help your kitten use his  litter box and not track litter

Kitten Litter Box Problems

Litter Box avoidance and problems like indoor messes or spraying are all part of raising a kitten. Read below for tips and tricks to help your feline friend.

Grown Kitten Urinates Indoors

Dear Simba,My 1-year-old litter trained cat has started urinating all over the house.
We put her in the bathroom with food, water, and her own box (we have 4 other cats). We thought she was sick so the Vet gave her antibiotics. They did not work, so we have her locked up. She has been in the bathroom for 2 days and cries all the time. I feel guilty.

How long should I keep her in? How can I trust her again? I was in the hospital for a few days, and when I came home she started this messy business. She even urinated on me while I was laying on the sofa. I am recovering from vertebra surgery, and cannot return to the Vet for 6 weeks.
What should I do? Will closing her up with her own box retrain her? Donna (Missey's Mom)

PS I brought a new kitten in 6 months ago. Could she be acting out because of him?

Dear Donna,
It seems as though your little gal is stressed. Your absence, in conjunction with the introduction of a new feline appears to have unnerved her somewhat. Try to spend time with her while she is in exile. Reassure her, pet her and give her treats. You need to let her know that you are back and that you are there for her. Building trust will be a slow process.

First, thoroughly clean all places where Missy has gone to the bathroom to remove her markings. Only then can you release her. It is possible that Missy may retrain herself. You might also want to consider getting a scat mat . However, it is also possible that Missy may not. If the latter is the case, have your vet look into placing her on anti-depressants. These may reduce her anxiety. These have been prescribed to many cats, dogs and other pets with good results. Simba

I just got an 8-week-old kitten. I had him for a week and now all of a sudden he is jumping on the couch and peeing on it . He has not done this before. The vet told me to put him in a cage but when he is out he does it again he does not have any infections. I do not want this to happen again. I am considering of getting rid of him. What is the best way to stop as soon as I can? E.A.

Dear E.A.,
Raising a kitten can be very rewarding, at the same time it has more than its fair share of frustration. It is important that you decide whether you are prepared for the ups and downs of raising an infant cat. It is not fair to you or the kitten to enter into a relationship if you are not ready to stick it out. If you decide to keep the little one, a little patience will go a long way. The notes on dealing with Indoor Messes should be of help to you. Be sure to also read through 1st Time Training, for basic training tips. Simba

Help Simba,
I have a 6-month-old kitten and a 6-year-old cat. They have both been fixed. Before the kitten was fixed they used the same litter box and got along fine. Now that the baby has been fixed my older cat walks around growling at her and cornering her. Also, the baby stopped using the litter box and uses the carpet in front of the sliding glass door when I am not home. I got her a litter box of her own, showed it to her and she does use it when I am home.

When I wake up or come home from work I come home to a "calling card" on the carpet. She has been to the vet and all is well. She gets a lot of attention and the litter box is so clean I would use it. I have tried pepper and plastic cover on the carpet and she always finds the spot that is not covered with plastic or pepper to use. Help me save my carpet. Erica

Dear Erica,
It is very important to thoroughly clean the area that has been 'mistreated' by the baby. Use an anti-enzymatic and an anti-bacterial cleaner to remove all traces of odor that may be drawing the baby to the spot. Also, you may want to restrict access to the living room area while you are away. Child safety doors work well. Once you are home, give both cats run of the house. Keep me posted. Simba

Dear Simba,
We have an 18-month-old, indoor male cat, Pickles, who was neutered and de-clawed at 6 months. He is our only cat. Last summer, the then 10-month-old Pickles began going to the bathroom on our dining room carpet. We moved his litter box into the same room. A friend advised that he be fed in this room as it would deter him from using to go potty…it did not work. The rug has been cleaned several times and has been soiled soon thereafter.

We moved Pickle's litter to the basement and he began using his box. However, we cleaned the rug last weekend, he got upset and defecated/urinated on the carpet. Our plan is to clean the carpet one more time, put down anti-marking spray, and sprinkle some hard food on the area. We do not want to close the room off but would on a temporary basis if you thought that would help.

What about putting mouse traps down? or spraying him with water if he ventures near? Is there anything else? We very much love Pickles but he is "skating on thin ice". - Saner Family

Dear Saner Family,
Poor Pickles. First thing, do not put mousetraps in the room. This could hurt Pickles and you as well. I do like the idea of spraying him with water if he ventures near the area. The one drawback is that you are not present 24/7 and Pickles will not be deterred during the day.

