5 reasons your cat's not using litter boxEvery cat owner knows the litter box is one of the most critical parts of caring for a cat. Retailers like Swell Pets offer numerous sizes, shapes of boxes and all kinds of scents and textures and materials for litter, not to mention all the accessories – scoops, cleaning wipes, poop bags and more.

And it’s a good thing all of those options are available because cats are funny about their box. Like humans, cats have their own preferences and rarely are two cats alike.

So if your cat is avoiding the litter box, don’t despair. It simply means you need to take a step back and evaluate what’s going on, from health to litter box, to your choice of litter and more.

Here are 5 reasons your cat might be avoiding the box and what you should do about them.

Medical Issues – The first thing you should do if your cat is peeing or pooping outside the box is to take him to the vet to rule out any medical issues. You may be surprised at the variety of things that cause your precious furball to go outside the box.

Cats often behave strangely when they are in pain or uncomfortable and sometimes associate this pain or discomfort with the place where they do their business. Don’t blame them…they’re trying to figure out the problem!

For example, if your cat is constipated and it’s hard for him to go #2, he might believe it’s the litter box that’s causing the issue and try to find another spot. If he has a urinary tract infection, it hurts when he uses the box so…logically he might try to go elsewhere. Get your poor sweetie to the vet promptly to rule out medical problems.

Covered Litter Boxes – The idea behind litter boxes with lids is to provide the cat some privacy and the owner some reprieve from seeing and smelling the box. But this can backfire on some cat owners when their cat simply doesn’t like to go into an enclosed space to potty.

I get lots of emails from readers who read this tip and it changed things immediately! If your cat is peeing somewhere you don’t want him to and you have a covered litter box, take off the lid and see if that helps. Let the light shine in!

Depth of the Litter – Sure, cats are finicky about the type of litter you use but you might also need to experiment with different depths of litter.

If it’s too deep your cat might dislike the feeling of sinking into quicksand, unable to get a foothold.

If it’s too shallow, hitting bottom might feel funny to your cat’s little paws. Also, have you ever noticed that cats grip the litter with their paws, especially when they are pooping? It’s important for them to feel comfortable with the surface or they will find somewhere else.

Finally, cats with longer hair may not like the feel of their fur dragging in litter that’s too deep. Play around with different options.  And, in extreme cases, try paper towels or puppy pads placed in the box. Yes, these options can get expensive, messy and stinky, but for some cats it works great.

Arthritis – When cats age, they may suffer from arthritis. If someone tells me their senior cat begins going outside the box, my first piece of advice is get him to the vet!

But then, take a look at the box. If your cat has mobility issues or any pain, it may be hard for him to get in and out of the box. Try a low-sided box or cutting one side down so your cat can easily enter and exit. Remember to sand the edges or put duct tape over them so your pretty kitty doesn’t cut himself on the jagged cut edges.

Then, consider the depth of the litter, as I mentioned above. Gripping litter might be too hard for arthritic cats so less litter in the box might work better for him.

Location – This is actually one of the first things experts recommend you consider when your cat is not using his box. If the box is near the furnace or washer/dryer, your cat might not like the strange noises.

Also, cats seem to like some privacy but not remote privacy. Don’t make them traverse too far to use the potty. I know it can be hard but it’s also important to have more than one box….and not right next to each other. To a cat, that’s pretty much one big box. If you can have boxes on each level of your house or in opposite ends of the house or apartment, that’s ideal because it gives them options.

There are so many reasons your cat might be avoiding his litter box and these are just a few to get you started. The key is to think like a cat and consider all possibilities. Email us at caroline (at) high paw (dot) com and let us know if these worked or if you have other litter box questions. We’ll try to answer as best we can!



the scoop on4 new cat litter options you should try from www.thehappylitterbox.comCats can be super finicky about the type of litter you use to fill their litter box (oh, really, ya think?)

While some kitties don’t care what litter you put in the box, other cats will show their displeasure at your choice by taking their biz elsewhere.

So determining the right kind of litter is an important process. You need to first find a litter that will please your kitty and second, find one that you will be happy about, too.

Repeat after me: Kitty preferences first. Your preferences second. Hopefully, you can reach cat owner-cat nirvana and find one brand that meets both feline and human needs.

There are a few new products that have hit the market this past year that strive to be convenient for cat owners but offer something special for the cats, too. Here are some options we’ve tested recently.

But first, remember that every cat is different. What my guys like, your cats may not. So, here I’ll just speak to the features of the litter to give you a better idea of what they’re like. By the way, I never, ever review crappy litter. What I talk about on this site is always deemed worthy of at least a test run if you think it will work for you.

