Litter box problem with 2 cats

by Shirley
(Houston, Texas)

I have two four-year old tabbies (one male, one female litter mates) neutered and spayed. In the last few months, the male has begun to refuse to use his box.


The girl continued to use her box for awhile, but now neither of them will use a box. They both go (urine and feces) on the cement floor beside the box.

They never go potty anywhere else in the house. I began to put paper down to make clean up easier, but of course, they wad that up and make a bad situation even worse.

Short of making them live outdoors, is there a solution for this behavior?

My Thoughts

I'm sorry to hear that your cats are having troubles, Shirley. I'm assuming that both cats have been vet checked, as medical problems are often the root cause of box issues.

Is your male cat showing any signs of joint pain, difficulty jumping, arthritis, lameness, and so on? In other words, could he physically get in and out of the box without an issue?

I think it's possible that your female cat is being a copy cat here. Where goes one, often goes the other, and any residual odors will act as an attractant that says "this is the toilet area."

You need to be certain that your clean up is 100 percent kitty nose approved. By that I mean that they should not be able to smell any residual trace of urine or feces in that area.

To be sure, get yourself a black light and go over the area with it to be certain that your cleaning efforts are as good as they can be.

Often, when a cat (or two) have decided that a specific location is now the bathroom, the solution is simply to place a litter box right on top of the area.

After checking with the black light and cleaning to kitty specs...

Normally, I wouldn't recommend side-by-side litter boxes, but in this case, since the problem area is right next to the existing box, I'd place another box down right there.

Things to consider...

1) Since your male cat started this behavior first, what was going on in his life just prior to this happening?

Were there any changes in the house, routines, jobs, family members, room usage, other pets, etc.?

Were there any changes to the box, the litter, the cleaning frequency, cleaning products used?

I ask these simple questions because I've had people write to me saying "I've tried everything" only to have them realize... "oh, yeah, I moved the box and it started right after that. I forgot. I moved it back, and everything is fine now."

2) With 2 cats, the recommended number of boxes is 3, placed in quiet (but not remote) areas of the house.

It's possible that these two kitties had a few scraps or there was some box guarding going on. Even the best of friends can get into some spats, and that can throw one a cat off the box.

3) Have you tried blocking access to the area they are using? You can block it first, or you can go right to my original suggestion and just place a litter box down right there.

4) Have you increased exercise and play time for these two? Have you taken any steps to reduce any stresses that might be on them?

5) Have you tried Feliway? It doesn't work in all cases but it may help to reduce stress or anxiety, a common cause of box problems.

There are also other products, such as Rescue Remedy for anxiety, and Cat Attract to encourage box usage.

6) Plastic absorbs odors, so a new litter box (after trying the side-by-side) might be an idea.

7) If all else fails, isolation retraining may be the way to go. I've written about this many times on this site, but if you're not familiar with that concept, please leave me a comment and let me know.

I hope that helps. Please let us know how it goes with them.
-Kurt

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Nov 08, 2015
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litter box problems
by: Dale W.

My wife and I have kept cats (we love Birmans) for several years now and recently the male of our pair (brother and sister) began having troubles with litter box and loose bowls. I was patient with him and on the second trip to the vet, she suggested that we should change cat foods.

It took about a week to get things corrected (with Iams dry food and no canned food) I had noticed that labels on the fancy feast showed "label printed in USA"... as a retired USDA food inspector this was a red flag.

Maybe some of the food from that family of cat foods is being produced in China or some other foreign country... anyway both of our cats are healthy again and very special friends. Good Luck from Hutchinson, KS

Oct 19, 2013
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Just a Thought
by: DeerAnnie

I had a male & female, also -
I agree, I did find almost every time my male began to go outside of the box he had a urinary problem & he needed treatment.

I also found using a clumping litter and being almost OCD when it came to keeping their box "clump-less"/clean-clean-clean(!) at all times was helpful.

At least every 5 days or so their box was emptied and sanitized & deodorized.

When my female aged I had to use "pads" outside the box & try to catch her when she headed that way as it was hard for her to get into the box unless I lifted her. She lived to be 23 (he was 19 when he passed).

There was never a time they went outside the box that it was not medically related.

If you're away, keep a soft music station on. It's helpful & calming.

They are calmed by having access to things that smell like you... that is why they choose to sleep in your bed, or where you are, or have been or spend your time at home.

Be kind/thoughtful that way.
In the "wild" animals are clean.
Be thoughtful that way, as well.

Keep their water fresh every day (& night - washing out the bowl). The water cold as well as fresh. I am surprised how many bowls are slimy and gross.

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