Although cats are well known for their tidy bathroom habits, sometimes they can still cause a mess. Even if your cat uses its litter box with no accidents, it sometimes tracks litter (and poop) outside of the box – either on its feet or by digging and throwing litter a bit too vigorously.
Curbing this behavior will require the owner to observe the litter box situation and attractiveness and how the cat uses it, as well as adjusting the set-up based on your individual cat’s preferences.
- Adjust Litter or Box
The number one and frankly, the easiest way on how to stop litter tracking is to experiment with different types of litter and litter boxes for your feline friend. For example, pine and recycled paper litter are generally less likely to be tracked as they are much larger compared to clay litter and so, can’t easily stick to a cat’s feet.
If your cat prefers clay litter, try using clumping litter as when it gets wet, it will stick to itself and form small masses as opposed to sticking to the cat itself.
Another aspect to consider is how much litter you are using. If there is too much in the box, then, it makes sense that the cat keeps throwing some outside when it digs. Most cat experts recommend only 2-3 inches of litter at most.
The box itself is also something that comes in many forms; some specifically designed to minimize the mess. Depending on how your cat is using the box, there are few options.
For a cat that likes to dig or bury a lot, consider a high-sided litter box. These boxes keep the litter from being tossed out. But keep in mind that some cats may find it difficult to get in, especially older cats that often suffer from arthritis.
There are also even more specialized litter boxes that are fully enclosed with a hood, and others with a hood and swinging door. These are basically the ultimate enclosed litter boxes if you want to prevent messes, as well as smells from escaping.
The only caveat is that some cats may feel uncomfortable going through a swinging door or being fully enclosed when doing their business. You need to try different things to see what your cat feels comfortable with.
- Maintain Good Litter Box Environment
The second most important aspect of good litter box etiquette is maintaining the litter box for your animal. Cats are very picky about their box status and can become upset if it is dirty or not cleaned frequently enough.
It’s generally suggested to clean your cat’s box at least once a week or more if you have more animals or a kitty that uses the bathroom particularly often. An unkept box may result in a cat digging or scratching at its box more.
It’s almost a form of protest when cats make a mess. In this case, they’re saying this isn’t up to snuff. Stressed cats can also lead to more litter box accidents and litter tracking, so make sure that you not only keep the box clean but also your cat’s overall well-being should be maintained.
Sometimes having multiple cats in one litter box can result in issues as one cat may dominate the box – leaving the others feeling threatened. This could lead to litter tracking if they are trying to get in and out very quickly or otherwise feel anxious.
Having one litter box minimum for each resident animal is usually recommended, and they should be kept as far apart as possible; ideally, in areas each respective cat prefers to hang out in.
- Litter Mat
A litter mat is an inexpensive product available in most pet stores that is put right outside the litter box. This mat has small fibers that pull the litter off the cats’ paws when they are leaving the box so that they don’t bring it around the home.
Then, you simply need to just shake the mat off into the garbage or back into the box to get rid of the litter.
For cats that won’t tolerate a litter or box set up that minimizes tracking – like an enclosed box or bigger litter – this is an excellent and easy fix to prevent messes. Some litter boxes even have built-in pads that trap litter as the cat exits.
Particularly relevant for long-haired cats is that sometimes, the litter will become stuck in the hair on their feet. This can cause a lot of messy headaches so it’s important to keep these cats well-groomed.
Trimming the hair in between the cat’s toes will prevent litter granules from getting caught. They can even get wet litter stuck to their behinds when going, so maintaining their coat so that it doesn’t get in the way of bathroom time is important.
Even non-long-haired cats can get litter stuck to their bodies so keep an eye out for this.
- Box Location
It makes sense that minimizing litter tracking depends on where the litter box is itself. Some cats enjoy privacy and so, putting the box in a closet is a plus not only for them but for you as well as tracking would be curtailed to just that immediate area. Just take note of some precautions though such as keeping your pet from being trapped inside.
You also should consider putting the box down on a hard floor surface, as tracking on a rug is a much worse situation to clean up. Please keep in mind though that moving a litter box can be stressful for them, so you need to do it in a gradual manner and always show them the new location.
- Quick Cleanup
If all else fails, you may just need to ensure you can easily clean up the tracked litter. Having a small cordless vacuum or broom and dustpan near the litter box is an easy way to keep the area tidy.
Again, not having a rug right outside the box is advisable, or at least have some kind of mat or other hard substrates for the cat to walk on right after exiting.
- Medical Issues
Lastly, if litter messes are still happening despite many different litter box configurations, there may be a medical issue happening. Cats can become litter box averse if they experience pain through direct bathroom use like constipation or other GI issues. It can also be general discomforts like arthritis or hip dysplasia.
This can result in them trying to get in and out quickly; causing tracking or tossing around litter. Especially if you see your cat failing to bury its feces or making vocalizations when going, you should bring it to a vet to further investigate the problem.