What To Do When Your Cat 'Goes' Outside The Box


Let's face it: Your new rescue cat might not be in love with her litter box. But that doesn't mean she won't grow to love it. In the meantime, there are plenty of things you can do to help make her more comfortable — or to be ready for any messes. We spoke to animal behaviorist Dr. Kelly Ballantyne about cat-care ideas to get your new best friend comfortable with using the litter box long-term.

Create a kitty litter tool kit

Your cat won’t go anywhere near their litter box if it’s a mess, so for the sake of both of you, be prepared for regular cleanings, Ballantyne told The Dodo. It doesn’t take anything fancy: You just need a scooper, unscented dish soap and a good scrub brush.

Clean the box thoroughly weekly, and don’t use anything scented since your cat is sensitive to smells. For upkeep, scoop the clumps out at least once a day. Finally, wipe the edges of the box with soap and water. Now you have a nice clean box for your kitty’s caboose!


Respect your cat’s comfort

Every cat has a safe spot, or a place in your home where they spend most of their time. If they’re not using their litter box, it might be caused by location, ease of access, or a negative experience in or around the box, Ballantyne said. That means it’s time to choose a new location, remembering to remain mindful of your cat’s needs and figuring out where they’re most comfy. 

However, you want to avoid moving their existing litter box since cats aren’t big fans of change. Instead, place a second litter box near “their spot,” and gently introduce them to it. If you don’t have an extra litter box or your kitty only responds to the one, move it a couple of inches a day until it’s in a location both of you are good with.

If you have multiple cats or levels in your home, purchasing extra boxes will give your cat more options. Through observing the preferences of each kitty, you’ll figure out the best places for permanent boxes.

Consider switching litter

Not all litter is pleasing to your cat. Ballantyne said that the type of litter you choose can be a factor; if it’s too rough, too soft, too much, too little, too scented or simply just too “meh,” your cat may stay away.

Cats tend to respond to litter that contains pine shavings or soft materials — and anything that keeps their space dry. Arm & Hammer™ AbsorbX™ is great for that since it's made to absorb wetness, clump in seconds, and seal in odors quickly. Best of all: It’s lightweight, meaning carrying it up your steps won’t do a number on your back.

Search for stains

Pay attention to your cat’s bathroom habits if she’s new to your home or struggling to adapt to change. According to Ballantyne, marking is a sign of being nervous and your cat may continue to use that same spot out of comfort. You’ll need to thoroughly clean it to motivate her to go back to the litter box. Use an enzyme cleaner, which breaks down the stain to keep your cat from returning to mark. With a little coaxing, and the help of these tips, your cat should become comfortable doing her business in the litter box and return to living her best life.