Litter Box Problem - Litter changed two years ago, but she won't go back
Two years ago, my boyfriend tried changing his cat's brand of litter. She freaked out and refused to use the box at all. He instantly changed back, but it didn't help. This was two years ago and since then she has used the litter box only sporadically.
In the past six months or so, it's gotten to the point where she won't use the box at all, for either pee or poop. She goes all over the house, almost always on carpeted surfaces but she will go on clothing if we leave it on the floor. Help! We adore her and would never ever consider getting rid of her, but I am at my wit's end.
When something isn't working, it's time to try something different. I'm assuming she has no health problems that the vet can detect. If there's a health problem, you'll be fighting an uphill battle that you can't win.
It sounds like she has developed a preference for texture, specifically, a soft texture like carpet. This can happen at any time in a cat's life, and sometimes the cause is unknown. If she was "shocked" by a litter change and then discovered a preference for texture, that explains why she didn't go back to normal.
If there are no health problems, and a cat has developed a preference for texture and/or location, then the usual rules apply.
You may have to try different levels of litter. Some cats, especially long haired cats (my cat Frankie included) sometimes like to move all the litter out of the way and defecate on a smooth surface. If there's too much litter in the box, she can't do this. About 2 - 3 inches of litter is usually about right for an all-purpose situation, but you may have to try more or less and see what happens.
Isolation retraining is probably the quickest method, but there
are a few more things to note.
1. You have to thoroughly clean any areas where she has soiled. The smell will bring her back to those spots. Use an enzymatic cleaner like Atmosklear. There's also Dumb Cat although I don't know anyone who has recommended that product.
2. You can also block the areas if it's feasible to do so. If not, cats don't like to walk on certain surfaces. Take a flattened cardboard box and cover it with either tin foil, double-sided tape, or an upside down area rug with a rough backing and cover the area after you've cleaned it. They usually will avoid this area.
3. After cleaning the area, try putting an additional litter box right on the area she most frequently uses. Unfortunately, if she's expanded to using the entire house, these methods may not work.
4. Try isolation retraining. Put your cat in a room with toys, bedding, a clean litter box, and food and water (not near the box). Thoroughly clean any areas she may have soiled in the past or else she'll just go back to those. Keep her in that room while you're out. Let her out when you can supervise her. If you see her go for the floor, you can try startling her by clapping (not enough to scare her, just to distract her) and quickly scoop her up and put her in the box.
5. Try Feliway. It has been said to work in some cases to relieve tension and solve litter box problems.
6. In really extreme cases, cage/carrier training may work. Put your cat in a carrier. Let her out for exercise/play sessions, meal time, and to use the box only. Cats usually use the box shortly after exercise, waking, and eating/drinking.
7. Contact a qualified animal behaviorist/pet psychologist who can work closely with you and your cat.
I hope that helps some.