Dr. Elsey’s Touch of Outdoors ™

Dr. Esley's Touch of Outdoors Cat Litter review on www.thehappylitterbox.comOh, wonderful, cat-loving Dr. Elsey. Dr. Elsey has built a reputation for his cat litter that’s designed for getting “problem” cats back into the litter box. He does this by infusing his litter with a proprietary herb attractant that many cats seem to like.

The latest in Dr. Esley’s line is Touch of Outdoors, specially formulated for cats who want to go outdoors or have been formerly outdoor cats and are showing signs that being inside isn’t their cup of tea. They may show this displeasure and even stress by pacing, scratching, inter-cat aggression, increased vocalization, urine marking and more.

Aligning with another popular trend – enriching indoor cats’ lives – Touch of Outdoors is made from natural, chemical-free prairie grasses grown by Dr. Elsey’s team, with a scent designed to make cats feel less anxious, bored or depressed while living indoors. This might be a great choice for winter time, especially!

The low dust, highly clumping litter also contains natural Chlorophyll that bonds to odors and eliminates them.

My guys are indoors-only and have never lived outdoors so that aspect wasn’t a factor for us. I can speak to the low dust and good clumping of this one. Odor control was good as well.

You can purchase Touch of Outdoors here.

Simple Solution 30-Day Super Absorbent Cat Litter

Simple Solution 30-Day Cat Litter review on www.thehappylitterbox.com Here’s a whole new breed of clay litter in pretty much every way. Traditional clay litters are made from bentonite but Simple Solution 30-Day Cat Litter here. is made from a lightweight mineral called attapulgite clay.

Super absorbent, attapugite is 300% more absorbent than traditional litters, the company claims.

Because the attapugite is so absorbent and the mineral in the clay traps moisture and odor, you don’t need to scoop the urine clumps. You do, however, have to scoop the poop. Sorry.

The attapulgite is soft and Simple Solution has infused it with aloe to make it even easier on your cat’s paws.

And, with a light flowery fragrance and pink color (yes, pink! Love it!) it also makes a complete departure from many of the litters on the market today.

The stuff works. It was just about 30 days before I had to replace it. The flowery smell is pleasant but it’s still scented so if you or your cat are not a fan of fragrances, you may not like this.

Buy Simple Solution 30-Day Cat Litter here.

Pioneer Pet’s SmartCat All Natural Clumping Litter

Smart Cat Litter review on www.thehappylitterbox.com Another new litter made with natural, USA-grown grasses, SmartCat All Natural Clumping Litter has superfine granules that make it soft on kitty’s paws.

The plant-based litter is also lightweight (1/3 the weight of clay litters says Pioneer Pet) and dust-free, making it good for cats and humans who are bothered by airborne cat litter particles.

For those of you whose lives are made miserable by wet cat litter sticking to the side of the box, Pioneer Pet says you won’t have that problem with SmartCat because it’s designed to “peel” itself away from the sides, making scooping easier. This is totally true. I don’t know why or how but it does not cement itself to the box so it’s freakishly easy to scoop.

All natural, fragrance and chemical free, SmartCat will also biodegrade after disposal as a renewable resource. I had no issues with odor control. It was totally fine.

I would have switched to this litter for life (and still might) except for the tracking issue. It’s lightweight and fine so it does track and I was constantly sweeping. If I had the boxes in a different location (they’re in my office right now) and if I could use a litter mat (I can’t because Romeo pees on them) I might try again because other than the tracking, this stuff is awesome.

You can purchase SmartCat All Natural Clumping Litter here.

Healthy Pet ökocat Natural Wood Clumping Litter

Okocat litter review on www.thehappylitterbox.comökocat Natural Wood Cat Litter isn’t new to the cat litter market. In fact, they’ve been selling their proprietary wood cat litters in Europe for over a decade.

This soft, crushed wood clumping litter is made from naturally fallen timber or unused scrap lumber materials. The wood is chipped and combined with proprietary plant-based binders that help inhibit the growth of bacteria, support the product’s “7-day odor control” claim, and provide massive absorption (the company says the litter is able to hold 500% its weight in liquid).

The lightweight litter is free of chemicals, any additives or fragrances and doesn’t produce dust or particles that are easily tracked through the house.

It was totally nice and I liked the crunchy texture of it but I found it wasn’t super scoopable. However, if you are a pine fan (and it definitely does a good job with odor) you should check it out.

You can purchase ökocat Natural Wood Cat Litter here.

So, check them out and let me know if you like (or dislike) any of these! Also, none of these were paid reviews but I did receive product for free to test out. My opinions are mine, all mine.

And, BTW, the links to Amazon are affiliate links which just means if you do purchase, I get a small percentage, at no extra cost to you.  Mwah!


Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 2.37.52 PMYou all know Jackson Galaxy, right? He’s the host of My Cat From Hell on Animal Planet and a guy who really, really loves and cares about cats. He’s even helped some Happy Litterbox readers figure out what’s going on with their precious kitties litter box behavior, so we are forever grateful for his help with cats worldwide. You can read some of his litter box advice here, here and here.

