How to Avoid Common Litter Box Problems

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Cats can get fussy about their litter boxes. Things like the size of the litter to the location of the box in your house are important. You certainly don’t want your cat to develop any sort of elimination problems. This can mean occasionally eliminating in inappropriate places in the house (like your bed!) and excessive digging that can make a mess outside the box. Your cat can even start to completely avoid the litter box. Do you think she forgot where it is? No, she’s trying to tell you something.

You can keep kitty happy and avoid cat litter box problems by knowing a few basic tips. Let’s take a look at a few factors you need to know in order to avoid common cat litter box problems so you can rest assured that you are providing the best cat litter box experience for your furbaby.

According to the ASPCA “At least 10% of all cats develop elimination problems. Some stop using the box altogether. Some only use their boxes for urination or defecation but not for both. Still others eliminate both in and out of their boxes.”

Which Type and Size of Litter Box is Best for Your Cat

You will need more than one box if you have more than one cat. Have at least one litter box per cat plus an extra one in the house. It’s also recommended to have 2 boxes if you only have one cat.


Cats prefer larger boxes where they have sufficient space to move around and dig at the litter freely. The ideal litter box size should roughly be the length of your cat from the nose to the tip of the extended tail. The width of the box should be the length of the cat without an extended tail. The average litter box size is approximately 12”x16”.

The height of the box can be anywhere between 5” to 7” for a regular adult cat with no mobility issues.


There are a few types of litter boxes on the market today.

  • Regular tray: A good size tray is usually the least expensive option and a good overall choice. Make sure it’s big enough.
  • Hooded: Hooded litter boxes are not recommended because strong smells get trapped inside the box when can provoke breathing and health issues. Scented litters make the experience even worse for your cat. Your cat doesn’t appreciate floral scents as much as you do. They have very sensitive noses and may stop using the box altogether.
  • Self-cleaning: One of the newest trends is the self-cleaning litter box. It’s great not to have to scoop out poop every day. But the success rate of these boxes is not high because some cats get startled by the noise that they make and consequently refuse to use them. Also, it’s a good idea to scoop every day in order to keep an eye on your cat's poop because this is where you can pick up any health issues.

Where to Put the Litter Box in Your Home

Location Ideas

The best place for the litter box is in a quiet area where the cat won’t be spooked. Next to the washer/dryer is probably not a good idea. The perfect location for the litter box would be somewhere quiet and private, away from other people and heavy foot traffic yet easy for you to access. Usually, spare bedrooms, low-traffic bathrooms, or offices work best. Put a litter box on every floor of your house if you can.

Places to avoid

Cats don’t like to feel cornered. Your cat needs to be able to see if anyone (or anything) is approaching. So putting the litter box in a corner with no possible way out is not a good idea. Kitties need some space to do his or her business, so a closet a tiny room won’t usually work.

Avoid putting the cat litter box near their food and water bowls. Cats don’t like to poop where they eat.

Avoid putting the litter box in a high traffic area. Cats also need a little privacy!

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The right choice, for your kitty and the earth.

Which Type of Litter to Use

There are many types of litters out there. The type you put in the litter box is quite important. Your cat will let you know pretty early on that she doesn’t like her litter texture or odor by refusing to use it. Here are a few suggestions to raise your success rate.

  • Low-scent or scent-free: It may seem tantalizing to get litter that has scent gels or some kind of odor control agent. Cats’ noses are extremely sensitive. Many cats are bothered by the strong smell and may refuse to use the scented litter. I’d suggest only lightly-scented (all-natural, of course) or scent-free litters.
  • Natural: Choosing a natural and eco-friendly litter is best to keep you and your cat healthy. Regular clay or silicone litters can be a health hazard to both your family and your cat. Look for a litter that’s plant-based, includes no toxic ingredients, and doesn’t have the risk of aflatoxin contamination.

Common Cat Litter Box Problems

Here are a few common issues that cat carers encounter regarding litter boxes:

Here are a few common issues that cat carers encounter regarding litter boxes:

The litter box is not cleaned regularly.

Scoop every day to keep kitty happy and returning to the box without having to walk over old poop.

The litter box is too small/too big.

Make sure to provide a large enough box for your cat to feel comfortable in. Get a tray with lower sides if your cat has mobility issues.

The litter box is not accessible.

Don’t hide the box where it’s difficult to get to. Your cat may simply not bother going to it.

There’s too much litter in the box.

Cats don’t want to feel like they are sinking into the litter. Your cat may get scared if she gets the feeling of sinking in quicksand and may refuse to get into the box. Your kitty may just kick the excess litter out of the box to get the proper amount she likes.

There’s not enough litter in the box.

On the other hand, your cat may not feel comfortable if there isn’t enough litter to cover up her business and decide to go somewhere else like your bedsheets. Typically a depth of 2”-3” of litter is a comfortable amount for your kitty to dig in and go.

There are too many cats for the amount of cat litter boxes.

Remember the rule of 1 box per cat plus an extra. Cats can get territorial if sharing boxes and one cat may intimidate the others making them avoid the litter box out of fear.

The cat litter has a strong odor.

Cats’ noses are extra sensitive and you should avoid strong perfumes and agents that mask smells.

Medical issue.

Your cat may go outside of the box if she has a medical problem like a urinary tract infection, kidney stones, or feline interstitial cystitis. She may feel an urgency to urinate and can’t make it to the box. You need to see your vet if you observe your cat straining, peeing small amounts, or eliminating more frequently than usual.


Cats don’t like changes and something in their daily lives may provoke them to seek other places to do their business. Things like a house move, a new baby, even a new piece of furniture in the house may upset them. Observe your cat and put the litter box where she is going to eliminate if you can.

Tips for Successful Litter Box Maintenance

  • Keep the cat litter box clean.
  • Provide enough litter boxes.
  • Provide a large enough box.
  • Avoid litter boxes with hoods or self-cleaning mechanism.
  • Fill with no more than 2”-3” of litter.
  • Use only unscented, lightly (all-natural) scented, and natural litter.
  • Place in a quiet but not cornered location, far from their food.

Positive Litter Box Experience

Don’t scold your cat or shove her nose in her mess if she goes outside the box. Unless she has a major behavioral problem, there is usually a simple solution.

Following a few simple rules and having basic litter knowledge will help you to avoid any possible litter box problems. Providing a safe and comfortable litter box for your cat will have her happy and keeping her business inside the box and not anywhere else in the house.

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Introducing TofuKitty litter

Hi, I’m Molly, an environmental ecologist and creator of TofuKitty. I created a new kind of litter that was made with you, your kitty, and the planet in mind. You shouldn’t have to choose between effective cat litter and making green choices. My litter is:


Triple odor protection


Dust free




Low tracking

Chemical free

Super absorbent

Pest free

Soft on paws

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The right choice, for your kitty and the earth.
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The right choice, for your kitty and the earth.
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