Why is my cat going outside the box? 

Sometimes it's just not that complicated....

As you probably know, cats groom constantly. They are very clean creatures and like things to be clean. They like their water fresh and clean, their food fresh, and their toilets clean. They aren't that different from us (people are  fussy eaters too  :-)  

The last 2 people that asked for my advice on this, when I visited their house this is what I found (see pictures below) - boxes so full that some of the feces had turned white from age, and the smell was so bad I could hardly be in the room. There was no room in the box for the cat to stand to urinate or defecate without standing on a clump or feces. No wonder they were going elsewhere! I would too!!

Yes, sometimes there are medical causes. But sometimes its just this simple: 
They admitted they only clean the boxes after 3 or 4 days or maybe only once a week - if they remembered.  
Even at a shelter, litter boxes are cleaned daily, and I don't know about you, but I don't like to use a porta potty on the 3rd day of the festival either.........

A couple good rules of thumb:

1. If you don't want to scoop the poop, there are people happy to come daily and do it for you. Professional pet sitters, and your local PooperScooper or similar franchise. 

2. There are MANY new, better working models of automatic litter pans. Many of these now use standard clumping litter, so you don't even have to buy different litter than you are already using. In addition, many now can be set to run at scheduled times, or when the cat leaves the box, solving early model problems that startled cats.

3. The basic rule is 1 litter box per cat + 1-2 extras. Sometimes it works best to have them all together, but if you have multiple cats and one is old, or tends to get bossed around by the other cats, putting  a pan in a quieter place that cat can use without being jumped by the others is helpful. 

4. If you have an older cat with arthritis, and you have a high sided box, you may need to get a lower box or a corner model with an opening (see our Unique Tools page) for that cat to be able to get in and out without jumping. Also see Item 8 below.

5. I found mine HATED the crystal litter and when I tried it they suddenly, after years of never having an accident, stopped wanting to use the box. I switched back to standard clumping and no more problems. So consider changing your litter if your cats don't seem to like it.

6. Mine also HATED the covered boxes; I have no problems with the open corner pans (see below).

7. While its good to wash the pans every so often, using strong scented cleansers and/or bleach that leaves a lingering smell will repel the cat from going in it. Hot soap and water, with a little rubbing alcohol to sterilize will do the trick and not leave a scent.

8. For older cats, arthritis pain often prevents squatting or balancing on the litter; so they will start going on other objects where they can stand with ease and balance. Try taking a large, flat, low sided litter pan like this one pictured below, with a low opening, and lining it with dog potty pads. I have found this to stop accidents for my senior cats without fail. You can also use tape the line the walls behind with a potty pad (which drapes at the bottom into the litter pan) to avoid the stream hitting the wall.