The 10 Most Common Litter Box Mistakes Cat Owners Make

Ever stumbled upon litter box mistakes that left you more puzzled than a cat with a laser pointer?

Welcome to the quirky world of litter box etiquette! With rules as elusive as a cat's midnight sprint, even seasoned cat owners can get their whiskers in a twist.

But fear not! We've compiled a handy guide to help you dodge these common mistakes. From setting up the perfect litter box to avoiding feline faux pas, we've got you covered.

Remember, a small misstep can lead to a less-than-purrfect experience for your fluffy friend, so don't rush to make changes.

Instead, read through, follow the links, or consult our cat behavior forum if in doubt. Our members are always happy to help you avoid a cat-astrophe!

Battle Of The Buildup: Is Your Litter Box Clean Enough?

Mistake #1: The Litter box Is Too Dirty.

The litterbox should be scooped at least once a day. Sounds simple, right? Here's the kicker: Some cats demand a clean slate each time. Yes, you heard it right.

cat is standing near the the dirty litter box

They need their litter cleaned literally after every use, or they'll boycott the box and find an alternative spot in your home.

Are you getting worried? Don't be. There's a solution if you cannot scoop at such tight intervals.

Ever considered an automatic litter box? It could be a game-changer...Read reviews of automated litterboxes by our members.

Click here to see this automatic litter box on Amazon.

Read more: How Often Should You Clean The Litter Box?

Cramped Quarters: Could Your Cat's Litter Box Be Too Small?

Mistake #2: The Litter Box Is Too Small.

Ever wondered about the perfect size for your cat's litter box? You might be surprised...

big cat in small litter box on floor

First, your cat should have enough room to comfortably turn around in their litter box. It seems straightforward, right? But there's more...

Take the time to measure your cat. Start at their nose and end at the tip of their tail. Got the number? Now, find a box that's 1.5 times that length. That's your gold standard.

Click here to see this extra large litter box on Amazon.

However, here's the catch: You must be flexible if your feline friend is a kitten. As your little one grows, their litter box must grow with them. Remember, a comfortable cat is a happy cat!

Read more: How To Choose The Right Litterbox

One Is The Loneliest Number: Does Your Cat Have Enough Litter Boxes?

Mistake #3: There Aren't Enough Litter boxes.

Even if you only have one cat, a single litter box might not cut it. Here's why:

If your home is small, one litter box could be enough. But what if you live in a larger house? Especially one with more than one level? That's when things get interesting.

two cat litter boxes where cat switching from one to another

Imagine your cat having to trek all the way from the top floor to the basement to use the litter box. Not fun, right?

That's why you might consider keeping two litter boxes—one on each level. Your cat should not travel long distances to reach the litter box. But wait, there's more...

In a multiple-cat household, the rules change again. The number of litter boxes should equal the number of cats plus one extra litter box.

It's a simple math formula that can save both you and your cat a lot of stress.

Read more: How Many Litterboxes Should You Have


Dinner And A... Litter box? Why Placement Matters?

Mistake #4: The Litter box Is Too Close To The Cat's Feeding Dishes.

Picture this: you're having dinner right next to your bathroom. Doesn't sound appealing. Well, your kitty thinks the same.

But here's a problem we often overlook: food and water bowls placed too close to the litter box. You wouldn't like it, and neither does your cat.

cat in the litterbox with carrier, toys and food bowl on the side

The solution? Always ensure their feeding station is as far away from the litter box as possible.

But what if you're short on space? Here's a workaround: If you must place the bowls and the litter box in the same room, ensure it's spacious.

More importantly, the feeding dishes and the litter box should be at opposite corners. A little distance can make a big difference!

No Entry: Ensuring Your Cat's Litter Box Is Always Accessible

Mistake #5: The Litter box Isn't Always Accessible.

Imagine a race against the clock, but the finish line keeps moving. Frustrating, right?