So what to do?
Keep Pickles in the basement while you are away. Let him have the run of the house only when you are around and be sure to spray him with water or make a loud sound/noise when he ventures near the carpet. Also, in addition to the anti-marking spray, try scat mat . These give off an unpleasant sensation to cats when they step on them). Just place the mat on the area of the carpet that Pickles has picked. The big thing is do not punish yourself by closing off your dining room, just keep Pickles away from it. Keep me posted. Simba

I am at the end of my rope. I have a female kitten, Josie, that is 6-months-old. I also have 2 older cats (one is about 3 and the other 4 years-old) plus a German shepherd. I have had numerous cats and never have experienced the trouble I am having with Josie.

I got Josie when she was 4-weeks-old. She took to the litter box right away. I kept her confined to one room until I was certain she knew what she was doing. She also gets along very well with one of my other cats. The third cat keeps his distance and they do not fight.

Within the last month she has taken to urinating in 4 spots throughout my house. I spoke with my vet and she just said that this is a problem in multiple cat households.

The vet also told me to put litter boxes where she keeps going potty. My house is not big enough to hold 6 litter boxes! I tried it for a few days but I think it is too much to expect my family to live in a large litter box! So I got rid of 2 boxes and am down to 4. I put food dishes (with food) in the areas where I had removed the 2 litter boxes. Josie moved the food dishes so she could urinate in the corners.

I am trying the confinement to a bathroom trick ... but how long do I have to leave her there? I tried 5 days with no success. So she went in for another 5...same thing. If we cannot fix this problem I am going to give her away.

The vet said we could give her anti-anxiety medication but I can tell you from experience with Josie that she does not take pills well. NT

Dear NT,
Your problems are normal. My first recommendation is that you thoroughly clean all areas in which Josie has urinated. Be sure to use anti-bacterial and anti-enzyme cleaners so as to destroy all hints of the odor. I then recommend that you place food in the areas, but do so in tin foil. The foil is more difficult to move and will create a greater association in Josie's mind. As for medication, that is an alternative. Check out the new Medicating Cats section for tips on administering pills if you get to that step. Be patient with Josie. She is just a little baby and is learning along the way. Your Pal, Simba

Dear Simba,
My cat is 6-years-old. Nothing is new to Garfield, he has been fixed and has been so for a long time. He keeps messing all over my basement floor...both kinds of mess! What should I do? Help!The basement is clean. We clean it every day. Would locking him up at night with his cat box and food help? What can i use to clean the smell out? I have tried bleach & other sprays. What can I use and where can I find it? Bartlett

Dear Bartlett,
How very frustrating for you. You are doing the right things in cleaning the areas thoroughly. As you well know, cats remember scents & places and in your case Garfield has had plenty of opportunity to make his mark. The cleaning following product works well: I cannot help but wonder if Garfield has gone through any stress lately. Is his move the basement a new one? Has he lost a friend or have you recently moved to a new home? Do you have a child that may have stunned Garfield while he was doing his duty? Have you recently changed litters? In many cases these types of events will alter a cat's perception of the litter box and can lead to avoidance behavior.

It is important that you try to make your cat comfortable with his pan. This may involve getting him a new pan and letting him get a 'fresh' start or making him feel more at home with you. If you find that Garfield is overly stressed you may want to consider anti-anxiety medications. Your vet can prescribe these. They helps cats that experience stress related problems.

Be aware that cats with Diabetes often develop problems urinating in their box. Check out the Diabetes section for more information. Simba

Dear Simba,
cat litter mat
Phthalate Free Cat Litter Mat
I got a kitten 5 months ago (he is now 6-months-old). He has been litter trained, though recently he has begun peeing on my bed... while I am in it! He did this once when he was 1 1/2 months-old, but he was very sick then. He still has bowel movements in the box, but prefers my bed for urination. He has never made it through to the mattress and all the bedding has been replaced so I do not think it has to do with a lingering smell. He was taken away from his mother in the first month and he does have a chronic respiratory infection...he is constantly stuffed up. Is it that he cannot smell where he is supposed to pee and does it where he is comfortable? He enjoys sleeping on my bed and I would think that this would keep him from urinating there. I have two much older cats who are very well litter trained; why will not he follow their examples? Please help...I am running out of comforters! Erin

Dear Erin,
How frustrating. I do not think that your kitten's respiratory problems are the cause. Cats remember scents and places, in your case the kitten is remembering the place. For some reason or another he has becomed accostumed to peeing on your bed. The only way to keep this from recurring is to restrict his access in the evenings. Do this for a few days, let him become re-aqauinted with the litter box for peeing. Also, you may want to consider getting a second box, because one box for three cats can get pretty crowded. Keep me posted. Simba

What can you do about a cat who goes into the box (an enclosed type), does not turn around, and sprays outside the box?

