cat using litter box

There is nothing as distressing for a cat owner as having a cat that eliminates outside the litter box. It’s also one of the most common reasons why cats are returned to shelters.

The reasons why cats eliminate outside the litter box vary, and include litter box aversion, urine marking, hormonal problems, and medical issues. When faced with inappropriate elimination (and this can be urine as well as feces), a thorough veterinary exam should always be the first step.

There are quite a few things owners can do to prevent litter box problems from happening in the first place, and the first step is to understand what cats want when it comes to their litter boxes. While some cats may be particularly fussy and need to have their bathroom preferences catered to in special ways, there are common errors that many cat owners, especially those new to cats and their needs, tend to make. These include:

Too few boxes

The rule of thumb is that you should have as many boxes as you have cats, plus one extra. This may mean that even if you only have one cat, you may need to have two litter boxes. This is especially important in multi-level homes.

The wrong location

Humans tend to want litter boxes out of sight, so they often end up in laundry or utility rooms or in dark corners of the basement. This may be fine for many cats, but it can cause problems if the area is not quiet. If the litter box is placed next to a noisy washer or dryer, or a furnace, and if the appliance starts up just as your cat is doing her business, she may never use that box again. Good spots for litter boxes are bathrooms, or a quiet room that isn’t used much.

The wrong type of litter

There have never been as many choices of cat litters as there are now. Unfortunately, many of the litters are designed more with the human in  mind than the cat. There is no perfect litter – each type has its advantages and its drawbacks. Most cats prefer a sandy substrate like clumping clay litter. While some cats readily accept some of the more environmentally friendly litters such as pine, wheat or corn, others will simply refuse to use a box containing those products.

Never use scented litters or scented litter deodorizers. Cats sense of smell is far more sensitive than ours, and the overpowering scent of these litters can be a big turn off for them.

Not enough litter

Keep at least 2-3 inches of litter in the box at all times – add fresh litter after you scoop out waste to maintain this level. Most cats like to scratch and bury what they produce, and they will get frustrated when there’s not enough litter to allow them to do that.

The box is too dirty

Scoop the box at least twice a day and remove all urine and feces waste. This is only possible with clumping litter. If you use a non-clumping litter, you should discard the entire content of the box whenever there is waste in it, and replace with fresh litter. If you use clumping litter, you should replace the entire litter about once a month.

The box is too clean

Don’t use harsh chemical cleaners to clean the litter box. All you really need to use is hot water and some mild, unscented dish soap. Let the box dry thoroughly before you replace litter. If you feel you must “sanitize” your box, use some bleach and hot water, but be sure to rinse thoroughly with hot water to eliminate any remnants of the scent of bleach.


Most cats don’t like liners. They don’t like the crinkly sound the plastic makes when they walk on it, nor do they like the way it feels under their paws.

Covered or hooded boxes

I don’t like covered or hooded boxes, and most cats don’t like them, either. They’re often too small for the cat to comfortably turn around in and do their business, and they trap odors inside, making it very unpleasant for the cat to use. Dust can also be much more of a problem in a covered box, as it becomes more concentrated. Cats will always breathe in dust when they dig in the litter box, but in a covered box, this becomes a bigger problem. If you must use a covered box, at the very least, remove the filters provided by some manufacturers. They’re designed to trap dust and odors, making it nice for you, but not so nice for kitty inside the box!

Litter mats

These mats are designed to trap litter that’s stuck to your cat’s paw and prevent it from being spread further throughout the house. The trouble with them is that they’re often made with nubs or deep grooves that don’t feel good on sensitive kitty paws, and this might stop a cat from going anywhere near the box.

By approaching the issue of litter boxes from the cat’s point of view, you can prevent many of the problems associated with inappropriate elimination.


101 Comments on How to Prevent Litter Box Problems

  1. I have two senior brother male cats. Larry (16lbs) and Gizmo 9lbs are around 14 – 15 years old. Within the last year to two Larry has been defecating outside all four litter boxes. They are all in our basement uncovered and in different locations. I just added another box upstairs but the same exact thing. Defecated within 5 feet of the box. I have tried different boxes, different litters, different locations. I need help as my boyfriend states if this does not resolve soon I will need to get rid of my BABY! I have also schedule ANOTHER vet visit but they just keep telling me to do things I have done. Any help would be helpful.

