If you’re thinking about moving your cat’s litter box, it’s important to take the right steps to ensure they don’t get confused or upset. Cats are typically very particular about their litter box situation and they’re also not fond of change. So if they go to use the litter box one day and it’s not there, it can stress them, which can lead to them eliminating somewhere else in the house.
Here are some tips to make moving your cat’s litter box successful.
HOW TO MOVE A CAT’S LITTER BOX
To successfully move a cat’s litter box, you must move it slowly until it reaches the new location. You can also use a second litter box and place it in the new location, wait for your cat to discover and use it, and then slowly decrease access to the old litter box.
If you move a cat’s litter box too quickly, it can confuse and/or stress them, which can lead to litter box aversion. This is a more difficult behaviour to correct so it’s better to be preventative.
The following are detailed steps to take for each option.
OPTION #1 – ADD A NEW LITTER BOX TO THE NEW LOCATION
Every cat should have more than one litter box (here’s why). It helps ensure they have a clean litter box to use and gives them more options, both of which help prevent litter box aversion.
There are some circumstances in which it may be okay to only have one litter box for one cat (you can read about that here), but in most cases, you should have a litter box for each cat, plus one extra.
If you purchase a new litter box, take the following steps to get your cat using the litter box in the new location:
STEP 1: PLACE THE NEW LITTER BOX IN NEW LOCATION
Determine the best spot for your cat to place the new litter box. Placing a litter box in a spot that’s convenient for you but undesirable to your cat will lead to bigger problems than just an unsightly or smelly litter box.
If your cat doesn’t like the location of their litter box, they may refuse to use it and start eliminating in other places around the house.
Alternatively, you may consider swapping the new litter box into the existing location and moving their old litter box to the new location. This may help speed up the process of them using the litter box in the new location, as an element of it will be familiar.
STEP 2: MAKE THE LITTER DESIRABLE
Be sure to use the same litter you’ve been filling their old litter box with; too many changes at once can stress out your cat.
You may even consider adding a few scoops of litter from their existing litter box to the new litter box. You want the new litter box to be clean, but a little litter from their old box can add some of their scent to the new box to help attract them to it.
If you do want to change litters, it’s important to do so after you’ve moved the litter box and your cat has adjusted to it.
Alternatively, you could place the second litter box next to the existing litter box, get them used to the new litter first (here’s how) and then follow the steps in Option #2 to move the new litter box with the new litter to a new location.
STEP 3: HELP YOUR CAT DISCOVER THE NEW LITTER BOX & LOCATION
If you’ve placed the new litter box in an ideal location, it will be someplace your cat will discover on their own. However, you can still help speed up the process by bringing your cat to the new location and setting them down close to it.
Be sure to keep things positive while you’re doing this. If you’re upset because they haven’t been using the litter box and are hoping they’ll use it in the new location, don’t grab them and drop them in the new litter box; this won’t help them make a positive connection with the new litter box/location.
If they have a negative experience with their new litter box/location, they’ll constantly associate that negative experience with it and won’t go near it (like how a toddler associates an entire stove as bad if they burned their hand on an element).
Cats typically have a desire to add their scent to a fresh litter box, so they may use the new litter box right away. If they don’t, don’t force them in there. Let them use it at their own will and check it twice a day to see if they’ve started to use it.
If you notice them using the new litter box, wait until they’re done and then use positive reinforcement. You may talk to them in an excited, loving tone or give them a few congratulatory pets.
STEP 4: PHASE OUT THE OLD LITTER BOX LOCATION
Once your cat has started using the litter box in the new location regularly, you can begin phasing out the old location.
As mentioned, it is a good idea to have multiple litter boxes, so if possible, move the old litter box to its new location, following the steps under Option #2.
Should you put the old litter box in the same location as the new litter box? It may work depending on your cat and litter box situation, but you should never place it right next to the other litter box, here’s why and what to do instead.
If you’re planning to get rid of that litter box completely, try to phase it out as opposed to taking it away suddenly.
Although your cat is using the new litter box in the new location, it’s likely they’re still occasionally using the litter box in the old location. So to remove it suddenly can still cause confusion and stress.
If possible, close the door to the room the old litter box is in for periods of time. Slowly extend those periods of time until your cat doesn’t even bother going to the old location to use the litter box.
OPTION #2 – MOVE AN EXISTING LITTER BOX
If you fall into the situation in which you don’t feel you need a second litter box, then you must move the existing litter box to a new location. This can be done without litter box accidents by taking the following steps.
STEP 1: CHOOSE A GOOD LOCATION
If you’re going to move a cat’s litter box, it’s important to get the location right from the start. If you take the time to move their litter box to a new spot, then discover they don’t like that spot, you must start over. Too much disruption can lead to accidents happening outside the litter box.
STEP 2: START THE JOURNEY
Depending on how far the new litter box location is from the old location, it may take days, even weeks, for the litter box to arrive at its final destination.
What’s most important is that your cat always knows where their litter box is.
You may be able to get away with moving the litter box several feet at a time if your cat is likely to discover it on their way to its familiar location. But if you’re moving it to a location that’s less familiar to your cat, is on a different level, around corners, etc. you may need to move it slower and by inches.
You also don’t want to move the litter box too slowly when it will be sitting in a spot your cat won’t appreciate. If you’re moving it up or down a flight of stairs, you obviously don’t want to leave the litter box sitting on the stairs. Move it several feet to a landing that’s safe for your cat to be on.