He and another of our fave cat experts, design maven Kate Benjamin of Hauspanther, have teamed up on a new book: Catification: Designing a Happy and Stylish Home for Your Cat (and You!)

Catification is all about “catifying” your home – in other words, creating a home that makes your cat happy and your personal aesthetic sensibilities purr. No more torn up, ugly shag carpet cat trees for you! No siree; not with Jackson and Kate on the job.

Kate and Jackson The dynamic duo helps you figure out what your cat’s behavior tells you about what he really needs in a cat-friendly home. In this full color paperback book, Kate and Jackson provide more than 15 easy, DIY projects and tons of design tricks to make the changes that will help your cat (and you!) be happy in your home together.

And, as we all know, stressed and anxious cats often have litter box issues. As you’ll see in the book, sometimes a few design tricks will help your cat feel more comfortable in his environment and potentially help him get back into the box.

You can get your copy of Catification at Amazon
or other bookstores.

PLUS if you’re in Kansas City, Jackson’s coming to see you Friday, October 17 at 7 p.m. at Rainy Day Books!

Other tour stops include:

Kansas City, MO
October 17, 7 p.m.
Rainy Day Books

Milwaukee, WI
October 19, 6 p.m.
Rainy Day Books

Austin, TX
October 20, 7 p.m.
Book People

New York, NY
October 20, 7 p.m.
Union Square Barnes & Noble
Jackson AND Kate! Double whammy, woo hoo!

Los Angeles, CA
October 27, 7 p.m.
Barnes & Noble at The Grove


click hereDo you know what I love most about pet people? I love that pet people love their own pets but also care deeply about all pets, especially ones in need.

The people at Freekibble.com are those types of people. You may know the Freekibble.com folks from their incredible work donating kibble to shelter cats and dogs through Freekibble.com and Freekibblekat.com.

Each day, these sites post a trivia question. For each question site visitors answer, Freekibble.com donates 10 pieces of kibble to pets in need. To date, thanks to the Freekibble.com community, they have donated more than 12 MILLION meals of Halo Spot’s Stew to shelter pets.

But kitties don’t just need food. They also need a clean, fresh litter box. And shelters go through millions of pounds of litter each year, which is a huge expense.

freekatlitter.comSo, Freekibble.com has launched a new program to help ensure our homeless feline friends get oodles and oodles of high quality Fresh Step litter: Freekatlitter.com.

But they can’t do it alone. They need YOU to help generate these donations. Each day, visit freekatlitter.com and click on the cat by the litter box to make him go and scratch around in his litter. That’s all you need to do. For each click, Freekatlitter.com will donate Fresh Step cat litter to homeless cats across the nation, making every shelter cat’s litter box a happy litter box!

Can you imagine how much freekatlitter.com can help rescues and shelters? With one less thing to worry about, these incredible, hardworking organizations can focus on caring for the cats and finding them forever homes.

So…go click on Freekatlitter.com like, right meow!

P.S. Here’s a happy litter box tip: sign up for the daily reminders like I have. Then you’ll get s sweet email each day reminding you to go click to help pets in need. It’s a great way to start your day!


Have you seen any of Dr. Andy Roarke’s videos? Dr. Andy can be seen on Vetstreet.com covering all kinds of issues, from how to introduce your cat to a new baby to keeping pets safe in the heat to yes, inappropriate elimination.

Check out this video and tell me if any of it sounds familiar to you…..


5 common litter box mistakesLitter boxes. They seem so easy, so straightforward. Your cat knows just what to do and he does it. All you have to do is clean it out once in a while right? Right? Right?

Well, sometimes right. But plenty of times….wrong.

Litter box problems are one of the chief complaints veterinarians report hearing from their clients and one of the top reasons cats are abandoned at shelters.

So, something must be going awry.

First, you need to understand that a cat’s potty experience is a whole lot different than a human’s. It’s a complicated issue that involves much more than just a bodily function – there are a lot of behavioral, instinctual and emotional aspects to litter box use. If your cat suddenly stops using the litter box, take him to the vet right away. There could be an underlying medical issue. If there’s nothing medically wrong, consider one of these 5 box blunders well-meaning cat owners make:

The Box is Too Small
It doesn’t make sense, I realize, but standard sized litter boxes you might find at the pet store aren’t usually big enough. Jumbo-sized litter boxes can do the trick but there are even better solutions – a large under the bed storage box, for example, works great. Other people have found success with plastic baby pools (obviously you have to have the space for this one). Consider your cat’s experience when hopping into a too-small box: he can’t dig, he can’t turn around and he can’t cover. It’s not hard to imagine why your sweet kitty might prefer going elsewhere.