    • Assuming your vet visit will rule out any medical issues, I recommend working with a feline behaviorist. If you can’t find anyone local to you, I can highly recommend Mikel Delgado and Dr. Marci Koski Both offer remote consultations. And FWIW, any boyfriend who pressures you to get rid of your senior cat because he’s having problems – well, let’s just say I would reconsider the relationship. All my best to you!

  2. Hi!

    My Tortie Mousse, 5 years old, never was totally clean. She uses to pee out of the litterbox, especially when a door is closed.
    The origin of this: she was a unique kid and were 5 months with her mother, who wasn’t clean at all 🙁 that means she learned it from her mother…
    Is there any hope to reeducate it when her mother learnt her to do so?
    Thanks for your attention 🙂

  3. I got my cat a Litter Robot self-cleaning litter box, and it solves every litter box problem in the book!

      • The LitterRobot Open Air is awesome. All four of my cats are so much happier and well behaved now that they always have a clean box to use. Highly recommended.

  4. Hi Ingrid, I wanted to drop you a note to thank you for your advice. I still am not sure how to initiate communication with you unless it’s a comment reply, and this thread seemed appropriate. Casey is still (on occasion) defecating right outside the box. Not often but regardless of the amount of boxes and the sizes, enough clean litter, privacy … just ever since his PU surgery, when he steps into a box to urinate he will most times urinate right at the beginning of that box. What I think is, he hesitates to climb over that to defecate, so he backs out and goes right there on the shower floor. He scratches to “cover” it & then goes on to clean & groom himself. He thinks he’s doing the right thing. But I believe that’s why he still goes outside the box. Casey is going to be 9yrs old in a couple of weeks. He’s not at his best healthiest weight with all the changes in food because he’s terribly finicky. He doesn’t just go on a food strike for a day or 2, he’ll not eat for as long as I’m feeding him what he doesn’t choose to eat. I have to give in, I just have to. I just think this is the way it’s going to be and as long as he’s still playing with Maggie, chases & climbs (albeit not as often) looks forward to meal time, still cuddles & purrs, I’m not going to keep stressing to “fix” this anymore. I’m pretty much home all the time so I’m on top of keeping the boxes clean. I clean Casey after he has a messy stool (long haired cat) and I’ve been doing that since he was a baby because his hair does get caught up sometimes. I love Casey with all my heart and I’ll be smart & compassionate about the quality of his life always. Thank you for your constant help. I appreciate that more than you know.

  5. If I wanted to get a new litter box, what do you think the best way of replacing the old one is? Should I replace it suddenly, or place the new one beside the old one, or keep them in separate areas of the house? I appreciate any advice.

    • If the box is the same shape and size as the old one, you can probably replace it without a gradual transition, James, but if the new box is completely different, I’d either set the new one next to the old one, or start it out somewhere else in the house, and then, once your cats start using the new one, gradually move it to the location where you want it.

  6. Litter box problems can be terrible. Henry is currently locked up in a bathroom (with amenities) as my vet wants info about how much he is peeing – and I can’t tell that, other than that he has now peed 4 times (that I know of) on my pillows and on the guest bed. with all the other cats using the boxes, I can’t tell which clump is his since I don’t see him using it. and there’s also the possibility that some suggest of re-training by putting them in a small room with amenities so they learn to use the box over again. I’m a little divided on that, but maybe I’ll manage both at once. I see the vet tomorrow afternoon.

    But.. what I really want to say, for those who also deal with their cats peeing inappropriately, the best product I’ve ever found is Fizzion!! It’s the stuff Jackson Galaxy has his clients use, and it took a little hunting to find out what since he seldom if ever mentions the name. It’s a couple of tablets you drop in water and it’s clear. Not only are there no dyes to stain carpets, upholstery, bedding or clothes… you can add it into the wash water (I do), some have added it to the carpet cleaning shampoo, and it just smells fresh like baking soda! no strong perfume. Believe me: he’s peeing on my pillows. I can’t afford to throw out my pillows every day, and as long as I block the ick factor out of my mind, I cannot smell any pee when I sleep on them! I spray the area on the pillow, I wash it with my regular detergent and a little more Fizzion. there is no sign of the stain on the pillow and it’s fresh. It’s much better than Nature’s Miracle – IMO.

    Any way, I just wanted to pass that along for anyone else with similar problems. Ingrid, I hope you don’t mind. (I’m not connected in any way with Fizzion, just a very happy customer).