Un-neutered male cats often spray in various areas of the home. If yours fits that description, then the problem may rest in his not yet having been operated. However, if he/she has been fixed, you could purchase a litter box that has an entrance that is note exactly at ground level so that your cat has to step up to get in. Simba

We have a 6-month-old female cat. She recently started going potty on a living room chair. We replaced the cushion and she came back and did it again. She appears healthy and used to use her litter box. What is causing this? Cushions are expensive to replace! Carrie

Dear Carrie,
Changes in litter box behavior can be caused by many things ranging from changes in litter, stress to disease. In your case, I suspect that the change is non-disease related. I recommend that you restrict your cat's access to a small room or play pen that holds her litter box, food and water. Be sure to clean and change the litter every day. While her access is restricted thoroughly clean your couch and areas around it. Do not let her out until she is using her litter box regularly. Release her only under your supervision until you feel comfortable she will behave. Simba

Dear Simba,
I recently acquired a 2-month-old kitten. We thought he was litter box trained...however, he is consistent only when I am with him. Otherwise, it is all over the house. When I am away, I come home to messes on the tinfoil I placed beneath the furniture as a deterrent. I have tried using different litter type products including regular litter, sand, hay, clay, and shredded paper- none of which he seems to like. He also urinated in his bed when I tried leaving him in the bathroom at night. He is now an outdoor kitten (he sticks close by) when I am gone and a bathroom kitty at night. Help me learn how to train him to use the litter box, so I can share my home with him. Godot

Dear Godot,
Couple of thoughts. First do not give your kitten the run of the house until he is property trained. Keep him in a small room or bathroom with his litter, fresh water, his bed and some toys. Let him out only when you are home until he is properly trained. Next, here are some steps to help train your kitten:
  • Choose a litter and stick with it (this establishes the constancy).
  • Place him in the litter box when he wakes up, after he eats and after play.
  • When you place him in his box, drag his front paws to simulate digging and covering.
Most kittens catch on from there. Ensure that this is the only spot the kitten has an opportunity to use.

About letting him outdoors...indoor cats live longer. The average indoor cat lives to ~15-20 years, whereas the average outdoor cat lives only a few years. If you keep your kitten indoors you will not have to worry about ticks or fleas, about cars or raccoons or other nasty creatures. If you can, please keep your kitten safe, keep him indoors. Simba

Dear Simba,
I read the info that you provided about training a kitten, however, my cats seem to be insistent on marking their territory. My husband and I took your advice and cleaned everything thoroughly, applied pet stain remover and an odor remover to the spots all around our living room. We then left to go shopping and when we came back all the spots were back including some more! It is very frustrating and my hubbie is about to pack em off. Some advice on these bad kitty habits and how to break them. Is it too late to get them to change? BTW, the cats are 10mo (he is trained, I think) and 6mo. (he is the culprit). cannot wait to hear if we have any hope. Susan

Dear Susan,
I think that there is hope. One note, neutered cats are less likely to mark/spray territory. However, I am assuming here that your kitty is going to the bathroom, and is not spraying in your house.

What to do?
First, restrict the kitten's access in the house. Keep him in a pen or small room with his water, food, litter and toys. Do not let him run around if he is going to mess things up, and only release him under your supervision (you will find out if the kitten is alone on this or if the other cat is an accomplice).

Second, consider rearranging the furniture or moving some objects in the area of focus. Cats are creatures of habit and the spatial surroundings are part of what is imprinted on their minds when they go potty.

Third, you may also want to use a You might also want to consider getting a scat mat. These mats give off an unpleasant sensation when in contact with your cat. I have not tried them, but they appear interesting.

Fourth, continue to clean the affected areas to remove the marks and if the cat does not have his own litterbox, think about getting him one.
Keep me posted. Simba

Indoor Spraying in Fixed Cats

Dear simba,
I have 6 cats of my own plus 2 strays that I care for! All of my cats are spayed and neutered, plus one of the strays. But 2 of my females, ages 3 & 5 and one of my males age 5, spray. I also know that the strays that I love dearly spray as well.

