Getting a cat to choose kitty litter over grass?
February 23, 2010 5:26 PM   Subscribe

Tips for getting an indoor/outdoor cat to use a litter box, when he much prefers to go al fresco?

My cat will use a litterbox very neatly when he's locked inside for whatever reason (usually moving house or sickness). The problem is, he normally has freedom to go outdoors whenever he wishes; but the house we're currently renting only has a small, neat patch of lawn surrounded by decking. This isn't conducive to good pooping - he has trouble digging it up the runner grass to do a proper burial, and consequently the backyard is extremely smelly.

We figure the solution is to get him to poo into something specific - an outdoor litter box would be fine. We could even tolerate an indoor one if necessary. But even though the grass is uncooperative, he prefers it anyway, presumably for territorial reasons. We've tried putting a litter box out on the grass but so far he just ignores it, even when we've seen him start scratching and plonked him into the litter tray.

More facts:

- He loves being outdoors, and he has done so all his life, so I'm not very keen to make him an indoor cat.

- He is usually incredibly neat and conscientious about burying his crap, but we've always lived in houses that have some loose soil in the yard.

- Our lease on this house is pretty short and the grass is carefully manicured, so making a garden bed probably isn't an option.

- The poops are semi-buried, so finding them and picking them up ourselves isn't easy.
posted by 8k to Pets & Animals (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
what about putting dirt in the litter box instead of litter? you could even sprinkle some grass seeds on the dirt-box (although I doubt they'd sprout if he uses it).
posted by dogmom at 5:40 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Maybe try putting a layer of backyard dirt and lawn clippings in his litterbox, transitioning to less dirt/grass and more kitty litter until he gets it.

Also, try different brands of litter, he may be less than enamored for the super-perfumed stuff that is commonly used. Feline Pine, Swheat Stuff or World's Best all smell outdoorsy compared to clumping clay litters.

I guess worse case, you can always uncover a small patch of grass in the far corner of your yard and let kitty do his thing in his beloved loose dirt.
posted by jamaro at 5:42 PM on February 23, 2010

You could try Cat Attract litter, "the only litter designed for cats that do not consistently use their litter box." "These litters also feature the ideal texture, particle size and “paw feel” to create the ideal litter box environment for your cats."
posted by amtho at 5:54 PM on February 23, 2010

Our indoor/outdoor cat with the same issues greatly prefers mulch as his outdoor "litter". You could buy a small bag of pine bark or some such at a gardening store and dump it in an out of the way corner of the yard--maybe up against the house or under the deck?
posted by hydropsyche at 6:18 PM on February 23, 2010

Thanks for the suggestions - I will definitely try using dirt/grass/mulch in his litter box. Not sure why we hadn't thought of that already!

I would try that Cat Attract litter too, but it doesn't seem to be stocked anywhere here in Australia and I guess with postage it wouldn't be worthwhile.
posted by 8k at 6:44 PM on February 23, 2010

My bad, I forgot to check where you were located. It's basically a light, small-grained litter, and there's supposed to be a mysterious "herb" also in the litter. Maybe it's grass? Maybe catnip? I've not used it for a long time, but I don't remember it having any strong human-detectable smell.
posted by amtho at 10:41 PM on February 23, 2010

The current problem is that he's used to the grass and likes it, and going in the box is less appealing so he doesn't bother. Changing the box contents is definitely a good start. You can also aim to move his preferred spot away from there. Any kind of hidden away corner you can dig up a bit could work, give him a teeny tiny garden all his own to go in. You can also just try making a pile of cat litter in a corner if he really isn't keen on climbing in the box (cats can be lazy!). Make it as close to his preferred pooing in a garden experience as possible otherwise he'll keep preferring to use the grass. Once he's going consistently in one small space or corner you can always move a litter box there (since it's easier to clean plus the litter will help control the odour), the build up of scent marking and habit in that place will reinforce it as his toilet and help break his current preference for going on the grass.

I have the opposite problem, plenty of garden out there I don't have to clean up and they go out there and dig around then come inside and leave their stinky turds sitting on top of the cat litter. Pity we can't swap!
posted by shelleycat at 11:09 PM on February 23, 2010

I'll second mulch. When ever we've put down a fresh patch of mulch down, it's the current favorite for out door litter needs. This doesn't work so well when you've just planted flowers and are yelling at the cat to pee in the grass which I'm sure amuses the neighbors but it sounds like it would work perfectly for your needs. The shredded kind seems to be the favorite.
posted by stray thoughts at 11:25 AM on February 24, 2010

Thanks for the answers. Using soil with a bit of grass on top of the dirt helped at first, and we don't even need to put grass on it now. As it's easier than digging in the runner grass, it's appealing to him - but *only* if we clean it out every day. Unfortunately getting the poop out of a tray full of soil is a bit more difficult than with fancy clumping cat litter... but it kind of works.
posted by 8k at 4:52 AM on April 2, 2010

Now that he's happy with the box of dirt you could try mixing in small amounts of cat litter. The aim would be to wean him over to all litter but even having some in there might make the scooping easier. It's a balancing act though, you don't want him to get in a snit and go back to the grass.
posted by shelleycat at 5:54 PM on April 3, 2010

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