    • I’m a big fan of Fizzion, too, Judy, and found that it works better than most other products I’ve tried. I’ve also used the unscented version of Anti-Icky-Poo, which also works great.

      For those of you who want to try the products, Fizzion is available from Jackson Galaxy’s store, Anti-Icky Poo on Amazon.

      • you can buy Fizzion driect from their website at and also from amazon. Or if you go to the fizzion site, they have a store locator that carries it, and I’ve had some petstores that have ordered it for me.

        actually, I exaggerated a little- sometimes it does leave a trace ring around the stain, but I still can’t smell it when I lie on the sheets or the pillow and the pillow case covers any visual. 😉 as long as I can’t smell it!

        never tried anti-icky poo. does it do the same thing? the one thing fizzion isn’t always as good at is cleaning up yak and getting that stain out.

  7. Hi fellow cat lovers. I didn’t read all the comments so if I’m repeating something someone already said, I apologize. I started using the silica gel cat litter and it has made my life so much easier! As mom of 6, keeping the litter box clean is a constant battle, but with that litter I feel I can actually win the war. It absorbs the urine so you don’t have to worry about removing it EVER, and so all you need to clean is the feces (which the litter genie is amazing for!!!). Like i said, I have 6 cats, 3 who are just hitting a year. I have 3 covered littered boxes with liners and a litter genie in my bedroom, and unless one of them has JUST pooped, my house and room don’t smell at all. I buy 3 8 lb bags and completely change out the boxes every 2-3 weeks. I scoop poop usually twice a day and we’re all golden. I’ve turned quite a few people on to “my” process and they love it. You also don’t get nearly the amount of dust with the silica that you do with clay or scoopable litter.

    • I’m glad you found something that works for you, Queenieee. I have not used the silica litter, so can’t comment on that aspect. For those of you looking for a low dust clumping litter, I’ve found that Dr. Elsey’s Precious Cat litter is the best, hands down. Virtually no dust, which I didn’t think was possible with a clay litter. It also clumps better than any other clay litter I’ve used (and no, I do not work for the company – just a satisfied customer).

  8. Great information!
    JUST FYI………..I have 16 cats total. 9 are TNR and outdoor barn cats. 7 of the cats live indoors. I have 7 litter boxes all with covers. I removed all the flaps and filters. I use Worlds Best Cat Litter – Lavender Scent.

    When cleaning out the litter boxes I use a mild soap then rinse. I then spray the litter boxes with White Vinegar wipe down and let dry before adding new litter. I use white vinegar vs clorox because if the cats or any other of my pets (dogs) happens to lick the litter box white vinegar is safe for consumption and clorox will make pets vomit.

    I also raw feed all my pets which makes the excrement minimal and barely no smell. I have had a friend coming over for 4 years and she never new I had cats. My cats were all TNR and were ferals so they are not open to greeting company however they are happy and safe indoors. 🙂

    WBCL is also flushable. I have been using WBCL for 3 years and never have had any septic/plumbing issues with the flushing of the excrement. I work from my home so I am meticulous about cleaning the litter boxes several times a day. My cats range in ages and thankfully no one as of yet has considered NOT using the litter boxes.

    Best wishes to all of you and your adventures and endeavors with your precious felines.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience, Teri! That’s impressive. I like World’s Best Cat Litter, although I prefer using unscented litters. Unfortunately, my cats won’t accept it, but it’s a great litter for those cats who do. And you are absolutely right about stools becoming very small and with virtually no odor when you feed raw – isn’t it amazing what happens when the body actually absorbs all the nutrients from the food!

  9. Our boy cat used to pee 5cm outside his box every time. We pulled our hair out trying to figure out, why oh why….
    Until one day we saw him use the litter box:
    He went into the box, shimmied his butt against the side of the box and – peed over the edge, because the box sides were too low.
    We went out and bought a storage tote with high sides and have not had an issue ever since. Maybe I should mention, he is a Maine Coon cross and a BIG boy.

