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3 Expert Tips to Stop Your Cat Toileting Outside Their Litter Tray

Published date: 11 March 2024

One of the most common behaviours cat owners wish to change is their cat’s inappropriate toileting habits. There is always a reason a cat will toilet somewhere other than their litter tray.

So here are 3 tips to help your cat use their tray!

Check Tray Location

Cats feel vulnerable when they are toileting, so will avoid an area that seems too threatening. Cats NEED to feel safe where they toilet. So, the location of a litter tray should be carefully considered.

Avoid areas that are loud, busy, or strong smelling as these can be extremely off-putting. Cats also tend to not like wide open spaces and much like us prefer privacy when they do their business. So, consider placing your cat litter tray in the corner of a less well-used room. For example: the corner of a bathroom.

Keep the Tray Clean

Our feline friends are remarkably hygienic creatures who will actively avoid using a dirty tray. Much how we might forgo using a messy public bathroom!

First and foremost, it is worth assessing the type of litter you are using. High-quality ultra-absorbent litter will keep the tray cleaner and smelling fresher for much longer.

It is also important to be on top of your litter-cleaning regime. The best rule to follow is to remove mess as soon as you see it. Remember to only use pet-safe cleaners on your cats’ litter tray.

Check the Tray Size

Our cats learn from a young age the art of digging and burying the evidence of their toileting. So, their litter tray and toileting area must allow for this natural motion.

The rough size needed for a cat to be able to turn around fully is:

1 and ½ times the length of your cat from the nose to the base of their tail.

Cats will typically show a preference for either an open or closed tray. So, if they show a reluctance to use one type it might be worth trying a different style. It is essential that in a multi-cat household, there are enough trays to go around. The rule is one tray per cat PLUS one extra. Cats should never be forced to share a toileting space, it can lead to tension, aggression, and toileting issues.

Remember safer and cleaner the tray is the more likely your cat will use it!

Common Cat Toileting Areas (and what they mean!)

Under the Bed
Choosing to do their business underneath an object often indicates their tray is not positioned somewhere safe. Look for a quieter and more private area to place their tray. Alternatively, try using a covered litter tray.

Next to the Litter Tray
This could be a simple case of avoiding a dirty tray. Remember to keep trays as clean as possible and remove mess every day! If you are already on top of your cleaning regime it’s worth checking the size of the tray is suitable to the size of the cat.

On a House Visitor Belongings
This is certainly an embarrassing one… If your cat toilets on your house guest shoes, socks, bag etc. It’s likely a sign of stress. This behaviour is typically seen in cats that aren’t as well socialised and so are struggling with the presence of a stranger in the home. Use calming products to help desensitise your cat to new people in the home and encourage a quiet and calm environment.

Written by Lucy Marcham

Lucy teaches all aspects of the Pets Corner curriculum and specialises in animal nutrition, ensuring that our staff have the right knowledge and understanding of pet diets to assist customers with confidence and care.