That's what it's like for your cat if their litter box isn't always within reach.

domestic cat looks at the litter box within the distant

But here's the real kicker: sometimes, we unintentionally put obstacles in their path. Doors. Furniture. Stairs. Make sure nothing separates your kitty from their litter box.

Additionally, if you're a proud owner of a kitten, senior cat, or a feline with health problems, there's an extra consideration. The box should be at floor level. That's right, no jumps, no hurdles.

The litterbox should be as accessible as possible at all times.

Location, Location, Location: Is Your Cat's Litter box In A Peaceful Spot?

Mistake #6: The Litter box Is Located In A Busy Or Noisy Place.

A cat doesn't necessarily need visual privacy.

Cat litter box in a corner

However, it's important for your cat to be able to do his business in peace without being interrupted by other pets or noisy toddlers.

A washing machine starting its cycle could also be too scary. With some cats, one such frightening experience is all it takes to avoid the litter box.

Read more: Litter Box Location Secrets

Digging To The Core: Are You Providing Enough Litter?

Mistake #7: There Isn't Enough Litter In The Box.

Make sure the box contains an even layer of 3-5 inches of litter.

white kitten sits in the litter box with little cat litter

Some cats prefer a deeper layer while others a shallower one, so watch your cat's behavior in the litterbox.


The Great Litter Debate: Are You Using The Right Kind?

Mistake #8: It's The Wrong Kind Of Litter.

Choosing the right cat litter can feel like a mission, right? You want it to check all the boxes: absorb smells, be easy to scoop, eco-friendly, and not break the bank.

Ginger cat at the side of litter box trying to sniff the wood litter hand over by the owner.

But hold on a second! You might be forgetting a crucial question: Does your cat actually like it?

Now, this might surprise you... Cats can be quite particular when it comes to litter. They have their unique preferences, just like we do with our favorite brands.

Click here to see this wood cat litter on Amazon.

So, what happens if your cat turns up their nose at their current litter? It's simple. Consider trying another type. Because in the end, if kitty's happy, we're all happy!

More about this topic: How To Choose The Right Cat Litter

Open Air vs. Privacy: Should Your Cat's Litter Box Be Covered?

Mistake #9: The Litter box Is Covered.

Some cats will happily use a covered litter box, while others detest it.

Click here to see this hooded cat litter box on Amazon.

If your cat appears to be shooting out of the box as soon as he finishes urinating or defecating without covering or hanging around to check "the produce", he may not be feeling comfortable enough under the cover.

cat leaving gray hooded cat litter box with flap entrance

Try removing the litterbox cover and see if your cat seems more relaxed in the box. If smell is an issue, make sure you clean the box often enough.

A cover should never be used to mask the smell; it can make the smell of a dirty box much worse inside.

If your cat is the type that kicks litter all over the place, consider an open litter box with high sides instead of a covered one.

Read more: How To Choose The Right Litterbox

Change Is Hard: Are You Shaking Things Up Too Much?

Mistake #10: You're making too many changes to the litter or litter box.

Ever noticed how your cat loves their routine? It's fascinating, isn't it? Cats are creatures of habit, much like us.

But here's the thing: too many changes could be a recipe for disaster.

a person pours dry litter from a bag for a cat's litter box

Moving the box around or switching up the litter more than necessary can make your cat feel like they're on a rollercoaster ride.

Wondering how to make improvements without causing a feline freak-out? Here's the secret: slow and steady wins the race. Change things gradually, and you'll have a happy kitty.

Read more: When And How To Switch To A New Type Of Litter

If you're reading this because your cat isn't using his litter box properly and goes outside the box, there is more to look at than the litterbox.

Possible reasons for litter box avoidance include health problems and overall stress.

Read this guide to find out why your cat has stopped using the litter box and how to get him to use it once again:  How To Solve Litterbox Problems In Cats The Ultimate Guide


Comments? Please leave your feedback in the comments section below. Question about your cat's litterbox habits? Post your question in the cat behavior forum, and we'll try to help!

