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Solving litter box and spraying problems

The majority of litter box and urine marking problems can be solved by reviewing these potential issues.

*This presentation was created by Kelley Bollen of Animal Alliances for Alleycat.org

Most common issues is inappropriate elimination – a cat stops using the litter box.

Critical first step.

Complete check up. Many times, underlying medical issues such as bladder stones, infection or stress related ailment.. You have to rule out any medical issues first or else you won't resolve the issue.

Even if medical issue is resolved, the pain from before can create a behavioural issue. Pain can be associated with the litter box even if pain is now gone.

Cats can stop using the litter box when there is an issue for them, not you. Just because you don't see an issue, doesn't mean there isn't an issue for your cat.

Scented or pellet litter can be an issue. Cats are very sensitive to scent and texture.

Cats don’t like change. Any change must be gradual but don’t change if you don’t have to. If you do want to change litter, put the new litter in one litter box to start and keep the other litter boxes with the old and slowly transition the other litter boxes to the new litter.

Litter that is too deep is problem because they feel like they are sinking. Too shallow litter is also an issue because cat can’t cover their waste.

Cats like to have lots of room to find their spot and turn and bury.

Most litter boxes are too small. Always use the bigger ones – even clothing containers or large plastic container.

Covered boxes trap odour like a stadium port-a-potty.

Self cleaning boxes are sometimes a problem. The area inside is small. The mechanism can be scary – the noise and movement.

Plastic Liners - Cats panic when their nails get caught in the plastic. Also the plastic smells and crinkles which will deter cats.

The picture below is not good. Litter boxes need to be in different areas of the home.

Household cleaners can have strong smells so you add an averse smell for the cat which may deter him/her from using the box.

Old boxes can retain previous scents in the grooves. No matter how well you clean, old odour and cat scents get embedded. You should change your box every 1-2 years.

Washer/dryers can create scary noises (buzzer, spin cycle). Cats need privacy but not too isolated.

Cats can develop a surface preference if the litter box gives negative recollections.

Make sure you find and remove every spot where kitty has eliminated. Use a black light for ease of discovery. Then use an enzyme cleaner on every spot until it is all gone.

After cleaning it fully, you can change the significance of the location. Cat’s won’t eat, drink, sleep where they defecate.

Or make it less appealing. After cleaning, use smell aversion (air freshener or sachet) or texture aversion (double sided tape, carpet runner or plastic rug protector (with the nubby side up)

Use deterrents, not punishments.

If your cat pees on your bedding, you can put bedding (old towel) in the litter box. Once they start going back to the box then you can slowly add litter and eventually remove the bedding/towel.

Once they are using the litter box you can slowly move the box to another location (move an inch every day)

Products help attract a cat to the box.


Urine marking has nothing to do with their litter box although many people confuse it with litter box issues.. Spraying is about territorial behaviour. Cats can urine marking when they are squatting. Both spayed and neutered cats can urine mark but most likely with unneutered males.

Common cause: Conflict with other cats. More than 10 cats in a home can lead to spraying.

Another cause: Anxiety

Purpose of the spraying is to make the area smell like them. (new couch, rug)

First step is to clean thoroughly with enzymatic cleaners.

If outdoor kitties are the trigger – block windows and doors or use products (Garden Ghost) to deter outdoor kitties from coming close.

If people or objects are the cause, use rewards to change to positive behaviour. For example, new boyfriend gives cat treats.


Recommended product: Feliway

Facial pheromones can help reduce anxiety

There are a few medications that help resolve or lessen this issue without making the cats act like zombies. Amitriptyline is one that works on many cats.

However, keep in mind that sometimes the process of getting the pill in the cat can cause anxiety.


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