Can I Get My Cat to Use Litterboxes Instead of Going in Potted Plants?

CatChannel and CAT FANCY cat behaviorist Marilyn Krieger, CCBC, shares ways to get cats to urinate in litterboxes and to stop using potted plants.

Q: My cat Willa, whom I adore, stopped using the litterbox about six months ago. Instead, she chooses my mother’s favorite potted plants for her bathroom. The vet checked her out and gave her a clean bill of health. I love her to bits but my mother wants to get rid of her or make her live outside. Willa has never been outside in her whole life.

Two other cats live in the household. All three have happily shared one cat box in the bathroom until Willa started doing her business in the potted palms.

I am 16 years old and live with my mom. Next year, I can take Willa with me to college, but I don’t think my mom will wait that long. Please help me save my Willa.

A: You can persuade your cat to eliminate in litterboxes instead of in your mom’s favorite potted plants. Your cat favors potted palms because she does not feel safe using the one litterbox in the bathroom. In order to stop the behavior, you need to add more litterboxes and make the potted plants off limits.

All resident cats must have a choice of litterboxes. If one litterbox is dirty, inconvenient or feels unsafe, another litterbox is readily available for use. Add large, uncovered litterboxes in different areas of the house. Instead of using commercial litterboxes, buy large storage containers. Place them where Willa and your other catas have good views of the rooms, possibly out the entrances and down halls. Let her see the escape potential. Locate the new boxes in areas where the cats cannot feel trapped or ambushed. Ideally, because you have three cats, you should have four litter boxes. Additionally, you must scoop litterboxes every day.

Simultaneous with adding cat litterboxes, make the potted palms unavailable for bathroom use. Place decorator rocks on the dirt around the plant to help deter cats from using the potted palms as their own personal bathrooms. Place individual pie tin collars around the stems of the plants to keep your cat from eliminating in the pots as well.

The collars are easy to make. Find flimsy aluminum pie tins the size or a little larger than the diameter of the pots. Cut a straight line into the center of the pie tin and then remove enough of the middle in order for it to fit around the stem of the plant.

I hope that your mom will be agreeable to making these few changes to the environment. You might influence her by volunteering to scoop the cat boxes and offering to take care of the potted plants. 

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Cats · Health and Care