  10. My oldest cat (of 3) stopped using the covered litter box that she’d used for 7 years, next to the washing machine. She’d pee in it but would poop right outside it. She wouldn’t use the covered box in the guest room. my middle cat at 8 has no problem with covered box. newest cat grew too puffy for covered box. I ended up getting rid of 2nd covered box and adding two open boxes, one right by covered box and one in hallway. Oldest cat now uses the open boxes BUT she doesn’t always keep her butt inside the box so I put puppy training pads underneath the boxes, which works. Went through a horrible time trying to figure out what she wanted but finally with 3 litter boxes, two open, everyone seems happy. I do cat adoptions and I try to warn people about the covered boxes and to really be patient and figure out where your cat wants the box if there’s an issue. I’d prefer not to have the boxes where they are but hey, I do love my kitties! I use clay clumpng litter and that works for us.

  11. Hi Jackson,
    I agree, kitties can sometimes be very fussy and one has to work with and understand the personality involved to find the right solution. I have 3 cats, 1 totally indoor, and 2 indoor/outdoor (they tend to go to the bathroom outside unless in the house for long periods of time). They do just fine going in 2 (uncovered) litter boxes; however, I am manic about removing waste (at least 4 times a day) and if I am home will remove it right after they go. The litter I use is unscented regular texture yesterdays news. It is an awsome litter and absorbs urine odors the best. One thing I would differ with you on is the ability to scoop out urine soaked litter if not using a clumping litter. Dumping a whole box is wasteful and expensive. Urine-soaked litter (of any kind) can easily be removed… I do it all the time. All one has to do is move the clean litter to the side, and scoop out all the old soaked litter underneath. Then replace the new back over the area. All clean and smells like new again. Sometimes if there is a little odor on the bottom of the pan, or if there is feces stuck to the bottom, as I have the clean litter moved to the side, I will wash the area with a diluted cleaning solution and this refreshes the box. Also, sometimes feces can get stuck to the sides of the box, and when it does I clean those areas too in order to keep the litter box smelling fresh. Hope these suggestions help!

    • This is not Jackson’s site, Renee – he shared my article on his Facebook page, that’s probably how you found it. Like Jackson, I wouldn’t recommend your method, but it sounds like you’re being meticulous about it and it’s working for you. I like that you scoop several times a day – I’m the same way!

      • Ingrid, thanks for your reply. I’d be curious as to why wouldn’t recommend my method? The litter says clean and fresh all week. And even when the spot is soaked with urine it does not smell unless it sits there more than a day. I also disinfect the boxes once a week with diluted bleach and water (sits for an hour to kill germs, and rinse good) and replace with new litter. In the past I have had 4 cats in my family with 2 boxes, the 2 boxes sit side by side in the bathroom (one is high sided and one regular-kitties have a choice where they want to go) and no problems. But again I am pretty fastidious about removing waste quickly. Yesterday’s News is great because it has a nice natural smell, and it doesn’t track as much as other litters because they are large pieces.

  12. Well, we checked that at the vet, and everything is fine with her urinary tract, so it is not that she has an issue there. She is a perfectly healthy cat.
    I have her on science diet. I tried giving her wet food as a treat here and there. The issue I had here, was her throwing up! Every time I gave her moist food, she would puke, so I stopped.

    • I’m not a big fan of Science Diet, Lori. I think their products are too high in by-products, grains, corn and soy for an obligate carnivore like the cat. I’d try a good grain-free canned diet, and I’d also use probiotics and digestive enzymes. Sometimes, just eliminating grain from a cat’s diet can take care of any digestive issues.

      • out of curiosity, was she bolting her food? if they eat too fast, they’ll yak it up. It might also be that she’s allergic to something in that brand.

  13. This is all great advice. Unfortunately one of our cats still won’t poop in the box despite trying different litters, different litter box placement, etc. Finally we just started putting newspaper down just outside the box and he poops on that about 3 inches from the edge of his litter box every day without fail. Sometimes he kicks litter out of the box to cover it or our other cat does. Most of the time it just sits there bare and stinky. It’s a messier clean-up, but it’s better than him pooping on the bare floor. He’s been to the vet and checks out as healthy so it must be psychological. Silly, picky kitty. 🙂

    • I went thru this with my oldest cat after years of no problem. Finally I added 2 new uncovered boxes and put puppy training pads under those and thankfully BC (my cat) decided that was ok. Once in a while she’ll still poop outside the original box but it is much better than it was! She doesn’t like covering up her poop even when in the box and you are right about stinky! Try putting a litter box with lower sides close to where the original box is. Sometimes when the cats get older, it is harder for them to get in litter boxes with higher sides even if they used them for years. We love our kitties!!

