Updated: Feb 21
House soiling is a frustrating and infuriating behavior and the number one reason cats are relinquished to shelters. I believe strongly that it is a problem that can be remedied if caught early enough and changes are made. We have to also realize that it is perfectly normal for cats to communicate with their urine. This is normal behavior for them. It only becomes a problem when they live in our house 24/7.
Here’s the thing about house soiling, you’re never going to just talk your cat out of this behavior. If you want different outcomes, you have to have different conditions. In other words, something has to change for things to change.
In early 2000 I adopted a pair of kittens named Joey and Chandler. Chandler was such a handsome solid black sleek kitty. (Pictures of him are all over the website.) And of course, he was the one who peed outside of the litter box. Had to be my favorite cat, right? After lots of investigation, I was finally able to understand what triggered his behavior and live within his rules. Sure some of them were not ideal but neither was the pee on my carpet. If I stuck to the rules, then he used the litter boxes about 99% of the time.
Cats have about 200 million scent receptors in the nose while humans only have about 5 million. Their sensitive noses are what give us our main litterbox rules:
Rule 1: No litter boxes with hoods, hoods trap smells and dust. And scent-free litter is best. Many fragrances are just too strong for a kitty’s sensitive nose.
Rule 2: Scoop every single day, at least once sometimes twice a day if you have multiple cats.
Rule 3: Have at least one litterbox on each level of the house and have one more box than you have cats. I have 6 cats and 7 litterboxes.
Rule 4: Dump and scrub! Once every month or two completely dump out all the litter in the box and scrub it with soap and water. And replace it with brand-new clean litter. You just can’t get every tiny little bit of old urine clumps out of the box when you scoop. No need to use something stinky like bleach, soap, and water works fine. If you feel like even after scrubbing the box it’s still stinky, it’s time to replace it. Plastic is porous and over time the plastic will hold onto smells.
Rule 5: If there is a specific target that they are peeing on then you have to eliminate their ability to get to that target. An example would be if a kitty pees on dirty laundry either on the floor or in a basket, then the clothes must never be left on the floor, and/or the basket needs to be changed to one with a top.
I like Dr. Elsey’s Precious Cat the best, and so did Chandler. Any time over the years I tried to change he would go right back to peeing outside of the box. Dr. Elsey’s litter clumps well, has no added fragrance, and is as dust-free as any litter can be. I also add a little of his Senior litter to each box which helps the clumps not adhere to the plastic of the pan like concrete.
My little cheat to the dump and scrub: A few years ago I found myself putting off the dump and scrub cause, yes, it’s a lot of work. I started buying these cardboard disposable litter boxes. So instead of all the scrubbing, all you have to do is throw them away and fill up a new one! Now I use these for almost all my pans, so much less work. Two plastic litterboxes that I like a lot are the ModKat box, which is nice and tall. After one of my cats started standing up to pee I replaced a couple of my cardboard boxes with these. I love the reusable liner and how nice and tall they are. Now Finn can stand up as much as he wants and all the pee stays in the box! Although, I did take the removable top off of them. I wish they sold it as an option because you know how I feel about covered pans. Lastly, the Nvr Miss Litterbox, this box is also nice and tall and does not have a hood or lid, and is specially designed to keep kitty, pee, and litter all inside the box!
Bottom line: If you think the box is stinky imagine what they smell! You really can’t have a box that’s too clean, there is just no such thing. One of my favorite vets that I’ve worked with for 25 years always says: “If you wouldn’t put your bare feet in that litter box, we can’t expect them to!”
Next time: What if you’ve done all the litter box hygiene things and the house soiling is still going on, what’s next?