The Litter Smells
Scented litters may seem like a good idea to you but for many cats it’s a big turn off. Cats have sensitive little noses and overly scented litters may send them elsewhere to do their biz. Frankly, I can’t stand scented litters myself so I can only imagine how my cats must feel. Try unscented cat litter if your cat isn’t using the box.

The Box is Covered
Covered litter boxesare usually marketed to humans who want to keep the unpleasant sight and smell of the box tucked away. The problem is, what may be good for a human can be a major bummer for your cat.

First of all, most covered boxes have only one entrance/exit and this can make many cats feel trapped.

If there’s only one way out (the same way they came in) and there’s another cat, a dog or even a human near the ONE entrance/exit, that’s pretty scary for your kitty.

Also, you may be keeping the smell from your precious nose but imagine how your cat feels when he heads into that smelly little enclosed closet. It has to be overpowering – not only the dirty litter smell but if you have scented litter in there? It’s probably like walking into a porta-potty right after someone sprayed flowery room spray in there. Ewww.

Take off the lid and see how that works in getting your kitty back into the box. I’ve heard from several readers who say making that easy change solved all of their litter box problems.

There’s too Much….or Too Little Litter in the Box

Put yourself in your cat’s paws for a minute. The amount of litter in the box can make a huge difference in your cat’s litter box experience. Too much litter and your cat may be sinking into it, unable to get a foothold. Too little litter and your cat may not like feeling the bottom of the box or it may be hard for him to cover so he feels out of sorts. If your cat is making a detour away from the box, try experimenting with different amounts of litter in the box.

There Are Too Many Boxes in One Location
Many experts suggest one box for each cat in your house and then one extra. But…they shouldn’t all be in the same spot. The idea is to have different options, environments and locations for your cat. If all of the boxes are in one spot, lined up in a row, for example, they might as well be one big old communal box. That’s not helping anyone or, rather, anycat. Experiment with different spots to see if your cat prefers a new location.

Often, litter box issues require some trial and error to find out just what the problem might be. Consider whether you might be making one of these litter box blunders and let us know what works for you!


Seriously, is there nothing worse than a house that smells like cat pee? Even the cleanest, most fastidious cat parents sometimes have to deal with the pungent, ammonia-y stink of a cat who is spraying or peeing where he shouldn’t.

When I heard Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, a veterinary writer in San Diego, was struggling with this and found a solution, I asked her if I could share her success with you guys. “Absolutely,” she said.

Dr. V. was at her wit’s end. Her cat Apollo was spraying around the front door and she could not figure out why. She’s still working on that issue, but in the meantime the smell was overwhelming. She tried everything to remove the odor but nothing worked. “I mopped three times, scrubbed the door by hand with a grout brush, anti-icky poo, bleach, everything.”

The stress level was rising in their house, which happens when you begin to get frustrated with living with the pee smell and feeling helpless to put a stop to it.

Anyway, Dr. V. said the only thing that worked was Zero Odor, a product that has gotten major accolades the last couple of years for being super effective and non-toxic. (My sis-in-law uses it on dog pee on her carpet and swears by it….even uses it when her husband forgets to take the towels and put them in the dryer! DOH!)

Dr. V. sprayed the walls with Zero Odor and soon after, the smell was gone. “My husband, who has the nose of a bloodhound, proclaimed the entryway odor free, which is as good an endorsement as it gets!”

I am super happy to share this story with you because I know it’s one of the biggest issues we cat parents face. Dr. V. also used on the litter after Apollo used the box for a stinky poop and she said it worked great there too.

“I never go out of my way to endorse products,” Dr. V. told me. “I see so many and it gets overwhelming. This one, for me, is a game changer. It’s amazing stuff.”

You can check out Zero Odor on Amazon or at Zero Odor’s web site. I also saw it for sale in my vet’s office!

Let me know how it works for you!

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Catdance Film Festival! Sponsored Post by Fresh Step

February 7, 2014

Ah, the Sundance Film Festival. Every year I see Facebook photos of friends marking it off their bucket list, boasting of Robert Redford sightings and other celebrity encounters. I think to myself that it would be fun to go to the Sundance Film Festival… but NOW it would be even more fun because of…..the Catdance […]

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Happy Winter with Arm & Hammer

December 26, 2013

Well, we’re in the middle of that funky week between Christmas and New Year’s where everything is a little out of whack and everyone is home. Yes, in the house. Things are (hopefully) a little slower this week than they’ve been for at least a month and perhaps you have a little more time to […]

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Why Cats Pee Outside the Litter Box

December 19, 2013

As you know, cats are extremely sensitive little creatures. There are a million, bajillion reasons why they might pee outside their litter box. It’s up to you, as their parent, to figure out just what their problemo may be. No doubt, you may never really know the reason but you owe it to your sweet […]

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