Give Your New Kitty a Potty Refresher Course

Some cats need a little help when you first bring them home.

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You’ve promised your kitty she’d have a forever home, but she’s not using her litter box. The messes are getting out of hand. What can you do? Try these simple fixes to help your cat get back on track.

The first thing to try is to place the litter box in a quiet, out-of-the way location. You wouldn’t want to do “your business” in front of people, and your cat doesn’t want to either.

“The No. 1 step I always recommend is to set up the litter box in a low-traffic area,” said Sandy Robins, cat expert and author of The Original Cat Fancy Cat Bible (Wheelhouse, 2014).

“You also need to make sure it is very accessible to your cat — not hidden away in a cupboard or closet — and is easy to get in and out of,” she said, noting that it shouldn’t be too close to where her food dishes and bed are located. “Cats don’t like to poop where they eat or sleep!”

If one quiet area doesn’t work, move the litter box to another one. Chances are you’ll find a spot in the house that makes both of you happy.

Cat in a litterbox by Shutterstock.
Cat in a litter box by Shutterstock.

The next step involves what goes in the litter box. Cats can be terribly fussy about textures and smells. Is the litter too rough on her paws? Does it have a strong scent? If yes, switch to a soft, scent-free clumping litter.You might need to try a few different litters before you find one your cat likes. Once you find the right litter, stick with it.

During the retraining process, it’s vital that you never scold your kitty in or around the litter box. Yelling will just make her more reluctant to use it. If she goes outside the box, quietly move the poop to the litter box (doggy poop bags are handy for this) and then gently place your cat in or right next to the box. Keep a good pet stain remover on hand to eliminate odors (look for one that uses enzymes). This will discourage your cat from returning to the scene of her previous crimes.

Cats are intelligent creatures, and yours will soon realize the litter box is her private bathroom. All it takes is a little time and patience; in no time at all, you both will be living happily ever after.

NOTE: Not using the litter box is a red flag for illness. If kitty stops using the litter box, take her to your veterinarian for a checkup to rule out any medical problems like a urinary-tract infection or kidney disease.

Top photo: Couple with cat by Shutterstock.

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Sherri L. Collins

Sherri Collins is a long-time writer, editor, and cat owner (she’s also had a few dogs and lots of fish). She lives in Southern California with an old and cranky calico named Piper.

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