How to Train a Cat to Use a Litter Box in a New Location
Cats can be very picky with their potty habits, and if you need to move the litter box to a new location you must be careful to keep your cat at ease or they may choose your carpet to do their business instead. With patience, however, you can move the litter box to a spot that will be comfortable for both you and your cat.
Why Move the Box?
If possible, it is always best to leave a cat’s litter box in a familiar location the cat has accepted. If you move to a new home, however, it is obvious that the box will also need to be moved. Even in the same home, however, it may be necessary to move the litter box if you are remodeling or renovating rooms, such as converting a nursery, home office, or craft room where the litter box may no longer be welcome or appropriate. Similarly, changing the flooring in a room or rearranging furniture may also require the litter box to be moved. If you bring home new pets, especially another cat, it may also be necessary to move the litter box. Whatever the reason for the relocation, it is necessary to position the litter box appropriately in a new space and to move it carefully so the cat continues to feel comfortable using it.
Choosing the Best New Spot for the Litter Box
Before moving a litter box, be sure the new location is suitable. A quiet, private space will feel most comfortable for the cat. There should also be adequate room around the box so the cat can scratch, turn, and squat without feeling cramped or cornered, which can cause anxiety and make the cat seek out a different elimination spot. The litter box should be placed away from the cat’s food and water bowls, as cats do not typically eliminate in their familiar feeding spaces. Finally, be sure the litter box is accessible for any special needs the cat may have. For example, an older cat or a pet with mobility issues may have difficulty going up or down stairs to reach its litter box.
How to Move a Litter Box to a New Location
Once you have chosen the new litter box location, it is essential to move the box slowly so the cat can more easily adjust to the change. You could put down a second litter box in the new location and gradually move the old box closer and closer to the new location, removing the old box completely when the cat is comfortable using the new box. If you don’t want to mess with two litter boxes, you can simply move the old box short distances – just a few inches or a foot or two – every few days, allowing the cat to “follow” its accustomed potty space to the new location.
To make the transition between litter box locations smoother for both you and your cat…
- Use the same box style and same litter in both boxes (if using two), and avoid changing boxes or litter at the same time you’re moving the box. Too much change can upset the cat and it may stop using the box entirely, no matter where the box is located.
- Make the new litter box location as similar to the old environment as possible. This may include adding a piece of carpet or spare tiles to the new location to match the flooring, adjusting light levels, or positioning a familiar piece of furniture nearby so the cat recognizes the space.
- Once the box has been moved, even if it isn’t yet in its final new location, clean and deodorize the old litter box location to remove scent markers the cat associates with the space. This will help the cat better recognize where to do its business.
- After the cat is accustomed to the new box location, rearrange furniture where the litter box used to be. This type of change will help make the old location less comfortable and recognizable so the cat won’t return to its old litter box spot.
It can take some time for a cat to get used to a new litter box location, and it is important not to punish your pet for any potty accidents in the meantime. Not using the litter box is a cat’s way of showing anxiety, frustration, or confusion, and it is best to treat those emotional issues gently to help the cat adjust successfully. Punishments will only increase the cat’s anxiety and engender fear, which could cause even more behavioral problems and greater reluctance to use the litter box altogether.
Training a cat to use a litter box in a new location can be a challenge, but it is possible. With patience and gentleness, your cat can learn to move its bathroom habits to a new site and both you and your pet will be more comfortable.