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The 10 most common litter box mistakes cat owners make

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24 comments on “The 10 Most Common Litter Box Mistakes Cat Owners Make

nunnc84 August 7, 2018
I’ve made about all of these mistakes. I’m so glad I found this website!
Mother Dragon March 27, 2017
The self-scooping litter boxes are great. Ten or twenty minutes after the cat leaves the box, the rake comes out and scoops the litter into a container with a closing lid. We bought some of the Nature's Miracle brand about 15 months ago. Every one of them broke within a couple of months. The company was great about replacing them, but after replacing FIVE of them in a year, we'd had it! We found the classic Littermaid and ordered it. It works beautifully. You have to be careful not to use heavy litter or it will bog down and burn out the motor. We've found that Dr. Elsey's Cat Attract works very well.   We have three cats and four self-scooping pans. The kitties prefer two of them over the others, so those have to be emptied twice a week. The containers are actually reusable if you want to dump the contents. We dump the contents and mix them with the stuff from our paper shredders. If anyone wants to look at the printouts of my garden, they better REALLY want to check them out.   The pans are cheaper online, although not cheap overall, but they're worth it. They can run on batters or 110 and come with the converter. I recommend plugging them in because some cats like to set them off just to watch them run. Our guys are fascinated with the one in the bedroom and run to watch it. The system has a cut-off if it senses a cat in the box.   
lilsassyred March 26, 2017
The best thing I've found for litter are the concrete mixing tubs available at big box hardware stores where the concrete mix is found. They come in two sizes...large and larger and have sloped sides which make them very easy to scoop
kattykins January 17, 2017
I would like to strongly advise every cat owner to buy a kid's SAND SHOVEL type plastic scooper and NOT purchase those slitted shovels that are available to scoop litter boxes. Those slitted shovels only pick up the solid poo and let the urine soiled particles pass right through back in the litter box. Most cats are very fussy and fastidious  and won't use dirty boxes. It's like a dirty toilet--you flush the poo but leave the urine. I buy the largest kid's plastic sand shovels that I can find in the toy dept. and keep one by every litter box, along with a  garbage-bag lined plastic container with lid. When I scoop every day, I use the sand shovel to scoop out the poo AND the urine mounds.  I don't know why the manufacturers don't make this type shovel for cat boxes! The sand shovels certainly keep the litter boxes a lot cleaner, less smelly and the cats are happy. I scoop clear to the bottom of the cat boxes to find any urine mounds and make sure I get every bit. Then I add some new litter every day. Another tip:  I have several cats and found it is necessary to have a cat box for every cat you have. However, their favorite is a large vinyl storage bin. I removed the lid, cut out a large round "half moon" on the side so they can easily enter, leaving several inches at bottom so the litter will stay in. The bin is nearly clear, about 34" long, 20" W, 12 H. The cats seem to love it because it is so big and they can see through it when they are in the litter box. I keep it against a wall in the laundry room. Yes, there is always litter in the morning to sweep up, there's just no getting around that. I keep a child's broom and dustpan next to the big box and sweep it up. Also, I have found that all the cats I have had do not like "scented" litter, nor do they like "clumping" litter.  They prefer the plain, non-scented kind so I just buy the big bags of plain litter and try to find the brands with the least dust. I have had kitties refuse to use litter boxes with the scented, citrusy, or clumping litter brands. Another tip: If you use a disinfectant to clean the litter boxes don't use a really smelly, scented type like lysol.  I use diluted  chlorox bleach and then rinse, rinse, rinse. Rinsing many times helps get rid of the scent and cats do not like strange scents.  
moeandme January 5, 2017
