Litter Box Retraining

Retraining Your Cat
To Use the Litter Box

Again, I’m going to recommend Pam Johnson’s book Twisted Whiskers because she covers this so thoroughly. A cat may need to be retrained to use the litter box for a variety of reasons such as having had FUS, being declawed, or having been through a stressful situation such as a move to a new home. I have been in this situation many times and it is frustrating at first, but I basically went through every step that Johnson recommends in her book until I had the problem solved.

If your cat has suddenly quit using the litter box, the first thing you need to do is make sure he doesn’t have a medical problem. Have the vet check him out to rule out bladder infection and FUS (read about this here) , a life-threatening disease.

If that is not the problem, consider other possibilities. Have you changed the litter recently? If so, he may not like the new stuff and is protesting. Whenever you change litter, be sure to do it gradually. After months of frustration with one of my cats, I discovered that the problem was that simple—he did not like the new litter. I switched back and the problem was solved.

Has your cat been declawed? This could be the problem (click here to read more about declawing) . Switching to shredded newspaper for litter may be the answer.

Whatever the reason is that your cat has stopped using the litter box (and you must find out the “why” first or you can never solve the problem), you may have to retrain. Rubbing their noses in it, yelling at them and such just does not good. It actually causes them more stress and may exacerbate the problem. You need to kindly show your cat what you need for him to do.

Putting him in a small space for a few days with his litter box is the best way I’ve found to retrain. Cats and dogs both do not want to soil their bedding or feeding area, so if they are in a confined space (such as a dog kennel or a bathroom), they are more likely to use the litter box.

While your cat is confined, you will need to remove the smell of urine from the places he was using. The only thing I’ve found that gets rid of the urine is vinegar or Nature’s Miracle. Vinegar is great your cat has used the floor. But if your cat has gone on carpet, a couch, or anything else that vinegar would likely ruin, you will need to use Nature’s Miracle, which has an enzyme that breaks down the smell over a period of a couple of days.

If there is a spot you simply cannot get your cat to quit going in, I either move a litter box to that spot, or his food or water bowl. Cats will not urinate near their food or water. There are many things you can do, and if you are having this problem, I recommend getting Johnson’s book because she goes into a lot more detail than we can here. Just remember, first you need to find out the reason and rule out medical problems. Then you need to remedy the problem by retraining and cleaning up.

by Victoria M. King