Your beloved fur-baby is avoiding their litter box and peeing in places that they shouldn’t.
This is a terribly frustrating time for you and (even though they may not appear so) a very stressful time for your cat.
There are many reasons (some obvious, others very subtle) as to why your cat is peeing outside the litter box.
Aside from the location of the box and the size of the box, the litter that you are using is something important that you can control. It’s not so much that you have to encourage your cat to use their litter box, as you need to find out what’s causing them to AVOID it.
1) Fragrance of the Kitty Litter
“Scented” or “fragranced” litter is a turn-off for your cat. Manufacturers add chemicals that seem pleasant to human noses but are terribly off-putting to your cat’s extremely sensitive sense of smell. Fresh kitty litter should be neutral…that is, it should smell like NOTHING.
2) What the Litter is Made of
Some common and commercially available choices in litter materials include:
-CLAY (clumping and non-clumping): It may not be your personal preference but most cats prefer unscented, clumping clay litter. Clay litter is widely available and relatively inexpensive. It is very heavy, it is dusty and it is a pain to dispose of. Clumping clay is almost often the superior choice. Used non-clumping clay is very difficult to completely clean out of the box. When used litter mixes with fresh litter, you get fast bacterial growth and smellier litter box conditions.
-SILICA CRYSTALS: popular with humans because it tends to ‘lock away’ the urine smells better than other types of litter. Silica crystals are also very light-weight and not too dusty. This type of litter is more expensive than clay litter and some cats do not prefer the feel of this litter. It is possible that with long-term use the ingestion (from licking their paws) and inhalation (from breathing in the fine dust) may have health repercussions for your cat.
-TREE BASED: these are found in the form of some kind of paper product (shredded or pellets), pine/wood (shredded or pellet) or crushed nut shells/husks (typically walnut or coconut). For people who like to ‘go green’, these seem like good litter box options. These type of litters are lighter in weight than clay but heavier than silica. You must carefully carefully clean all used litter from the box, or you will have a problem with bacterial growth (and smelliness).
-CORN/WHEAT BASED: These are made of ground corn and wheat and they are biodegradable. They are about the same weight and cost as the tree-based litters as well. Corn and wheat ingredients can cause problems in cats who have sensitivity/allergies to grains. Even though your cat will not eat their litter, they will lick their paws which will have the corn/wheat dust on them. If your cat is on a grain-free diet, they should also have grain-free litter.
3) Depth of Litter
It may seem to you that the more fresh litter that you add to the box, the less often you will need to clean the box or refill the box. However, many cats are turned off by a litter box that is so deep and full that they feel as if they are sinking. If they feel unsafe in their potty, they are more likely to be peeing outside the litter box.
It is best to keep not more than about 1 inch (2.5 cm) of depth in your litter box. By using less litter at one time, you will also reduce the opportunity for your cat to kick litter over the sides or tracking litter out into the house.
4) Cleanliness of Litter Box
Cats are by nature, clean animals. They like their potty area to be clean and odorless. This is why using an odor-free litter, using a well-clumping litter, and cleaning out the litter box frequently are all very good ideas if you are trying to encourage your cat to use their litter box.
Ideally, you should be scooping out the waste right after your cat leaves the potty (to avoid bacterial growth which leads to smelliness). If that is not possible then at least twice a day (morning and evening). You can spray the litter box area (inside walls of the box as well as lightly on top of the litter) with an enzyme spray that is specifically designed to safely and effectively neutralize cat urine.
Also, on a regular schedule you should be disposing of all the litter and cleaning out the entire box, as well as cleaning the litter scoop itself. (I use lots of water, some biodegradable liquid soap and hydrogen peroxide, scrub everything well and allow to dry in the sun if possible). For best results, do this whole-box cleaning once a week, although every 2 – 4 weeks is usually all right.
Try not to neglect this chore for much longer than that, as odors will get stronger. You may be able to ignore a smelly litter box but your cat cannot. If your cat thinks its potty area is unacceptable, then it will be more inclined to pee outside of the litter box and urinate in other (clean) areas of the house.