Cats are one of the most convenient pets. Unlike dog owners, cat owners can leave for up to 3 days at a time since most cats are trained to use a litter box. Dog owners must get a sitter or board their dogs in a kennel because 1) they eat all their food the first day and 2) they do their business all over the house. Cats have their down-side, however. Cats can be unpredictable. They like to do their own thing. Litter boxes can be messy and are no fun to clean every day. Three common cat litter box problems are: 1) the cat stops using the litter box 2) the cat kicks litter out of the box or pees on walls and 3) foul litter-box odor. The number one concern of all cat owners is the cat stops using the litter box. If the cat is not using the box, he/she is choosing to do business elsewhere in the house. There are many reasons a cat will stop using its litter box. One of the top reasons this happens is the cat is unhappy with the cleanliness of the box. Perhaps you only scoop out your litter box every few days. Take notice if the accidents coincide with the times your litter box is very dirty. Now diligently clean it twice or more a day. Do the accidents decrease? If the answer is yes - you have your answer. Your cat hates a dirty litter box. A second reason could be they type of litter you are using. There are scented litters, odor reducing litters, etc. Cats can be picky about foreign smells. Although a scented litter may smell nice to you when filling the box, it may be giving your cat a headache. Odor neutralizing litters or sprays may eliminate the natural scent the cat expects when approaching the box. If the box does not smell right to the cat, this could be the cause of your problem. Try changing litters to see if that solves the problem. Another reason your cat stops using the litter box could be because it is having a medical problem. Urinary tract infections, digestive problems, even cancer are all things that could cause your cat pain. Your cat could be associating the pain to the litter box - that is, blaming the litter box as the cause of the pain. If you suspect a medical problem, have your cat checked by the vet to rule this possible cause out. Maybe you have the second problem - your cat kicks litter out of the box. The obvious solution is to use a litter box that has a hood. Purchasing a Litter-Robot is another great solution. Litter-Robot is a self-cleaning cat litter box that holds litter in a globe. Similar to a hooded traditional litter box, there is a small opening for the cat to go through. Litter-kicking will not be eliminated with either of these options, but it will be greatly reduced.
Some cats will not go in an enclosed place, other cats enjoy the extra privacy. If you have the former type of cat, then you may have to put down a throw rug that is larger than your litter box. Each time you scoop, just shake out the rug. A third common litter box problem is foul smells. Not only is it very unpleasant for you, a foul smelling litter box can be another cause your cat refuses to use the litter box. If you do not clean the box well enough, your cat could reject the box. If you use a scented cleaner, your cat may scoff. Experts recommend washing the litter box once per month. This may be overkill for some people, but if you or your cat care about cleanliness, you may want to take this on. Start by washing your litter box with a mild unscented soap. Then disinfect your litter box with a solution of 1 part hydrogen peroxide and 1 part water. This kills germs that cause odors without introducing a new smell. For additional disinfecting and odor killing use one part vinegar to 50 parts water in a bucket water. This ratio is best to avoid adding the vinegar smell to the box. Finally, sprinkle some baking soda on a wet rag and wipe down your litter box, including the hood (if you have one). Baking soda also reduces/eliminates odors without adding a scent the cat may reject. Also use this procedure on the floor surrounding your box. Certain essential oils are known to reduce or eliminate odors. If your cat can tolerate the scent, using them may be worth a try. There are also essential oil blends available specifically for the purpose of odor elimination. Test your cats' reaction to the oils before wiping them onto your litter box. Once you determine your cat will not likely reject its box, clean your box thoroughly using the procedure above. Then place a few drops of oil on a paper towel. Wipe the box surface and the hood (if you have one). Then refill with clean litter. If the cleaning procedure does not work and you still have a traditional litter box, then consider pitching it or using it for something else, like changing the oil on your car. Cheap plastic litter pans can be replaced once every three months without a huge financial burden. Another solution to the odor problem is to purchase a Litter-Robot 2. Litter-Robot 2 comes equipped with a replaceable odor neutralizing carbon filter. This greatly reduces litter box odor.
Gail Jones is a staff writer and expert in home automation products. She works for Paradise Robotics, a Chicago Area company that specializes in products that make life better. Gail may be reached at "email@example.com".