Problems in the Sandbox?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

A friend of mine called me the other day and was upset that her cat, Milo, urinated on their futon. She was so upset because the whole mattress was ruined. She thought she was doomed to a life of having her house destroyed, having to confine Milo or even worse, getting rid of him.

I told her she could resolve litter box issues by taking a closer look at Milo’s environment. Most cats take to using a litter box very easily because their instinct is to bury their urine and feces. There’s always a reason they stop using their box and it’s not to make her mad or get revenge.  I told her to take a close look at what’s going on in Milo’s world. She should be able to uncover the source (or sources) for the problems in the sandbox, and make the changes that will put his world to rights again.

Medical Problem?

A physical ailment may cause Milo pain while he is eliminating. He could associate that discomfort with the litter box and choose another place to go. Some possibilities are: urinary tract infection, kidney failure, diabetes, or constipation. Her first step should be a trip to the vet to rule out any health problem.

Dirty Litter Box?

Cats are meticulously clean, and cannot tolerate the smell or feel of a dirty box. Scoop the box at least once a day, more often if you have more than one cat. If Milo can’t find a clean place to dig, he’s outta there.

Need More Litter Boxes?

Provide at least one litter box for every cat in your household. Some experts recommend one per cat plus one more. This helps prevent territorial disputes. If your house is large, provide a box at each end of the house. If you have two stories and a basement, put a box on each floor. Kitty doesn’t want to make a 20 minute field trip to find his spot. And, if Kitty is old, it may be difficult for him to go up and down stairs.

Wrong Box?

Is your cat still a kitten? Maybe the sides of the box are too high, and he needs a shorter pan. Older cat? Is it difficult for him to jump into the box? If your cat is large and using a small or hooded box, he may be too crowded.

Not Enough Privacy?

Cats don’t want to be bothered while they use the box. It’s an important ritual to be able to scratch, bury, sniff and turn in a thousand circles before they deposit their “gift.” If the dryer suddenly roars to life or a bunch of noisy kids go zooming through the room, Milo may find a new place to eliminate. If he doesn’t feel safe, he won’t stay there. Sometimes a screen in front of the box or a hooded cover helps him feel more secure. Is the dog bothering the litter box? Put up a baby gate to keep the dog out, or a small pet door that is too little for the dog to get through. Milo and your cat will thank you.

It turns out Milo had a urinary tract infection. A course of antibiotics did the trick. Now Milo and my friend feel much better and their happy household is restored again.