Kittens pooping everywhere. Send help, please!
June 3, 2008 12:16 PM   Subscribe

Help a first-time pet companion teach her kittens to use their litter box consistently!

My two 8 week old kittens know how to use the litter boxes. The trouble is, they also like to use the carpet (under a bookcase and between the couch and a wall), linoleum, and towels. I've searched Google and AskMe, read books, and asked my vet and her techs for help. None of the suggested solutions I found has worked yet.

Relevant details: I have two litter boxes in different sizes. They're capable of getting in and out of both. After aluminum foil failed to deter them, I moved the small one to the most popular spot next to the couch, with a paper bag underneath to catch any stray litter. They've mostly transitioned to using the box there, but I've caught them urinating and defecating on the paper as well, just a few inches from the box. They also continued to use the spot under the bookcase until I put some double-sided tape down. The other box is in the bathroom, and I can tell it's being used, but occasionally they'll urinate on the linoleum or in the bathtub, and last night they pooped on a towel about a foot away from the box. They've been given a clean bill of health, so it's not parasites.

I scoop 2-3 times a day, so I don't think it's a cleanliness issue. I've tried World's Best Cat Litter and Feline Pine Scoop so far, and they treat both litters equally. Could it be a litter issue? Do I just have to keep buying different litters until I find one they'll use consistently?

My vet thinks it's weird that they will ignore aluminum foil and the scents of Nature's Miracle and citrus cleaner, which I've been using to clean up the messes. Double-sided tape is the only thing that works so far, but I can't put that on everything, obviously. She also suggested covered litter boxes, but they have a secluded spot by the couch and under the bathroom sink; it seems like they have enough privacy in both spots, but maybe I'm wrong. Has anyone else had a similar problem? What's worked for you?
posted by kiripin to Pets & Animals (7 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I have a similar problem with our 18 year old cat; here are things we've tried and have worked in the short term (which might be enough to re-train them, given how wee they are):

1. Biggest one: put food and water down whereever they've had an "accident"; kitties will usually refrain from "going" where they eat and drink. In our case, this meant a huge "kitty buffet" of water and food all over the house, but for a while, it worked.

2. Putting down other things in those places also helped; upsided-down bowls, or other things they're not likely to "squat" on.

In the end, with our senior citizen cat who sadly didn't get retrained early enough in life for the lessons to stick, the only thing we found that worked was to restrict her to a floor of our house that has no carpeting (that was a BIG one) and also to buy 3-4 rubber "welcome" mats and arrange them overlapping around her litter box; this doesn't stop her from going around her litter box but it prevents us from having damaged floors as a result. We have to clean these mats pretty much every day, since it's rare for her to go 24 hours without going *somewhere* on the mats.

We restrict her access to the rest of the house with baby gates.

But at least this way worked! Good luck to you. I'm sure starting earlier in life you'll have better luck!
posted by twiki at 12:40 PM on June 3, 2008

A couple of suggestions:

- Don't put cloth on the floor (towels, etc.) My cats pee where they're supposed to, with the sole exception of damp or dirty clothes/towels. If they're piled on a chair or something, no sweat - if they're on the floor, they're fair game, apparently.

- If they're peeing in front of the litterbox, make sure you're cleaning it often enough. Cats vary quite a bit in their fastidiousness, but even my mellow kitties occasionally get annoyed with my laxness and pee on the floor in front of the box rather than soil their paws stepping in it.
posted by restless_nomad at 1:23 PM on June 3, 2008

Try Dr. Elsey's Cat Attract Cat Litter. I made 2 outdoor feral kitties into 100% indoor litter box users with it with no mishaps at all. You can gradually switch over to your litter of choice by mixing the two after a while, slowly inverting the ratio.
posted by krix at 1:35 PM on June 3, 2008

Try scooping the boxes LESS. Scoop their messes into the box and then plop them in too, let them figure out that Oh! THIS is where that goes! It could be that because you're keeping them so clean, they're not really exactly sure what the boxes are really for. They're only 8 weeks old, after all.

And if you ever catch them in mid-act, toss them into the nearest box and make much of them.

If that doesn't work, we have a female cat who every so often decides that she wants to pee on the carpet. We bought a bunch of the $2 rubber-backed rugs from IKEA, nice bathroom-mat-sized. We lay them down over her favorite spots. She still sprays, but now when she does we can toss them in the wash. The immediate loss of her pee-scent from the carpet (no matter what carpet cleaner you use, if pee gets into the carpet it will always smell like cat pee and encourage them to pee more) seems to have slowly deterred her; at least she hasn't done anything for months now.
posted by GardenGal at 2:19 PM on June 3, 2008

Bigger boxes are good too. I'm cat-sitting for my brother at the moment. The cat (not huge as cats go) constantly tried to dig at the newspaper around her litter tray while using it. After a few weeks of this it occurred to me to go to the hardware store and buy a bigger box, a plastic storage box, and fill it with new litter on the top and her old litter on the bottom.

Works great. Even helps with the smell, as she buries the poo deeper and fully covers it up.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 7:11 PM on June 3, 2008

We had a similar problem with our 13-yr-old cat, who had been repeating this behavior his whole life. What finally worked for him was spraying Feliway around the boxes; we actually did this for our youngest cat, who has megacolon and was associating the boxes with painful poos, and apparently it was what the oldest one needed as well.
posted by tigerjade at 7:32 AM on June 4, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone! It turns out that half the problem was their synchronized schedules. One kitten would see her sister head for the litter box, decide she needed to use it as well, and since it would be occupied, she'd do her business in front of it instead of waiting or seeking out the other box. I placed the two boxes a few feet apart and reduced the scooping to once a day. It mostly helped: I haven't seen poop on the carpet for a couple days, but one of them peed on a blanket yesterday (even though it was on the couch--so much for keeping fabrics off the floor).
posted by kiripin at 1:03 PM on June 5, 2008

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