I have my 3 spraying kitties on Valium to help…but I continue to find my male pee-ing on the rug by the litter box. He was just at the vet and does not have any health problems. I have not switched their litter or moved their litter box. I just do not know what to do! He knows that it is wrong because if I see him peeing he runs away. Everything I have read about litter box problems comes from a health problem or litter dislike or moving the litter box. What else could be wrong besides the fact that I have too many cats, and more outside and they are all trying to establish their territory? I know that 2 of the Valium kitties would prefer not to take it. I have also tried felaway but that only seemed to make them spray in other areas of the house... I am also going broke spending money on nature's miracle and like products so that my house does not smell to high heaven. I have also got three litter boxes, that I clean out every few days. Kelly

Dear Kelly,
I am assuming that you are medicating your cats under your vet's supervision. If you are not, please have your vet examine them. There are many anti-anxiety medications that may or may not be applicable in your case.

I think you might want to thoroughly clean all areas that have been sprayed or peed upon. Cats like going to the bathroom in spots they have become accustomed to. Cats can identify these spots through their sensitive smelling noses as they leave faint chemical trails wherever they go to the bathroom. So you may want to keep all 6 kitties in a room while you clean your furniture and carpet with antibacterial and enzyme destroying detergents.

As for the un-neutered outside cat, he sprays to mark territory and not having been fixed, correcting him may prove more difficult. Consider having him neutered. Your local SPCA may have a spay/neuter & release program that will cover the cost. You are a kind person for caring for these creatures. do not drive your self crazy, what you have described is easy to address, it just requires one dedicated afternoon. Keep me posted. Simba

Kitten Refuses to Use Litter Box

Dear Simba,
We took on a kitten over a month ago. Dexter is 17-weeks-old now,for 3 weeks he used the litter box religiously, from the very first day. Then he started pooping around the house once a day. We went to the Vet and discovered he had a bad case of Roundworms. They gave Dexter medicine and we keep taking him back, but he keeps pooping around the house and using the litter box. it is been a few days now, this cannot keep going on, We have got toddlers that could get roundworm. How much longer willthis go on for and what can we do? Geroldo

Dear Geroldo,
You are right in being concerned. The best thing to do right now is to re-train him to use his box exclusively. The behavior is not about the roundworms it is about his not making his litter box his only place to go potty. What has happened is that he now associates different spots in the house with his bathroom duties, he is doing this through smells and markings left in the areas. Here are some tips:
  • Thoroughly clean all places where Dexter has gone to the bathroom
  • Use carpet-friendly enzymatic, anti-bacterial or professional strength cleaners to remove his markings.
  • Scrub well to remove all stains.
  • Let dry and restrict access to the spot using home gates.
  • Do not let Dexter have run of the house until he is trained
  • Keep him in a small room/ bathroom
  • Stock the room with his litter, litter pan, fresh water, his bed and some toys.
  • Let him out only when you are home and can supervise him
  • Place him in the litter box:
  • When he wakes up
  • ½ after he eats
  • After vigorous play
  • Drag his front paws to simulate digging and covering.
  • Praise him when he hits the spot!
  • Place dry food in the area without a plate or foil.
cat litter mat
Phthalate Free Cat Litter Mat
Cleaning will eliminate the smell, restricting access and putting food down will help break their habit. Keep me posted. Simba

Dear Simba
This past November we lost Morgan, one of our 3 beloved cats. She was my husband's 'baby' and losing her was like losing a child. She was 12 years-old and died from cardiac arrest. Our two other "girls" are 9 and 7. Since Nadia, our 7-year-old favors me while Tasha, the 9-year-old does not favor anyone, he decided he needed a new kitten to fill the void. He came home with "2" little sisters. That is when the fun began! We kept them separated from the other two and when we felt it was okay gave them supervised time together.

Everything went smoothly until recently when Cayla, one of our new kittens decided it is easier to poop outside the litter box in a favorite corner in my office. This was never a problem until recently. She had no problem when her litter box was in a cage, so I thought she missed that feeling of security. I erected the cage again in my office on the spot she found so enticing. She has decided to go alongside the cage now. I discovered a little white worm in her stool last night and thought that was why she had reservations about the litter box. My husband took her to the vet this morning and was told she had tapeworm.

