Why do cats not use the kitty litter and how to change this
"Why are my cats peeing in the house and not using the kitty litter?" is a common question and a difficult one to answer
It is a common problem and the most common reason otherwise healthy cats get euthanized.
Before you can stop your cat from peeing in the house you have to understand WHY he is doing it.
Some reasons why cats don't use the litter and some solutions
There are many reasons or combinations of reasons why a cat might not be using the litter to eliminate.
Sick cats sometimes stop using the litter. If using the litter is painful, the cat might associate the litter box with pain and start avoid it.
Ruling out illness is the first step in identifying why a cat is not using the litter.
Problems with the Box, Litter, or Location
Sometimes the problem is as simple as the physical qualities of the kitty litter box or the texture or smell of the litter.
Cats are fastidious little prima donnas and often will not use a litter they consider dirty. Scooping more often, cleaning the box and changing the litter more frequently is often all that is needed
If a cat consistantly pees in a specific spot outside the litter, the area must be very well cleaned with enzyme products and allowed to dry. When the area is clean there will be less of an appeal to pee there again. It helps to put a clean covering such as a mat over the old spot, and sometimes putting a food dish in that spot will discourage cats from peeing there. Cats don't eat where they eliminate.
Is the kitty litter box big enough? That is sometimes the problem if the cat's aim is off and he misses the litter box. The recommended size is at least 1 1/2 the length of the cat, not including the tail. Sometimes the box is too high and smaller cats have trouble getting in. This is particularly true of older stiffer cats who might find it painful to jump in a high litter.
Many cats dislike the covered litter boxes because they smell bad. Try uncovering the box and see if that makes a difference.
Amazon link to a larger size litter box: Petmate Giant Litter Pan
The actual texture or material of the kitty litter makes a big difference to some cats. There are many products out there from clay to ground corn cobs and other vegetable pellets. Old newspapers are popular and various liquid absorbing minerals such as silica gel have been used.
If your cat goes in and uses the litter but does not bury their waste, it might be a sign that he does not like the actual litter.
It is an easy thing to try various kinds of litter side by side, to find out what is the best kind for your cat.
Scented litter has been shown to cause some cats to avoid the litter box. Cats are much more sensitive to smells than we are and overwhelming perfume can be a deterrant.
When changing the type of litter material try mixing some of the old kind with the new kind to gradually introduce the new texture and smell. Putting some used litter in the new one also helps tell the cat that this is ok to use as litter.
In households with more than one cat, some cats might be reluctant to use the same litter as another cat.
Kitty psychology is complicated. Two cats might not like each other very much, or one might be afraid of the other.
In a multi cat household, the recommended number of litter boxes should be one more box than the number of cats.
Cats are bashful little flowers and like to use the litter un-observed. They will sneak to the litter when they think no one is watching.
The litter boxes should be in quiet private spots such as the bathroom, basements if it's not too far to go. Sometimes this is hard to do and people have found that little blinds have helped. I saw a great cat litter cabinet people had made for their cats. It doubled as a window seat and had a little fan to the outside. A closet would work as long as the cat can access it as required.
The cat should feel safe to go to the litter. This is sometimes a problem if one cat picks on onother and waits in ambush while the other cats is trying to make his way to the litter.
Sometimes not using the litter is about communication
Cats communicate a great deal by smell and peeing and marking are often signs that your cat is communicating something to you.
Mature male cat which are not neutered are very likely to spray and urinate outside the litter box. After all he has a lot to say.
Neutering a male cat before he starts peeing in the house and marking is a very good way of eliminating or at least greatly reducing the chances of marking.
If he's already started, getting him neutered will gradually reduce and possibly even eliminate the marking.
If you have more than one cat in the house, mainly males but not necessarily, they might mark to establish and maintain dominance.
I once had 6 cats of which 3 were males. Oscar was clearly top cat and ruled the others with a velvet paw. To his credit there was almost no fighting and no marking in the house. He was a skilful politician and was almost never challenged. When he died at a ripe old age, the 2 remaining males had to establish who would become cat in chief and marking and fighting increased a great deal until succession was clearly established.
Cats under stress are more likely to have accidents. Stress can have many roots: a new cat or dog, or baby, change in the routine, new visitors, too much noise, crowding, not being allowed to go out, not being fed NOW, being put on a diet.
Identifying and removing the cause of stress will often solve the problem.
Establishing territories is often a cause of some peeing in the house. Cats are very territorial and multi cat households establish a sort of time-share of the various rooms and spots.
If you watch your cats and note where they are at various times of the day, you will start to see a pattern.
If a cat has trouble claiming what he or she considers a good spot, there might be an increase in marking. I've seen this and solved it by getting a new cat bed and specifically making a show of giving it to the cat that was upset. I did this by placing the bed in a spot that the upset cat used and placing the cat in it. Previous battles had been over a prized bed. This solved the problem.
Outside cats pee and mark more than strictly indoor cats. Restricting outdoor access can sometimes solve the problem.
If you have inside cats and they can see and smell outside or feral cats, this might cause them to mark in response to the outside cats.
We have a neighbouring cat we nickname "Ennemy". He comes regularly and marks around the property including the front right car tire. My cats check this out and add their mark when they go out.
If you have feral cats around your house, Trap Neuter Release really reduces the amount of marking.
Eventually the large un neutered cats stop coming around because there are no interesting females around and you are left with neutered males and females that barely mark and are not as much of a challenge to the inside cats.
Some cats are very possessive of their humans and will get very upset if other cats or dogs get the attention they think should be theirs. This is another cause for marking. I had a cat like that and could start a cat war just by petting another cat and ignoring my jealous one.
Sometimes 2 cats simply don't like each other. They can be made to gradually accept the other but it takes time.
Some people have suggested feline feel good pheromones such as: Comfort Zone Multicat Diffuser Kit, For Cat Calming and there is some evidence they work. It certainly does no harm.
Gather information and then decide what to do
It's no easy task sometimes to figure out what is wrong. Often there might be several causes.
After eliminating health problems and cat litter preferences you can start observing the cat to figure out what is bothering it. Once you know you can act to reduce the "bad conditions".
Sometimes it's a simple fix, like adding another litter in a quiet spot.
Once bad habits are established it is hard to change them and it takes time. Like humans cats are not always keen on changing.
Books have been written about cat psychology and how to train and change their habits. This page provides a place to start.
Prozac for Cats!!
I read an interesting report on how a family and their vet solved a innappropriately peeing cat problem. Here is a link: Urine marking, inappropriate urination and status aggression in a domestic shorthair cat It's a very interesting read.
They prescribed the kitty equivalent of Prozac, fluoxetine, to the cat as a part of an extensive problem solving effort.
This article underlines the sometimes extensive thought and effort needed to successfully break a bad habit. Sometimes a small change fixes everything though.
This article is provided for information only. Test any cleaning product before using.