Help! My Cat Has Stopped Using Her Litter Box!

First off, don’t take it personally. Ten percent of cats develop a litter-box problem, and the sooner you address this messy issue the better your chances of resolving it, says Helena Kokes, animal behavior education coordinator at the Denver Dumb Friends League. The bad news? There’s no surefire path to success. Start with these simple steps, and if the problem doesn’t resolve seek guidance from a behaviorist.

• Test for medical causes like a urinary-tract infection.

• Felines are finicky, reminds Kokes, so scoop daily and completely change the litter once a week. Use a large box without a cover, which traps odors and makes cats feel vulnerable to attack, or a liner that creates an undesirable texture. Choose a fine-grained, unscented litter and keep the box in a quiet location where the cat won't be disturbed by loud noises, children, dogs, or other cats.

• Since cat urine contains ammonia, be sure to use an ammonia-free cleaner that contains enzymes or oxidizing agents.

• “Make the soiled areas unattractive for elimination by changing the significance of the area for the cat, like making it a feeding area,” Kokes says.

• If you have more than one cat, provide at least one box per kitty and place a box on each level of your home.