When it’s time to replace the old litter box, the most important step is getting your cat to use the new litter box. Cats aren’t fond of change, but some will adapt better than others. If you’re having a hard time getting your cat to use the new litter box, this article will teach you how to get a cat to use a new litter box in 5 easy steps.
HOW TO INTRODUCE A NEW LITTER BOX TO YOUR CAT
Introduce a new litter box to your cat by keeping everything else the same, giving them the option to use the new one or their old one, and giving them time to adjust. Once they start using it, you can remove the old litter box.
STEP 1: INTRODUCE THE NEW BEFORE REMOVING THE OLD
When changing a litter box, it’s important not to abruptly make the swap and give your cat a “take it or leave it” option. If they’re not happy with the change in litter box, they will leave it and find a different spot in the house to do their business.
Too many changes at once can stress your cat. So don’t toss the old litter box right away, keep it around while you introduce the new litter box so your cat always feels they have a comfortable place to go to the washroom. Their old litter box has their familiar smell in it and they may not appreciate it suddenly being gone one day.
It’s also important when changing litter boxes, you’re not switching cat litter at the same time. Keep the type of litter and litter brand the same until your cat starts using the new litter box consistently. When switching cat litter, be sure to follow the proper steps (which are outlined here) so you don’t upset your cat.
If you’re purchased a new litter box to put in a new location of the house, then it’s especially important to keep the old litter box around. Follow the steps in this article to place a new litter box in a new location without your cat having any accidents outside the litter box.
STEP 2: MAKE IT AS FAMILIAR AS POSSIBLE
Have I mentioned cats don’t like change? Yes, I’ve said it before but it’s important to drive the point home to understand our cats and give them the patience they require.
Try to make the new litter box feel as familiar as possible so your cat is more likely to take to it. These tips may help:
REMOVE FOREIGN SMELLS
You’ve likely noticed, your cat likes to inspect new items that come into “their” home by smelling them. They smell things to learn more about them and to check if an item is something they can eat, or if they should be afraid of it.
Although the new litter box may not have any obvious smells to you, they’re all new to your cat. Give the litter box a wash with mild dish detergent and hot water and dry it thoroughly before filling it with fresh litter.
Don’t use anything with a strong smell, such as bleach or ammonia. That may also drive your cat away from the litter box.
MIX IN OLD LITTER
Don’t change the type of litter you’re using when introducing a new box; use the same litter your cat is used to.
You want the litter to be free of any waste but it may help to take a few scoops of litter from their old litter box and sprinkle it in. Or, dump all the litter from their old litter box, into their new litter box, then fill their old litter box with fresh litter.
This will help add a bit of their smell and hopefully attract them to it.
KEEP THE SAME LOCATION
Although you shouldn’t place two litter boxes right next to each other, placing the new litter box in the same location as the old litter box will help keep things familiar.
If you know your cat gets stressed easily, you may want to place it a few feet away from the existing litter box.
If your cat generally does okay with change, try placing the new litter box in the existing litter box’s place, and moving the old litter box a few feet away.
What’s important is that your cat always feels they have a safe space to go to the bathroom. If they notice the new litter box and don’t like it, they still know where to find their old litter box. If they don’t, they’re more likely to find another “safe” space in the house to go.
STEP 3: POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT
Cats don’t learn through punishment, they learn through positive reinforcement. And it doesn’t take much to reward your cat. When you hear them scratching around in the litter box, check to see if they’re using the new box or the old one.
If they’re using the old litter box, don’t give them attention, simply walk away. If they’ve just stepped out of the new litter box, talk to them in an excited tone and tell them “good job!”, give them lots of pets and rubs, and perhaps even give them a treat.
STEP 4: REMOVE THE OLD LITTER BOX
Don’t remove the old box after the first time your cat uses the new litter box. You must slowly phase things in and phase things out of your cat’s life. Sudden changes can cause stress, and if your cat gets stressed around their litter box situation, it can cause litter box aversion.
However, once your cat has started using the new litter box fairly regularly, it’s likely safe to remove the old litter box. Keep in mind, if there are two litter boxes, your cat is likely to continue using both of them. So just because they’re still using the old litter box, doesn’t mean they “need” it. However, it is always a good idea to have more than one litter box.
