Addressing “litter box accidents”

The cat, from a very young age, is «programmed» to be clean. He isolates himself to do his needs, and then scrapes the ground to bury his feces. This innate behaviour is reinforced by the maternal example during the first weeks, and by the reflexes of imitation between congeners.

And yet “litter accidents” are not uncommon, with cats “doing” either at the foot of their litter without entering it, or in various places in the house. It is then that there is a reflection to be conducted to interpret this behavior and reorganize the «toilets» of your cat.

Things to be considered

1 – Is the litter tray clean? Cats are very sensitive to odours, and a neglected litter box fills in the scent of ammonia, which is a deterrent: daily cleaning is required, even if the cat is clean.


2 – Is the litter suitable? There are several types of litter (vegetable, mineral, or silica-based) that can stick to the legs, release dust, or simply have a smell the cat is wary of. Avoid the so-called «perfumed» litter, which suits our nostrils is not necessarily appreciated by cats.Once the right model is adopted, do not change it.


3- Remove the cover. Most litter boxes have a cover to contain odours and to isolate the cat who is very shy… In case of incidents, remove this cover which can disturb him if he is a big cat (can he turn inside this litter?) and which encloses the odors.


4 –Several cats, several litters! If most cats are not offended by a congener sharing their litter, some are very «personal» and will ignore this litter with foreign odors. You then have to try (it doesn’t necessarily work…) to multiply the litter boxes in the house, so that everyone finds his own little place.


5- The toilet area is not the dining area: The cat separates his living areas: resting place, dining place, toilets. The litter box must therefore be placed in an accessible location, but at a distance from other areas, which can be a problem in small apartments. In any case, a quiet place that respects his privacy.


6-Cats are fond of the smell of bleach: clean the tray thoroughly when changing litter, using bleach, which is part of the «good smells» sought by cats.

These few observations make it possible to treat 60% of cleanliness incidents.

But there may be pathological problems of behavior (anxiety, stress, antagonisms between cats) or inflammation of the urinary system (cystitis, urethritis)… to be settled with your veterinarian.


An article by Jean-Yves Gauchet, veterinarian