Cats have a natural instinct to do their business in dirt and sand, and a lot of cats and kittens will start using a litter box all on their own. If you’re one of those lucky cat owners, indoor accidents are few and far between. But what happens when your new cat (or even a cat you’ve lived with for years) flat out refuses to use the litter box you so generously provide? The first thing you want to do is make sure the litter is clean–no one likes to use a dirty bathroom. If that’s not the issue, and your cat is healthy, the next most common cause of bathroom troubles with cats has to do with litter box location.
You can’t just tuck the cat’s litter box in any old corner of the house and expect your feline friend to find it. Here we’ll look at the rules for litter box location and why those rules are important.
Convenience and Accessibility
It’s pretty normal to want to put your cat’s litter box in a spot where you don’t have to look at it or, more importantly, smell it. We get it, a plastic litter box will never match your furniture, and even a clean litter box can have a slight smell. But when you’re deciding on litter box location, think about where the human bathrooms in your house are located. Bathrooms typically neighbor common areas of the house, and they’re easy to get to. That’s why master bathrooms and powder rooms are so desirable. When you have to go, convenience is important.
The same need for accessibility applies to cats. When your cat has to go to the bathroom, she doesn’t want to go through a maze of hallways and doors. And if she really has to go, she won’t make it in time anyway. Your cat’s litter box location needs to be in an area that’s easily accessible and convenient. Think about where your cat spends most of her time, and find a nearby spot for the litter box. The back corner of the garage or basement are not good spots. Your cat needs to have 24/7 access and not be barred access by closed doors. And if your home has multiple floors, it’ll help your cat to have a litter box on each floor.
Peace and Quiet
Cats can be skittish creatures, and loud sounds can seriously freak them out. The laundry room is a popular choice for litter box location, but this can sometimes backfire. Washers and dryers make a lot of noise. If your cat is on the shy side, the loud sounds of doing laundry can scare them off. They won’t want to use the litter box when the washer or dryer is running. And if they start to associate that room with those nerve-wracking sounds, they won’t want to enter even when all is quiet.
Cats prefer to do their business in an area that is calm and quiet. It should be out of the way from the normal foot traffic in the house. And if your cat gets spooked easily, it’s best to stay away from large appliances. Even freezers, refrigerators, and showers can make unpleasant noises. Cats insist on feeling safe when they’re taking care of business.
The Right Smells
Cats are sensitive to smells, and they’re fully aware that their litter box has a distinct odor. They appreciate the smell of a clean litter box, and they won’t use stinky litter that hasn’t been changed. There are certain smells that your cat enjoys, and there are also smells they would rather avoid. If your dog and cat have a strained relationship, for example, it’s not a great idea to have the litter box location near the dog’s bedding or anything else that smells like dog.
The same rule applies to smells your cat really likes. Your cat won’t appreciate litter box smells mixing in with yummy food smells. If you put your cat’s food dish next to the litter box, don’t be surprised if she chooses to do her business somewhere else that isn’t in direct proximity of where she eats her meals.
When your cat doesn’t want to use the litter box, there’s always a reason. If you think it might be the litter box location, try moving it to a more accessible and appropriate area. Make sure your cat knows where the box is and give them full access to that area. You might need to find creative ways to incorporate a litter box into a room’s decor or devise a method to ensure a room’s door always stays open. Your cat–and whoever cleans the floors–will appreciate the extra effort.
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