Cat Tipping Over Litter Box

Many cat owners have experienced the frustrating situation where their cat inexplicably tips over their litter box, making a huge mess for (apparently) no good reason.

Why does this happen and how can you avoid it from happening again?

Cat Tips Over Litter Box (Why and How to Avoid)

One of the main reasons that a cat tip over its litter box is because the litter box is too small and your cat trips on the edges. Other reasons include the litter not being cleaned enough, or that something else is uncomfortable. Troubleshoot these issues to avoid a mess.

Your Litter Box Might be Too Small

The litter box itself being too small is actually one of the main reasons that cats tip over their litter box. This can happen accidentally because the cat simply can’t maneuver in the box or get out easily without tripping on the sides, or it could happen on purpose as the cat gets frustrated with the lack of space.

When choosing which size litter box to use, it’s better to err on the side of being too large rather than potentially being too small. The width and length as well as the height of the box need to be big enough for your cat to get in, turn around, stand up, and get out easily.

A good rule of thumb to determine if the litter box is big enough for your cat is to make sure it is at least 1.5 times the width and length of your cat, not including its tail.

It’s important for the walls or sides to be tall as well. This gives your cat more room to stand up and move around, and also makes it more difficult for the litter box to be accidentally (or not so accidentally) tipped over.

You Might Need More Litter Boxes for Your Household

You might think that one litter box is enough for more than one cat, however, your cats are likely to disagree. One or more of them may be territorial, at least when it comes to a litter box, and so may be upset at being forced to share this private space.

If you notice one of your cats seeming to guard the litter box from another cat, this is a strong clue that this might be the problem. This can lead to fighting, and in the process, tipping over the liter box.

If you are not sure but want to test whether or not this is the case, you can also simply get additional litter boxes (ideally, at least one for each cat or one litter box for each cat plus one extra), and see if this solves the problem.

The Shape of the Litter Box Might be Uncomfortable

There are many different shapes of litter boxes, and it may be the case that the shape of your cat’s litter box just isn’t compatible with your cat’s preferences.

Try to see if your cat has enough space to comfortably move and turn around inside the litter box, as well as get in and out easily.

Is the hood or top of the litter box causing your cat discomfort? Check if your cat seems bothered by the shape of the top of the litter box.

Carefully feel inside the litter box yourself to check for any sharp or protruding edges that might be poking your cat.

There are many different options for cat litter boxes, so try one with another shape to see if this solves your cat tipping over the litter box problem. (Remember to still make sure the box is large enough!)

You Might Not Be Cleaning Your Litter Box Enough

Another reason your cat may be tipping over its litter box is that it might be trying to tell you something – perhaps that it wants you to clean out its litter box more frequently.

Cats do enjoy being clean, but they can only do so much themselves and know that they do need your help for some things, such as cleaning out their litter box.

The litter box should be cleaned of waste at least once a day. If you can keep up with it more, however, then that would be preferable.

All of the litter itself should be replaced at least every two to three weeks. If you use non-clumping litter, though, then you need to replace it more often, usually twice per week.

The litter box itself should be cleaned (wiped down and disinfected) every time you change out the litter, as well.

If you notice that the box material is starting to absorb the odor, consider switching to a metal box, which will not absorb the odor like a plastic one does.

You Might Need a Different Type or Amount of Litter

Cats are very sensitive to scents and tactile sensations, so they may have strong opinions about the smell or feeling of the litter itself. If it’s not to their liking, they may express this in the form of making a mess with their litter.

The litter pellets should usually be about one to two inches in depth. Too little will not absorb the mess, while too much might feel uncomfortable to your cat.

Some cats may not like an unfamiliar litter, or certain aspects of a litter such as silica gel crystals, for example.

If you’ve recently switched to a new one that he or she doesn’t like, try going back to a familiar litter. On the other hand, if your cat never liked the litter, it’s a good idea to try different ones until you find one he or she likes.

Many cats prefer litter with smaller particles that feel softer, so consider giving this type of litter a try.

Try Changing the Litter Box Location

Perhaps your cat simply does not like the location of the litter box, and this is why it is uncomfortable or unhappy when using it.

Is the litter box in an area that is especially hot, such as in direct sunlight or too close to a heater vent? Or is it too cold, being in an area that doesn’t get any sun or is too close to an air conditioning vent or fan?

Or perhaps it’s in an area that is noisy, or on the other hand, too isolated?

Try experimenting with putting the litter box in a different location.

Remember, though, to give your cat a chance to see if it likes this location better. Be sure to show your cat where you have moved its litter box, and then give it a little time to get used to the new location to see if it likes this location better.

Other Possible Reasons

There are other reasons your cat might be making a mess with its litter box. One reason is if your cat associates the litter box with any negativity.

The associated negativity could be for any of the reasons listed above which might have been making it feel uncomfortable.

Or, it could be from memories of particular experiences. Perhaps another cat was territorial about a litter box and fought with it, or perhaps you or another family member got mad at the cat or accidentally scared it while it was using the litter box.

Try not to make the mistake of punishing your cat for making a mess. This will only exacerbate the problem of your cat associating its litter box with negativity.

Your cat may also be unhappy for other reasons and is tipping over its litter box as a way of acting out.

Another possibility is that your cat is having difficulty with vision, mobility, or balance. Be sure to take your cat to a veterinarian regularly to make sure he or she is as healthy and happy as possible and to address and care for any health or age-related issues that may be developing.

How to Avoid Your Cat Tipping Over Its Litter Box

In summary, it’s important to troubleshoot all of the possible reasons why your cat may be tipping over its litter box.

Review the main reasons your cat may be tipping over its litter box, and then review the tips in the article above to remedy the situation.

  1. Your litter box might be too small. Make sure there is room for your cat to move around and that the sides or walls are tall enough.
  2. You may need more litter boxes for your household. Get at least one litter box for each cat, plus one extra, ideally.
  3. The shape of the litter box might be uncomfortable for your cat. Try a different-shaped litter box.
  4. You might need to clean your litter box more frequently or more thoroughly.
  5. Try a different type or amount of litter. Most cats prefer one to inches of small, soft litter.
  6. Experiment with a different location for your litter box. Make sure the location is not too cold, too hot, too noisy, or too isolated.
  7. Check with your veterinarian or household members for other possible reasons that your cat may be tipping over the litter box. Make sure your cat does not have vision, balance, or mobility problems. Also, ensure that no one is making the litter box experience a negative one for your feline friend.

Cat Tipping Litter Box Over (Why It Happens and How to Prevent It)

One of the main reasons that a cat tip over its litter box is because the litter box is too small and your cat trips on the edges. Other reasons include the litter not being cleaned enough, or that something else is uncomfortable. Troubleshoot these issues to avoid a mess.

avatar Noah
I’m Noah, chief editor at VIVO Pets and the proud owner of a playful, energetic husky (Max). I’ve been a volunteer at Rex Animal Rescue for over 2 years. I love learning and writing about different animals that can be kept as pets. read more...

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