  14. Judy, I pretty much have the same problem! My one cat seems to pee on anything laying on the floor: blankets, towels, clothing, backpacks, etc. I have two litter boxes for the one cat. I have tried everything as well. Calming collars, switching litters, bringing to the vet, etc. and she is still peeing. She poops in the litter boxes just fine, but for some reason, likes to pee in other places! I am curious about the switching them to an all canned diet. What does this do?

    • Lori, cats should never eat dry food, here’s why:, but it’s especially important that cat with urinary tract issues eat a canned or raw, preferably grain-free diet. Cats don’t drink enough water, and the added moisture in the raw or canned diet helps to keep them hydrated and to flush their urinary tract, which can help prevent and alleviate any problems. If peeing outside the box is related to a urinary tract issue, it’s often because urination may be uncomfortable or even painful for a cat.

      • I found that a “cat fountain” with running water works pretty well, kitty likes it and drinks from it often.
        Mine is on a mix of dry and canned food. Canned food has one serious drawback, that is tooth and gums problems, dry food cleans it up a little. She doesn’t have any health problems, she’s slim and spry, and she’s turning seven this April, so that would be middle age.

        • Actually, it is not true that dry food helps prevent dental problems. This myth just won’t die. Most cats don’t chew their kibble long enough for any of the scraping action that is the theory behind this myth to kick in. What little they do chew shatters into small pieces. Some pet food manufacturers offer a “dental diet” that is made up of larger than normal sized kibble to encourage chewing, but in my years at veterinary practices, I’ve seen many cats swallow even those larger size pieces whole. Additionally, dry food leaves a carbohydrate residue in the cat’s mouth that actually encourages growth of tartar and plaque.

    • Lori, like Ingrid says: many cats don’t drink enough water, so kibble is not good. it’s also often very high ash which also often leads to urinary issues. For most cats, kibble is just generally crappy food because it’s primarily starch (has to be, in order to form the pellets. even if it’s ‘grain free’ there’s still potato starch or some other starch). We used to be told that dry food was important for keeping cats teeth clean. if you think about it.. does eating pretzels (even if you only use your front teeth) keep them clean? same thing. so other than convenience and that it’s coated with super flavor, there really is no good purpose in feeding dry kibble.

      best thing to do is to read the labels (which will only tell you part of the story) and look for things that have the meal/starch and byproducts lower in the list. You want meat products first. don’t be fooled by vegetables and blueberries and pea protein – cats don’t digest vegetable anything. it’s filler and put in there to make owners feel good. I had to get into it because one of my cats turned diabetic and I didn’t want to have to buy expensive diabetic food for him when I had heard they can do ‘fine’ on commercial food, if you get the right stuff. I did, and he’s now off insulin for a year and doing fine! Wish Henry was

      If you want to learn about cat nutrition, there’s a great site by a vet nutritionist and she also has instructions on making your own -and most importantly where to source the taurine & the vitamins they have to have (please don’t ever just feed a cat meat, it’s not complete enough and you risk blindness). Problem is, the more you learn about feline nutrition and start reading labels… the more you realize what’s out there is really junky! yeah, I”m about at the point of making my own cat food – once we buy a freezer and a grinder.

    • We had similar problems with late and lamented neutered male. He especially liked to pee on plastic bags or anything like them. He would also pee in shoes and slippers. Try starting your morning by putting your foot in a slipper full of warm pee! He did not like to pee in the litter box. My husband found a sturdy box and lined it with plastic bags–no litter. He loved it! He would perch of the edge and pee right into the box. He still had a thing about shoes, so we would always leave them on their sides or upside down. And if we preparing to travel, we never left a partially packed suitcase open!
      He still did some inappropriate peering, but we solved 95% of the problem by figuring out what he really wanted.

  15. I have 4 litter boxes set up for my 5 cats – I know, I should probably have one or two more but there just isn’t room, the bathroom & dining room are already full. Most of the cats are fine and always have been. but Henry… he’s very sweet, super intelligent and driving me nuts! He keeps peeing on my pillow, on the bedding, on the laundry, on the bathmat… He just peed on my pillow again last night (just what you want to find when you’re going to bed). I used to use Dr Elsey’s but have switched to the wheat based ones. It’s been a problem with both litters.

