Figuring out how to stop cats from peeing in a certain spot is a challenge that most cat owners will face eventually. There’s really no single correct answer; there is a solution that’s right for you, your cat, and your household, but finding it requires both detective work and experimentation. And it all starts with the litter box.
The first step is to determine why the cat is not using the box. Cats are exceptionally individualistic, so an answer that’s correct for one feline may not be anywhere close to right for another, but it’s worth taking the time to understand your cat and why the box boycott. Possible reasons include the following:
1. The litter isn’t clean. This is probably the number one reason why cats go outside the box. They’re fastidious and particular, and most would definitely rather pee in a corner of the dining room than step into a soiled and smelly box.
Take a long, hard look at your box maintenance routine, and be honest with yourself: are you scooping daily? Are you replacing all or part of the litter on a regular basis? If you use clumping litter, a bi-weekly routine of removing half and replacing it with fresh can do wonders when it comes to eliminating odors and making the box more inviting to cats. Standard litter should be scooped daily and completely replaced once a week.
2. The box is too far away. Keeping the cat toilet facilities as far from your everyday living space as possible may seem like a good idea to you, but it could possibly be one of the reasons your cat isn’t using it as regularly as you’d like. This is particularly important if your cat is old or unwell; elderly cats, just like elderly people, may frequently experience an urgent need to relieve themselves, and if getting to the box means traveling through several rooms and down a flight of stairs, it could spell disaster.
3. The box is in a too-busy, too-public place. Cats like their privacy, and few will ever be comfortable with using a box that’s in a high-traffic area.
4. There’s a new cat using the box. This can be really significant. Cats rely extensively on their sense of smell, and the smell of a newcomer in the box can make your existing pets nervous and insecure about using it. If a cat who has always been cooperative in the past reacts to the addition of a newcomer by consistently peeing on the carpet, try making a second box available.
5. There are too many cats using the box. The ideal arrangement would be one litter box per cat. Though that’s not always feasible, you will always get better cooperation if you get as close to that ratio as possible.
6. The box is too small, too tall, or otherwise unsuitable. Size really does matter when it comes to litter boxes, and generally speaking, the bigger the better. The box should be large enough to accommodate the cat’s entire body, allow the cat plenty of room maneuver while covering urine or feces, and give the cat a choice of locations within the box. If a box is so small that the cat can only use the very center of it, it’s far too small.
Though bigger is better in terms of length and width, the same isn’t true for depth. A litter depth of four inches is plenty. Too-tall boxes can make getting in and out a real problem for elderly cats, and a box that’s hard to use won’t get used regularly.