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Strange Litter Box Habits Explained

Deciphering strange litter box behaviors can be tricky.

Does your cat have a strange litter box habit? It's likely that, whatever your cat is doing, it's only strange to you. Your cat thinks that he or she is communicating perfectly clearly. Luckily, we know the code, and we're here to help you decipher what your cat's litter box antics are trying to tell you.

Not Using the Litter Box

If your cat is eliminating outside of the box altogether or if his litter box habits suddenly change, a visit to the veterinarian should be your first step.

After a medical problem is ruled out, you will be left to determine whether your cat dislikes the type of litter you're using, the type of box you have, where you've placed the box, how you clean it, or whether he's experiencing some type of stress in the household that's contributing to this unwanted behavior.

You can learn more in this article and the articles it links to: "Cat Not Using Litter Box? Inappropriate Urination in Cats."

Eliminating Next to the Box

Few things are more frustrating than finding urine or stool right next to the litter box. It's hard to understand why your cat would make it all the way to the box just to refuse to step inside and, instead, make a mess within inches of the appropriate spot.

When your cat eliminates right next to the litter box, a clear statement is being made that something is wrong with the box. Do not mistake this cat behavior for spite; your cat is not trying to ruin your day or get back at you for something. Rather, he is getting to the litter box, finding something seriously wrong with it, but trying his hardest to eliminate where he's supposed to.

What could possibly be wrong with the box that could lead to this issue? Usually, it's not clean enough. Sometimes it's that your cat doesn't like the litter type that's inside of it. If you have an enclosed box, your cat might not like being confined inside while eliminating. The box might be in an area that doesn't feel safe to your kitty, so he's afraid to go inside. If your cat has a bladder problem that results in pain during urination or an anal gland problem or another issue that causes discomfort during defecation, he may be associating that with the litter box, resulting in fear of using it.

If your cat is urinating or defecating just outside of the litter box, it's time to become a detective. A full physical examination with a veterinarian is the place to start, followed by a review of your litter box cleaning routine, type of litter used, type of box, whether the box is old enough that it might be retaining objectionable smells, where the box is, etc.

Take a look at this article for more information: "Cat Not Using Litter Box? Inappropriate Urination in Cats."

Not Covering Urine or Feces in the Box

We always think of cats as fastidious creatures that eliminate in the litter box and then cover up the contents, reducing the odor that emanates from the box, and many cats do just that. However, some cats don't cover their urine or, especially, their feces.

This issue may have several causes:

  • Your cat's mother may not have taught your cat as a kitten to cover up his stool or urine.
  • Some cats leave stool and urine uncovered as a way of marking territory; the smell can communicate to other cats whose turf is whose. Your cat might do this even if he is the only cat in your home.
  • If your cat doesn't like the type of litter in the box, he may not cover up as a way of minimizing the amount of time he has to spend in the offending substrate. You can try slowly changing to another litter type or leaving a second pan of a different type next to the original pan and see whether your cat covers better with a different litter.

Exiting the Box Like a Demon Is Giving Chase

Does your cat hop out of the litter box after using it and run around the house like something is chasing him? This one, like the others, can be due to a variety of causes.

If your cat is uncomfortable while eliminating because of a bladder or rectal problem, the running might be because he's trying to get away from what's hurting him, not realizing it's within his own body.

Your cat might just feel relieved and energetic after eliminating, especially after passing stool. The crazy run-about may just be happiness.

If your cat doesn't like something about the litter box, he might be a good kitty and still use it but then try to get away from it as soon as possible.

If your cat has always done a "spaz-cat celebration" upon leaving the box, you probably don't have anything to worry about, but if this behavior starts up suddenly, pay attention to the litter box contents (is there diarrhea, bloody urine, etc.) and call the veterinarian.

Using the Box as Soon as You Clean It

Having your cat jump in and soil the nice, clean litter box as soon as you provide it can be frustrating. After all, you just spent time and energy cleaning up the dirty box, and now it's dirty again.

Your cat might use the box as soon as it's clean because he was "holding it" due to being turned off by the dirty box.

He may also be marking his territory. You've just removed most of his scents, and he can't have that: he needs to let everyone know it's his space.

Using Box for Only Urine or Feces, Not Both

It's quite common for cats to prefer to urinate and defecate in separate areas if they have the option. This is one of the reasons it's recommended to always have as many boxes as you have cats plus one. That will give your cats all plenty of options to eliminate the way they prefer to without using an inappropriate spot.

Boycotting the Litter Box When You Switch to New Litter

Cats have very definite opinions about most things, and litter type is no exception. The majority of cats prefer a fine-grain, clumping litter. If you switch abruptly to a new litter type, you are risking a litter box mutiny.

If you want to change litter types, do so gradually. Add a tiny bit of the new litter type to the old litter pan and, over a few weeks, add more new and less old while watching carefully for any signs that your cat doesn't like or may not use the new litter type.

Litter Box Guarding

If you have multiple cats, you might find that some litter box guarding goes on. One cat might be trying to keep others from using the box, or some cats might gang up and prevent one from getting near the box. This situation can quickly lead to inappropriate elimination because the cat being guarded against can't get to the box, and the stress of being hounded about going to the box can also cause her to urinate and defecate inappropriately.

If you have multiple cats, it's critical that you have enough litter boxes to keep them all happy. You need boxes on each floor of your home, and the fewest number of boxes you should have is one more than the number of cats you have (six boxes for five cats, for example).

Going on the Side of the Box or Just over the Edge

If your cat urinates or defecates up the sides of the box or just over the edge, the box is probably too small for him. Try a bigger box with higher sides, and make sure you aren't putting the box an in area that causes your cat to feel too cramped.

You May Also Like These Articles:

Stress in Cats

Cat Not Using Litter Box? Inappropriate Urination in Cats

Tips for Good Litter Box Cleaning

Tips for Good Litter Box Placement

Tips for Avoiding Litter Aversion in Cats

Cat Not Using Litter Box? Inappropriate Urination in Cats

General Tips for Solving Inappropriate Urination Problems in Cats

Five Reasons Cats Urinate Outside of the Litter Box

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