    He’s been to 3 vets. The first two did cystos and found nothing and labeled him idiopathic (he’s about 4, an ex-streetwalker we took in) and had him on clomacalm. didn’t necessarily help, every time we went away he’d pee on the bed. I had to put a rubber sheet over it before we’d leave! the newest vet did a cysto, an ultrasound & a culture. the ultrasound showed maybe 3 teeny tiny crystal and he was put on prednisone, special urinary diet, and (because he doesn’t drink much) water given by dropper. But he’s still peeing!! Yes, he does also use the litter boxes (he likes to balance on the edge) as well as the floor in front of them. I scoop 2 or more times a day. He’s been doing this off and on for the 3 years we’ve had him. help??? (yes, he’s neutered)

    • Judy, this exceeds my level of expertise. I suggest that you work with a feline behaviorist. One thing I definitely recommend, if you’re not already doing this, is switching him to an all canned diet.

      • yeah, he’s already on canned. We used to rotate through about 8 different brands (Wellness, NutroMax, Sheba, authority….) now he’s on c/d, u/r & royal canin something. I used to give them a little dry – and by little, I’d share 1/4c between the 5 of them! – of Hills grain free, but now they don’t get any since I don’t want him poaching. He wants the dry so badly he was working on trying to dig/chew through the plastic tubs (we had to hide them). they only get maybe 6 pieces of kibble (d/m) for treats when they get combed.

        oh, and he’s a DSH tuxedo boy, 12lbs, and we don’t use liners or lids.

        • One of my cats has to be on c/d after bladder stones years ago, but dry. I mix that with one other urinary tract food and Blue indoor – I have 3 cats. They get moist a couple times a day, and BC – the one with the stones – likes when I make the moist food a soupy watery mess. I’ll keep adding water and it makes gravy that she likes. BC also loves drinking out of the bathroom sink. Since the vet’s mandate is to make sure she gets as much water as possible, I spend a lot of time turning it on for her. The C/D food made her gain weight and we discontinued the i/d since that is just a bland formula (kinda generic). Thankfully she’s not had peeing issues – just pooping ones, which are smelly but easier to clean I think. Finally she got medicine to regulate her colon and with litter box changes she does better. So glad you are hanging in there with your kitty and I pray a solution will be found soon!

    • I’ve seen this, Ryan, but I have no personal experience with it. I’m not crazy about the idea of leaving the urine soaked pad in the bottom of the box for up to a week. I’ve always felt that the simpler a litter box is, the better. All the new boxes, whether they’re covered or automatic or any variation thereof, were created for humans. I prefer to keep litter boxes as close to what cats would naturally do in the wild. That’s not to say that these newer boxes couldn’t work perfectly, and it sounds like it’s working for two of your cats. If you haven’t already done so, I’d rule out any medical issues with the cat who is not using it all the time before moving on to exploring behavioral issues.

  16. My cat’s butt wiggles up as she urinates and it goes over edge of box…i Need to use litter liners so getting bigger box is tough..any other ideas??? THANKS!!!

    • Try a bigger box. My kitty is an archeologist, and to be comfortable she needs the biggest litter box on market, which would be fine for a large breed. She’s actually a very small stray, in the low range of normal adult cat size. She needs to dig though. The box is throroghly scratched, and as such it must be cleaned with bleach every litter change.
      We use silicate, which is less hygenic than the clumping clay, but I have allergy to the clay dust. She did not accept pine.
      Also, like a human, she won’t to go the box if somebody is in the bathroom, and if surprised, she can jump out and lose poo all over the place. So if any of us wants to go, better listen if the cat isn’t digging.

  17. Thanks for the article! I have a quick question regarding our kitty.

    So I have a vertical pee-er that refuses to turn around in the litter box. So whether or not we have a high sided box or covered box or whatever (we currently have a covered one because it seems to trap most of the pee), he will go in to use the litter box, but his rear end still faces out the entrance and then out the pee goes. We put puppy pads down in front for this reason, but it would be great to get him to actually turn around, or to find some other type of litter box that would work (tried those Clever cat boxes, wouldn’t even go near it).

  18. Instead of a pad under the box, I use an old, small towel. It serves the same purpose and feels good under their paws. The problem is when the boxes get too dirty, one little girl pees on the towel, or any other towel laying around on the floor. She doesn’t like dirty boxes.

    • Cats don’t like dirty boxes, so I’m not surprised that one of your cats makes it known by peeing outside the box, Mike! You can probably avoid this by scooping a couple of times a day.

