The most frequent call we receive at the Fur Keeps program to date is our lovely feline friends going to the bathroom outside of the litter box! It is our belief that the first and most important step is to have your cat seen by a vet as soon as possible! Cats are stoic creatures and may seem fine even though they are in pain.  Not using the litter box is the first sign that there could be a medical condition going on.  If you need assistance, please fill out our Fur Keeps Intake Form.

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Litter Box Quick Tips

Rule Out Illness

Check with your veterinarian to make sure that medical issues aren’t the underlying cause. Be sure to fully explain the litter box issue and request a urinalysis, stool check, and a blood draw (especially if your cat is a senior).

Don’t Punish Your Cat

Physical and verbal punishment will likely make the problem worse. Contrary to popular belief, litter box problems have nothing to do with spite and are often caused by stress.

Do a Test

Place numerous litter boxes around the house with different linings: newspaper, clumping litter, non-clumping litter, sand, sawdust, carpet remnants, and no litter at all. If you find that your cat prefers an unacceptable surface (such as carpet), try to slowly convert the cat back to a litter by adding a little litter each week. Continue adding more litter until you can remove the carpet remnants from the box.

Clean Properly

  • Clean soiled areas with an enzyme-based cleaner like Nature’s Miracle. Regular cleaners will not break down the urine/stool traces, so your cat may continue to use those spots. If the carpet or padding is saturated, it may need to be replaced.

  • Increase litter box cleaning. Scoop the litter boxes at least twice daily and wash them once a week with soap and warm water only (do not use a strong-smelling disinfectant).

  • Try different depths of litter. If you routinely find excess clean litter on the floor beside the box, you’re probably using too much. Aim for around two inches.


  • If the problem is only in one area, close the door to keep your cat out.

  • If needed, confine your cat to a small, cat-proofed room with bedding, food, water, toys, and at least one litter box. Keep him there until you can be sure he is using his litter box, then gradually allow him access to other areas of the house.

Other Techniques

  • Feed your cat where he is urinating/defecating, because many cats will not do both in the same place.

  • Use aluminum foil, upside-down carpet runners (with the plastic spikes on the bottom), or double-sided tape, to encourage your cat to avoid areas where he has eliminated before.

  • Try Feliway or a Sentry-calming collar.