STEP 3: CREATE A ROUTINE
Each day, after moving the litter box, pick up your cat and bring them to the new location. Be sure to use positive reinforcement during this step; talk to your cat in a loving tone, give them pets as you show them their litter box, and gently set them down next to the litter box and let them decide if they want to use it or not.
TIPS FOR MOVING A CAT’S LITTER BOX
Here are a few tips to keep in mind when moving your cat’s litter box to help ensure it’s successful.
SLOWLY & STEADY
Cats aren’t fond of change so any change should be made slowly, but especially changes made to their litter box because the stakes are higher. If you move the litter box too quickly, it may cause your cat stress, even if they’re still able to find the litter box.
Prevent litter box aversion by moving your cat’s litter box to its new location slow and steady.
KEEP IT SIMPLE
It’s important not to make any other major changes while relocating the litter box (if possible). For example, don’t change the litter box, type of litter, and litter box location all at once (adding a new litter box while they’re able to use their old one is okay but swapping in a new one and moving it may cause stress).
It may be that you’re renovating your home and additional changes are inevitable. If that’s the case, do your best to make your cat feel as comfortable as possible and ease their stress. Lots of attention, cuddles, and playtime can help them adjust.
CHOOSE A GOOD LOCATION
You may be thinking about moving your cat’s litter box because you don’t like its current location. If that’s the case, make sure you’re choosing a new location that’s suitable for you cat. Placing the litter box in an area of the house no one goes to, including your cat, or out to the garage so you don’t have to look at or smell the litter box, could lead to bigger issues that just an dirty litter box.
Yes, your cat is an animal but they still desire the same basic necessities you do. Having a clean litter box in a comfortable location is one of those basic necessities. You wouldn’t want to go down to a dark, cold basement to go to the washroom; neither does your cat.
USE POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT
Cats don’t learn through punishment, so if your cat has a few accidents while you’re in the process of moving the litter box or keeps using the old location, don’t try to punish them. Instead, give the positive attention when they’re near or using the litter box in the new location.
Giving them positive attention even outside of when they’re litter box can also help improve the situation as it will lower their stress levels.
LOWER THEIR STRESS
We can’t know for sure what’s going on in our cat’s heads, but we do know they’re a living creature who loves to be loved. If moving the litter box a few feet is stressing your cat, do everything you can to lower their stress in other areas of their life.
The best way to lower their stress is to give them lots of attention. Take time to talk to them in a loving tone, have full-attention cuddle sessions (not just while watching TV or scrolling your phone), give them lots of playtime, and try to create a low-stress household in general.
MOVING LITTER BOX OUT OF SAFE ROOM
A safe room is a room dedicated to a new cat or kitten. It allows them to become accustomed to their new home, without being overwhelmed by all the space and places to explore. In a safe room, your cat or kitten will have all their necessities (food, water, litter box, toys, scratching post, bed, etc.).
When your new cat is ready to start exploring the rest of the house, you may be wondering if you should keep the litter box in the safe room, where they’re used to finding it, or move it someplace more convenient.
The answer is both; leave the litter box in the room and place another litter box in the spot you’d like to permanently house the litter box. A cat should have two litter boxes (here’s why), so the extra litter box won’t go to waste.
Once you find your cat has started using the second litter box, you can slowly move the safe room litter box to its new location, using the steps above. For suggestions on where to place that second litter box, check out this article.
DO CATS GET CONFUSED WHEN YOU MOVE THEIR LITTER BOX?
Cats can definitely get confused when you move their litter box, especially if your cat is a senior with cognitive disfunction. If you have an older cat who seems to be losing some of their memory, it’s best to keep their litter box in the same location, if possible.
If you must move it, you should use option #1 to add a second litter box and give them lots of time to adjust to it. It may even help to make their living space smaller so there are fewer rooms and levels for them to wander through and get confused.
If your cat’s memory is good and they always use the litter box, it’s less likely they’ll get confused when you move their litter box if you show them the new spot. However, you don’t want to chance it and have them stop using the litter box, so it’s best to follow the steps outlined in this article.
DO CATS GET MAD WHEN YOU MOVE THEIR LITTER BOX?
A cat may get mad when you move their litter box if you’ve moved it to a location that is less desirable to them. Although you may prefer the litter box being out of sight, out of mind, your cat won’t.
They don’t want to go to a dark, cold, damp area of the house to use the litter box multiple times a day. If your cat doesn’t appreciate the litter box’s new location, they may start using a more comfortable location in the house that doesn’t have a box.
HOW DO CATS FIND THEIR LITTER BOX?
Cats have instincts to bury their waste. Their ancestors buried their waste in the wild to hide their scent from predators.
When housecats are outside, they’ll look for a garden, sandbox, or other area that has material they can dig in.
When cats are inside the house, they do the same thing; look for loose material that allows them to dig and cover their waste. A litter box filled with clean litter has the perfect consistency that allows them to do that, which is why they quickly learn to eliminate in a litter box.
Keep these points in mind to avoid litter box aversion. You cat wants something that’s easy to dig in. A litter box filled with their waste is hard to navigate. They also don’t want their scent being picked up by predators. So if their litter box starts to have a strong smell, they won’t want to continue adding to it.
I hope this article has helped you determine what to do when moving a cat’s litter box 🙂