STEP 5: USE A SCENT ATTRACTOR
I mentioned using their “used” litter (not full of feces and urine clumps though) in the new litter box as a way to add a familiar scent and attract them. But you may also consider a couple of products on the market to help calm your cat and attract them to the litter box:
LITTER BOX ATTRACTANT
There are a few options on the market that allow you to continue using the same litter and sprinting an attractant in.
CAT PHEROMONE SCENTS
Feliway spray and diffusers mimic natural pheromones that help put your cat at easy. You can spray the litter box and area, or add a diffuser next to the litter box.
MY CAT STILL WON’T USE THE NEW LITTER BOX
If you’ve followed these steps and given your cat plenty of time to adjust, but they’re still not using the new litter box, consider the following steps:
ENSURE THERE ISN’T A HEALTH ISSUE
If your cat has stopped using a litter box, it could be due to a health issue and the timing of it happening when you introduced a new litter box is just a coincidence. There are several health issues that can be related to a change in litter box behaviour and only your veterinarian can tell you what’s going on. Call your veterinarian and explain the situation so they can let you know if there’s anything to be concerned about.
GIVE IT MORE TIME
Keep in mind, it is ideal for one cat to have more than one litter box. Consider keeping both litter boxes so your cat has options and it’s more likely they always have a clean litter box to use, which is a requirement for them to continue using the litter box. The last thing you want is for your cat to start eliminating outside the litter box.
Having more than one litter box is especially important if you have more than one cat, as cats are territorial and a may not like sharing one litter box. And it’s important if your cat is peeing outside the litter box, or pooping outside the litter box.
Consider keeping both litter boxes around permanently, or at least for a longer period of time. Your cat may just need more time to warm up to the new litter box.
ASSESS THE NEW LITTER BOX
Unless the new litter box is the exactly the same as the old litter box, there will be something different about it. Try to determine what it is your cat doesn’t like.
If you’ve switched from a regular litter box to a covered or top-entry litter box, it may be that your cat simply doesn’t like that style of litter box. Imagine if the walls around your toilet suddenly closed in, you might not be happy either.
It may be that the new litter box is smaller than the old one, or it’s bigger and you’ve over-filled it with litter. Or maybe the higher sides on the new litter box make them feel confined or make it harder for them to step into the box (especially if your cat has joint pain or mobility issues).
If there is something obviously different about the new litter box, consider trying a different style of litter box to see if your cat will use it.
You may even try using litter box-shaped cardboard box to test if it is indeed the new litter box’s style they don’t like. You obviously don’t want to use a cardboard box long-term as urine can soak right through it. But try filling it with their litter, placing it close to their old litter box and seeing if they use it.
If they do, purchase another new litter box that’s more similar to the old litter box and donate the litter box they refuse to use.
ASSESS YOUR CAT
If you can, watch your cat when they’re in the litter box area. Do they completely ignore the new litter box? Walk right past it without even giving it a sniff? Do they walk up to it and smell around but not step in? Or do they step into the litter box, dig around, but ultimately decide not to go?
Their actions around the litter box can be an indication as to why they’re not using it. If they’re smelling the outside of the box but won’t go in, it may be that there’s a smell on it they don’t like.
It may be that litter box was in another cat owner’s home briefly before they returned it to the store and you purchased it. Giving the box a good clean may help.
If your cat is going into the box but not using it, it may be the depth of the litter they don’t like or that the box feels too small for them.
Use your cat’s actions as a way to correct the issue and find a litter box they will use (or alter the new one you have so they’ll use it).
DON’T FORCE THEIR HAND/PAW
If you simply remove their old litter box and figure they’ll just have to use the new one if they have to go to the bathroom, they may prove you wrong. Cats are a little more flexible with where they’re willing to eliminate and they won’t have a problem finding another spot in the house to go.
If they’ve told you through action that they don’t like the new litter box, there is a reason. A happy cat is a healthy cat, so we want to make sure our cats are happy with their new litter box.
I hope this article has helped you figure out how to get your cat to use a new litter box 🙂