  19. D.D.,

    I have one that does not cover his poop either. But considering that 1) he is a pet not a human, and 2) at least he is going in the box, I decided I could live with it. Especially when most human men can’t even be trained to put the seat down, lol.

  20. we have tried everything, we have plenty of boxes, switched litters and boxes, but our youngest cat Seamus, does not cover his poop. He goes at the back of the box, moves forward andthen does some burying movements and then jumps out without having covered. Any suggestions?

    • Nobody has ever been able to determine definitively why some cats don’t cover their stools. While there is no specific medical reason that would cause a cat to not cover his stools, it is possible that there’s a medical condition present that might cause the cat discomfort in the litter box. There are several behavioral theories as to why this may occur. Some behaviorists think that dominant cats won’t cover their stools, others think it could be that the cat doesn’t like the litter.

      All in all, assuming there’s no underlying medical issue, this is the kind of problem I wouldn’t worry about. As long as the cat poops inside the box, you can either cover it yourself after he leaves the box, or better yet, scoop it and dispose of it right away.

  21. Has anyone tried the littler kwitters, and what do they think of them? Am seriously considering getting one for my cats, so I can ditch the litterbox entirely. At the moment, my cats have a hooded litterbox each, but I have taken the filter out and the swinging door off… my cats are terrible for flinging cat litter everywhere, and the hood helps keep the litter inside the box, lol

  22. I used the Tidy Cat, but it is awful dusty, I think I will try that Dr Elsey. I have 12 kitties,
    and have to use the hooded boxes, I have one that will take out all of litter, loves to dig and cover
    anything left exposed in the box and also will pull the litter out of the pan. I am always
    looking for something else that will work, in litter boxes. I clean them twice a day, but worry
    about bacteria. I have a boy that has E coli in his bladder, that is a concern. They did a lot
    of tests and found it with a urine culture. Thanks for posting the information. Anything
    that will work better for our kitties. They come first!


  23. Here’s to notify everyone that cats are only marginally cheaper by the dozen! We only use 2 boxes…one is a commercial ‘extra-large’ litter box, the other is an older restaurant bus pan. The bus tub/pan is nice because its deeper than, but just as big as, most litter boxes, plus its a lot sturdier. Anything that gets tossed around the kitchen iof a restaurant even stands up to our most ferocious digger! Sit, poop, dig for 10 minutes, repeat hourly, you know the drill. However, we will ONLY use Original Johhny Cat for litter. No clumping (beause it sticks to damp paws then gets licked/washed off and ingested), plain old Johnny Cat ORIGINAL. We swear by our sertup.

  24. My cat was using a citrusy litter which I loved for the smell factor and much more importantly it was less tracking in my bed! But it clumped up too much in Oscar’s feet, so I had to go back to regular clumping litter. So back to a sandy bed for me. The things we do for our cats!

    • Kelly, good for you for doing what’s right for your cat, rather than sticking with the litter that you knew wasn’t good for him. I’m surprised that he liked the citrusy litter – usually, cats don’t like the scent of citrus.

      • I don’t think he’d care what kind of litter, he just loves scratching in it. It’s like his little slice of heaven! He also prefers to go the minute I even think about taking a bath or a shower, it’s like he knows I’m trapped in the bathroom with no escape from his stinky deposit.

  25. Good article-I never realized the harm and dangers of some litters-with Penelope having ashtma we now use World’s Best which we are happy with. We had to make sure there would not be any dust.

    • Thanks, Esme. Dust is definitely a huge concern with asthma. I’m glad World’s Best works for you. I did want to mention that I have heard from other asthma kitty owners that it doesn’t work for them and that they’ve been happier with Dr. Elsey’s, which apparently is even lower in dust than WBC.

    • I do NOT work for Dr. Elsey, but thought I would mention that they supposedly came out with a litter for people and cats with respiratory issues (including asthma)….I found a link to the press release below.

      I seriously doubt it would contain much less dust than the regular version which is already 99.9% dust free. But supposedly the natural essences (whatever those are) “helps control, sneezing, running eyes and coughing in cats with Respiratory Disease.”

      • That’s interesting, Bethany. I suspect that it’s merely the fact that this litter is lower in dust than any of the others, but then, I’m not an expert on cat litter! Since it’s a press release, I’d take it with a grain of salt (or should that be litter….).