I've tried everything.....  but.....  my boy Timothy has officially earned the name "leaky kitty".  I've tried, pan change, litter change, no lid, lid, deep litter, shallow litter, a pan for each cat + one.  Cleaning litter pans daily.  I even tried letting the pans get ucky!  My cats don't appear to have a preference.  He uses a pan, she covers his "donation" and uses the same pan!  She follows him from pan to pan some days.  Other days they each use a different pan one in the front of the basement the other at the back of the basement. The smallest pan (named the powder room) is a covered cat pan without the lid.  Some days they avoid this pan other days it's the first choice. I found out.....   1 1/2 inches or Cat Attract in plastic cement mixing bins from Big Box Stores is a winner for us.   Both cats choose a dirty pan over a "really clean and citrus smelling pan".  In six years I have not bin able to figure out why my "Leaky Kitty" will pee on a cotton carpets at the front door or my home.  (any carpet in this location is a target.   He's was vet checked.  We thought he was marking territory when a stranger visited..... I've cleaned outside the house and sprayed the front steps with a 'cat away' product to keep strays off the steps......   I've wondered if he was asking for his water dish to be filled.... (getting desperate to solve the problem)    many enzymatic cleanings, lots of speculation.   Recently I changed the laundry detergent that was used to wash his carpet.  It is now two weeks after he used the carpet three days in a row and the carpet is still dry.   Sorry if you are also having a problem with litter pans and Boy I'm glad to know I'm not alone!     
taboobleu November 11, 2016
TabooBleu earned the nickname Tigger the Digger for a reason. I now use a tote (larger & deeper than a standard litterbox) and just don't overfill with scoopable litter and barely anything leaves the box! He has manners and covers everything, no odor problems, and it's on rollers (weight of litter keeps it steady for him), so all I have to do is roll it out, sweep, roll back, done in about a minute! Of course this is after pooper/clumper removal.
jkuras August 16, 2016
Great advice.  I would love to try the automatic litter box, but could that hurt my cat since I work at night and I am not home to supervise.
jkuras August 16, 2016
Great advice.  I would love to try the automatic litter box, but could that hurt my cat since I work at night and I am not home to supervise.
forest phoenix August 2, 2016
I sure relate to these messy kitty problems. My little Ru is a digger and an overzealous coverer. She makes such a mess! Oftentimes, she does her business, covers it with a huge mound (while kicking litter all over the floor), then continues to try to cover it. By then, she's forgotten where the mess was, so she just keeps randomly digging and kicking litter everywhere, often kicking up bits of mess inadvertently, which go all over the floor and adjacent wall. :( It's gross... but also a little comical. I've gotten her a covered box to try. If she doesn't like that, we'll try the storage bin solution.
therese July 30, 2016
Over the past 25 years, I have always had indoor cats, at least two at a time, and I have probably made every mistake you have listed here.  ( terrific article, by the way )  Cats are so fragile, delicate creatures, so idiosyncratic, that even one of these issues can cause serious problems.  Great site and really excellent articles for the novice cat owner as well as the old seasoned veteran. 
sue f July 28, 2016
I've had two cats that were "diggers".  They relished kicking litter all over the place.  I have tried high sided pans, and they still had litter all over the floor.  Hooded litter pan was the only answer.  I found they actually liked the secretiveness of it.. Just make sure the top vent is unobstructed, and get rid of any "filter" they put there, it just keeps the odors in for poor kitty to breathe. I just brought home a new little kitten, and put a small pan of his own out.  Rather than use the uncovered pan, he prefers to go in the big box with the cover.  Go figure.
Mother Dragon June 16, 2016
When we adopted a 6-month0old Russian Blue kitten, he was kept in a large room, separate from the other two cats, because he was aggressive. He didn't like it one bit and showed it by howling like a fire siren and eliminating right beside the litter pan. We finally took all three to a feline behaviorist to try to integrate them. She suggested a couple of things. One was that we change the litter to Dr. Elsey's Cat Attract. It's light-weight, dust-free, and strongly clumping. It has some herbs in it that attract cats. It keeps odor down almost completely. It works superbly in self-cleaning cat pans, much better than the recommended stuff which quickly destroys the pan.    Darwin watched as my husband changed out the litter. Within just a few seconds, he was in the pan. He's never made a mistake again. The other cats like it also.We have four pans and it's all we use. One pan is in the bedroom and there's no odor.    Cat Attract is available at PetSmart or Petco. It may be available at other places also. It's great for all cats, not just those who have letterbox problems.
