Cats and their litter tray

Our cats are without doubt creatures of habit and are inherently territorial. Not only do they crave routine, they actively dislike change or inconsistency. This applies to their toilet’ing habits and everything that goes with it. A cat litter box is sacrosanct to its feline owner, much like humans are to their own throne.

What causes your cat to toilet out of their tray?

01 Provision, location and hygiene

If your cat has “accidents” or toilets outside of their tray it is important to understand why. If medical causes can be excluded, it is often usually litter tray provision, location and hygiene that are the root cause of the problem. Multiple cat households must make provisions per cat and ensure that each cat in the home can access a tray with ease.

02 Stress

Stress is another  factor that can affect toileting behaviour. But the signs of stress can be subtle and not immediately obvious to an owner. Nearby building works causing vibrations, family members moving in or moving out, or perhaps there’s a new cat in the neighbourhood that you weren’t aware of.  All these things can contribute to litter tray avoidance because of the new sensory assaults these changes bring.

Why does litter tray accidents happen when you go away?

Disruption to routine is the main reason for accidents when you go away. Stress of an unknown visitor and changes to cat litter box etiquette is enough to trigger your cat to urine mark elsewhere for security. Despite what you might think it’s not an act of protest!

Allowing a bond to forge between your chosen cat sitter and your cat is a great idea. It is also a good idea to ask your cat carer to bring a change of clothing if they have lots of cats of their own or multiple cat sitting bookings. The scent of their own moggies can be distressing to your own cat.

Remedies! – Tips and tricks for successful cat litter box training

There is a whole social etiquette around litter trays. If you make a few tweaks and changes you can quickly resolve many of the problems for urine marking around the home.

  • It is important to have 1 tray per cat in the home PLUS 1 extra. Our cats do not like to share!
  • Don’t change litter types, stick to one brand.
  • Avoid scented liners as these are incredibly off putting to our pussycats who dislike odours other than their own.
  • Tray hygiene is crucial and trays should be cleaned out a minimum daily – more so if it gets heavily soiled.
  • Never place trays near open windows, doors or thoroughfares as it is confronting.  It’s the equivalent of you doing your business with the door open!
  • Keep food and water bowls completely separate from litter tray locations.
  • Try not to relocate trays suddenly, rather try moving them gradually if their placement is less than ideal.
  • If your cat is getting on in age consider getting a tray with lower sides so it can be more easily navigated for stiffening joints.
  • Never administer medication to a cat whilst it is on the litter tray.
  • Sometimes negative associations occur if your cat has had a urinary tract infection-your cat may think the tray is painful. In this case it is worth considering a new tray moved to the place your cat is favouring to pass urine in faeces in. Gradually move a couple of inches a day back to a more desired location. Keep the original tray in its original place.

Potty train your kitten

If you are just in the beginning of litter training with your new kitten, put the litter box where the first accident happened. Your cat will most likely come back to the same spot and learn to accept the litter as their new toilet. Once a habit has been set, you can try to move the tray to your preferred spot, bearing in mind the aspects mentioned above.


When you plan to go away it is really important that you talk to your cat sitter about litter tray routine. Making sure the depth of the litter is kept the same and the tray’s location is consistent.  Litter tray hygiene is just as important so regular cleaning of the tray is essential. For indoor cats this may mean twice daily visits are required by your pet sitter.

On occasion house soiling is due to a medical complaint. It is always recommended to seek your vet’s advice in order to rule out a medical issue.