        • Thank you-I may look into that litter-it is so touch and go to figure out what triggers her asthma-I can say that I do not think the litter has been the issue-I have not noticed a difference in changing the litter-I think pollen triggers it for sure.

          • Esme, I have two feline Reiki clients with asthma. Their asthma is usually well controlled, but they’re both having a more difficult time right now with all the pollen out there.

  26. Great Article! One thing that I have found with my multiple cat household: we use large plastic sweater boxes from Walmart or other discount store; the type that slide under the bed for clothing storage. They hold a LOT of litter, and there’s room for everyone. I have 9 indoor cats, all strays, rescues and barn kittys. Using these extra large boxes works great, I have less accidents outside the boxes and they come with lids, if ever needed. We use 3 large boxes for 9 cats, and they must be picked daily! Nice site. I have you bookmarked.

  27. You should run this article every few months to make sure everyone who has cats has read it. It’s so helpful to have a guide about litterbox issues since it’s so common and frustrating to have happening in your home! (spoken as one who knows waaaaay too well!)

    • Good idea, Robin. A rescue group already contacted me and asked whether they could include this article in their new adopter handouts. I am happyt to make it available to other groups as long as they get permission from me.

    • Bethany, I just recently switched to Dr. Elsey’s litter, and I love it. It’s definitely the lowest dust of any litter I’ve used. Thanks for posting the links!

      • Ingrid, no problem! Dr. Elsey’s Precious Cat is the BEST litter I have ever tried, despite the stupid name, lol. 😀

  28. Miss P would also pee over the box– and I was using a high box- so I ended up modifying a large storage bin and placing a baby step stool in frot of its entrance (I had opened up an entrance that was ABOVE the Pee Line, by CAREFULLY cutting out an opening). It worked GREAT! Now I think you can buy oversized litter boxes at the local pet supply store.

    • Storage bins make great litter boxes. You’re right, Ace, you have to be very careful when cutting the plastic. A heated utility knife works well.

  29. Princesss could NOT understand what a liner was for– so after a few exploratory paw-grabs and quizzical looks from Miss P, I decided never to use them again– she also would poke holes into them– LOL!!

  30. I just wanted to add to the “wrong type of litter’ section in that my cats tend to eat wheat and corn based litter because it smells a bit like the ever coveted dry food that they no longer get. I can’t tell you how many bags of litter have been chewed through because I forgot and brought it home for foster kittens and didn’t get it right in the kitten room. I now tend to shy away from it for just that reason. If my crew is willing to eat it, I imagine the fosters would eat it too.

    • Connie, that is definitely a concern with some of the wheat and corn based litters. The additional concern with these litters is the potential for aflatoxin poisoning. Aflatoxin is a fungus that is found in moldy grains.

  31. Good info and I’d like to add having the right size box. They range in size and shapes. Small works for a kitten but are quickly outgrown. Larger cats need the biggest and with higher sides. My cats loved a triangular shape that fit snug in a corner but they don’t make it any more.

  32. Lauren, consider yourself lucky. But you might want to try enclosing your toilet in a tiny cardboard box, limit the flushing to every few days, and then see what you think. Hooded cat boxes are really not good for cats because of the bacteria build up inside.

  33. Weird, because I use 2 completely covered boxes and always have and special liners and my cats always use the box.

    • Lauren, your cats are in the minority with accepting hooded boxes and liners. Since this works for you and your cats, I wouldn’t change anything as long as you’re diligent about removing waste frequently and changing out the entire box contents at least once a month.

    • I bought one of those large hooded litter boxes that you tilt and the used clumping litter dumps into a drawer, you pull out drawer and throw the waste away away. I had 4 cats at the time and just wanted to try it out since you don’t need scoopers anymore. 2 cats took to it right away and now don’t use the regular litter box. I bought a second and have been little by little removing the regular boxes and now all of them just use this great hooded one. It’s a great invention and you never touch any litter. Just pull out the drawer and dump. No smell. I guess I’m lucky they took to it, but I figured since they are naturally curious, they explored in there and had some privacy. I bought the large one and probably wouldn’t recommend the smaller one. They are able to turn around and bury without any problem. This is a great invention, but like they said, If you would want to buy one to be sure they’ll use it. I weened them off the litter box so they had a choice. They picked the right box in my eyes thank God!

      • I’m glad that box works for you and your kitties, Annette. A lot of cats don’t like covered boxes, and I don’t recommend them, but as your situation shows, they can and do work for some people!

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