Could that be the reason for her sudden dislike of the litter box? So you know, I have three litter boxes going and clean them out twice a day and change the litter at least once a week, sometimes two times. Donna

Dear Donna,
So sorry to hear about Morgan. The wonderful thing about cats is the loving bond they can form with their people, it is because of this that their loss is so great.

As for your Cayla, I think you got it right. Because Tapeworm larvae are passed through the rectum, Cats & Kittens may on occasion experience itching & discomfort in the area, particularly if some worm larvae remain near the anus. It might be a good idea to have your kittens checked for fleas since these are the main transmitters of tapeworm. Keep me posted. Simba

Kitten Poops on Edge of Litter Box

Dear Simba,
My 6-month-old, 11 lb 'kitten' who has been very good about using his litter box although he has recently begun to hang his bottom over the edge of the box to do his business and in the process lets it drop onto the floor. He then gets out of the litter box and scratches at the floor to cover the poop up. What is very strange about this is that he does not 'miss' every time. Sometimes he goes days before he 'misses' and other times he 'thinks outside of the box' every time. I have scrubbed the box, changed the litter, and cleaned it every day. What else can I do? Bewildered

Dear Bewildered,
At 11 pounds and only 6 months of age, I worry that kitty may be overweight. He may not be able to properly position himself in the litter box so as to cleanly do his business. For the time being, I recommend that you place newspaper around your litter box and that you get kitty on a weight program monitored by your vet. Check out Feeding/Weight. Keep me posted. Simba

Dear Simba,
I have recently started having litter box problems with my 7-year old male cat. He persists in going just outside the edge of his large covered box along the wall. At first I thought it was protest against a dirty box, but I stepped up cleaning to twice a day. There seems to be no pattern. It does not happen every time he uses the tray. I disinfected the area with bleach so that there was no lingering odor to attract him. I also put down tin foil, but nothing seems to help. I also have an 11-year-old female who has no problems with the litter box. Frustrated.

Dear Frustrated,
It may be worthwhile to either change the location of the litter box in the house or get your 7-year-old his own litter box. Moving the litter box to a new location may cause him to use the box more regularly (be sure to let him know where it is!!). Getting him his own box may decrease any discomfort your cat feels at sharing a box with your other cat. It would be interesting to know if the episodes take place while the box is occupied by the female. Keep me posted. Simba

Kitten Uses Bathtub to Go Potty

Dear Simba,
Our new kitten/cat (10 mo. old) will not stop peeing in the bathtub. He goes poop and sometimes pees in his litter box, but he usually uses the bathtub to go pee. We have tried placing foil down and he went on that. We then tried filling it with water, but then he just goes outside of his litter box - right in front of it. We have tried different litters, a bigger box, with and without a lid. We clean the box twice a day and change the litter once a week. We do not know what else to do. We work all day and cannot be there to correct him all the time. He never goes anywhere else in the house, just in the tub or in front of the litter box. Steve

Dear Steve,
In my original response I suggested that you simply close off access to the bathtub to keep him away from the scene of the crime. A reader wrote with the following suggestion.

"I suggest he puts down newspaper in the bathtub and put the litter box in it, this will get the little one going in the box instead of the tub, Then he can take the box out after his kitten is trained and clean the tub with bleach and disinfectant." Barbara

I hope this helps. Thanks, Barbara. Simba


Dear Simba,
i have a 13-year-old cat who tends to "scoot" around the carpet each time she is done using the litter box. i have checked her anus, and there is no visible irritation. I would like to stop this behavior and help her out in case something is wrong. are there any remedies you recommend? Ginger

Dear Ginger,
It might be worthwhile to check your kitty for fleas and tapeworms. Tapeworm can at times cause discomfort in the anal area, which leads to scooting behavior. They are often transmitted by fleas. The reason Tapeworms cause discomfort is because they live in the small intestine and their eggs & larvae are often passed through in the cat's feces. This can leave active segments in the anal area, which cause discomfort and lead to scooting and licking. Have your vet check your kitty for Roundworms as well.

A possible cause is anal sac disease. The anal sacs are two small glands right inside the rectum. Cats (and many mammals) secrete a substance in the anal sacs to help in evacuation. However, with modern diets, this secretion is not needed as much and it tends to accumulate. In order to ease the pressure cats try to empty them by scooting across surfaces like carpets. It is important that anal sac disease be treated to relieve inflammation and avoid possible infections.

Your best bet is a visit to your vet. This is not a behavior problem, it is a medical one. Keep me posted. Simba

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