cats’ litter box in the laundry room.
It should go without saying, but the litter box should always be accessible to the cat. If you have dogs, you want to make sure the box is also not accessible them. Some people put the litter box into a closet and cut a cat door into it. We used a hook latch on the door to the laundry room that has a long hook that holds the door open wide enough for the cats to get through, but not the dogs. (When we humans go into the room, we just unlatch it.)
The litter itself may also be a point of distress for the cat. Many cats dislike deodorant litters or have a preference for a particular type. Some cats prefer the finer-grained scoopable litters because they are easier on the paws. Our cats prefer clay litter, since that’s all they’ve ever known. Which brings up a point. If your cat likes the litter, don’t switch.
Experts say that you should have at least the same number of litter boxes as you have cats. However, it’s not always necessary. Our two cats have shared a litter box for years without incident. But some cats will block another cat from getting access, so if it seems like this situation is transpiring, invest in another box before it becomes a real problem. Put the new litter box in a different location, but that’s still readily accessible.
Some cats also take issue with the box itself. If you have a covered litter box, your cat may find that the enclosed space isn’t big enough for her to do what she needs to do in there. Other cats may like the more private feel. Some cats don’t like plastic liners or litter that’s too deep. The cat may even hate the smell of whatever you are using to clean the box. If your cat starts avoiding the litter box, consider all these possibilities and any recent changes you’ve made.
Speaking of cleaning, it should go without saying that cats are less likely to use a litter box that isn’t cleaned regularly. You wouldn’t want to use a filthy bathroom would you? Well, neither does your cat.