tarasgirl06 June 11, 2016
@JMJimmy so true!  And you can get them, or something similar, at most "big box" stores, though I've heard the Rubbermaid are the best.
Anne June 11, 2016
@JMJimmy Good point. Many members prefer the larger plastic bins and they do cost less. At least that's not a mistake that's likely to affect your cat's litterbox habits ;)
JMJimmy June 11, 2016
#11.  You paid too much for your litterbox.  A Roughneck Rubermaid bin can work just as well as for cats box at a fraction of the price
tarasgirl06 June 10, 2016
A lot of "experts" advise against covered litterboxes because they make a cat feel hemmed in and therefore a cat may avoid it altogether.  Five of our boxes are uncovered and one is covered, so they have a choice.  A lot of older cats develop joint pain, arthritis, etc., so it is also important for them to be able to access the box without climbing or jumping.  What may appeal to some people in terms of design may not be what is best for cats.  The traditional plain litterbox is what we use and prefer.
segelkatt June 10, 2016
Once a week I do all my tiles with an enzymatic cleaner that I bought on-line from Office Max, it's a big 1 gallon bottle for about $20.00 called Enzyme Plus, made by Brighton, it's concentrated so you water it down and put it in a spray bottle, I think it was 10:1. Or you can get Urine Odor Remover for Cats made by Stink Free which you can get at the pet store, I don't remember what I paid for that gallon. The Enzyme Plus worked better and it works on any kind of animal or human stain, great for a diaper pail or baby stains. I am still trying to figure out which one of my two "old ladies" going on 17, has this nasty habit. I think it's Capucchino, the Birman whom I've had for almost all her life. She also had been using the Litter Robot faithfully for years, at least 5, before she decided she won't have anything to do with a covered box. Bebe, the Persian, whom I adopted 6 years ago, still tries to use the Litter Robot but has a hard time getting in there with her short legs, so maybe it's her, trying to get in here and gives up, so poops on the floor. The other morning I also found a puddle, so maybe she needs some steps to get in there. Hmm.  
tarasgirl06 June 9, 2016
That's good, @segelkatt!  I like the enzymatic cleaners, though, because they don't just clean, they destroy the molecules enzymatically. 
segelkatt June 9, 2016
At lest the box is in the bathroom where there us tile so cleanup is not bad, just pick it up, give the floor a swipe with a cleaning wipe and everything is good again.
tarasgirl06 June 9, 2016
That can happen, @segelkatt!  I am very thankful for Nature's Miracle Just For Cats enzymatic cleaner for these kinds of incidents.  
segelkatt June 9, 2016
One of two of my cats sometimes puts her poop next to the box with no apparent reason, it usually but not always happens at night so I have given up trying to figure out why. It's happened when the box had just been cleaned or the litter had just been scooped or when it is messy; it has been in the same place for years, same litter also for years, only these two cats use this box (the other two have a box each that they use exclusively, wouldn't touch any other for anything), so go figure.
donutte June 8, 2016
I have a 30-gallon bin for a litter box, and they STILL get litter all over (and that one is in my bedroom of all places). Pea-Pea is definitely a "dig to Antarctica" kitty. Here I always thought she wanted MORE litter!
tarasgirl06 June 7, 2016
We meet all of the above criteria.  Our furmily prefers unscented, scoopable clay litter, which I scoop at least 5 times daily.  There are 6 large boxes for 5 cats; one is covered, because some actually like this.  All are in accessible places away from food and water, and I try to keep the house as quiet and calm as possible, because we all prefer it that way.  
mservant June 6, 2016
Hmmm.   As Mouse is a dig-to-the-bottom kind a guy and leaps out instantly like a long jumper maybe I should experiment with less litter and top off his tray....  He's a messy critter and I end up with tracking everywhere because of his enthusiastic digging and leaps for freedom. 

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