New Cat Using Old Cat’s Litter Box (Why & How To Solve It?)

New Cat Using Old Cat's Litter Box

Do you know what’s even better than having a cat? Having two cats!

Nothing like having two feline masters boss you around the whole day but it’s worth it. Dogs are amazing but cats are in a league of their own.

When it comes to cats, there is nothing more sacred to your feline companion than its litter box. Mess this part up and your cat will start using your closet for its bathroom.

Bringing home another cat can cause some tension and confusion when it comes to litter box usage. Especially when the new cat is starting to use the litter box of the old cat.

This behavior might not necessarily cause a problem but if one cat is more territorial and dominant than the other, it will not tolerate the new cat using its litter box. This can lead to fights and bullying.

In this article, we will be looking at why your cats aren’t having litter box harmony and how to ensure that both cats are comfortable and happy living together.

Why Are Cats So ‘Difficult’?

As someone that has both a cat and a dog, I can’t help but feel that my cat has taken the word ‘fussy’ to a whole new level at times.

But most cats tend to behave this way due to their instinctive nature. And it is this very instinct that keeps them alive in the wild.

By the time a cat reaches 12-15 weeks of age, they are forced to leave the nest as the mother cat will no longer look after them.

It is their coming of age and they need to get independent fast.

Cats are solitary creatures and will spend most of their lives alone unless it’s time to mate. Unlike dogs which are pack animals, cats do not have other cats to fall back on when the going gets tough.

Cats survive by being territorial, careful to not give their location away and sticking to a predictable routine.

The addition of a new cat around will certainly mess up your cat’s usual routine and the resident cat’s litter box.

At least for the first few weeks if you are lucky.

Starting Out Right With Your New Cat And The Litterbox

cat using new litter box

There are a couple of important things that you will need to do when your cat arrives. Getting your cat acquainted with the litter is one. The other is making the right introduction to the resident cat.

You can’t socialize multiple cats like how you would do with dogs.

It is easy for dogs when all that is involved is mostly butt-sniffing. But cats aren’t so straight forward.

You need to ease them in with smell and sound before the big meet.

Here’s a video on how you can introduce your cats the right way.

Thankfully, getting your cat litter box ready is a lot easier since it is already in your cat’s DNA. I would place the new cat’s litter in a location that is quiet and further away from the current box.

I would then carry the cat and place it in the box while taking its paws to scratch at the litter. This is done a few times for the cat to form the association that this is my new litter box.

If you have a new kitten that is a bit of a slow learner, try gently rubbing its bottom with a warm cloth to encourage it to pee or poo in the new box.

Why Is My Cat Using My Other Cat’s Litter Box?

Sometimes even with the best litter box training, you will have one cat that still prefers to use the other cat’s box. It doesn’t always have to be the new cat that is encroaching on the resident cat. It could be the other way around as well.

There can be a couple of reasons for such behavior.

Exerting Dominance

When we talk about dominance, we often associate it with a trait that is more common in dogs. Dogs are pack animals and will look up to the most dominant dog or alpha leader.

Although cats are solitary creatures, they tend to also form a social hierarchy in cat colonies and multi-cat households.

Cats exact dominance by:

  • Rubbing its scent on items
  • Spraying or urinating to mark its territory
  • Eliminating in a litter box to leave its mark
  • Excessively grooming another cat
  • Fighting or physically bullying another cat

Some cats are more dominant than others for a couple of reasons. If the cat wasn’t well socialized as a kitten, it will grow up with behavioral issues. Stray or feral cats that often have to fight for food and shelter will also grow to have a dominant streak in them.

Litter boxes are treated as valuable resources to cats and even more so to one that is dominant. I’m not sure how dominant my cat but he often looks at me when cleaning his litter box to make sure I’m doing it right.

One of your cats could be trying to exert its dominance by placing its scent markers in the other cat’s litter box. This is a signal to the cat that this box is mine and I’m the boss.

Learning By Looking

kitten looking at something

If your new cat is a kitten, then this reason applies more to you.

Everything in the world is still new to the kitten. It is still learning the ropes of being a cat and learning to navigate its environment.

One thing that kittens love to do is to cling to an older cat. During their formative years, kittens will follow their mothers where ever she goes as she is the main provider of food and shelter.

This instinct is still carried forward when your kitten arrives in its new home. It might cling closely to your older cat and observe what it does.

Your kitten might start using the resident cat’s litter box as it’s getting the smell of pee and poo from there. It might have also seen the older cat use it and is now trying to copy its actions.

Nothing wrong with that.

Your little kitten has figured out what it needs to be when it’s time to use the toilet. It isn’t trying to be passive-aggressive just to piss off the other cat.

I would be glad that my new cat is using the litter box instead of peeing in my shoe.

Give your kitten praise and love when it does the right thing.

Type Of Cat Litter

Cats are really fussy creatures and can be extremely about the kind of cat litter that is in their litter boxes.

If you have recently gotten a new cat, it might be good to check with the shelter or breeder on the type of cat litter that they have been using. Some cats prefer a certain type of litter for personal reasons.

If you are using a different type of litter for both cats, one cat might prefer the type of cat litter in the other box.

What Happens If Two Cats Share A Litter Box?

It isn’t the end of the world if both your cats are sharing a litter box. In fact, I would call it a blessing in disguise. There’s less cleaning up to do for you and less to spend on cat litter.

But before you consider this a feline victory, you need to be sure that both cats are totally fine with sharing the same litter box. Bringing a third cat into the mix can start to cause territorial issues between them.

Encroaching another cat’s box can cause added stress, aggression and out of the box usage. Some cats will even smack or attack the intruder while it is in the middle of using the box.

How To Keep My Cats From Sharing Litter Boxes?

cat in litter box

If one cat prefers to have a litter box for itself, you need to ensure enough boxes to go around to prevent accidents or territorial issues.

A good rule of thumb is to have one litter box per cat. So if you have two cats, that would mean having two litter boxes at home.

Place each litter box away from the other to lower the risk of encroachment.

Whenever you see one cat starting to use the other cat’s box, immediately carry it to the right litter box and make sure it uses that box before you step away.

The key is to try and catch the intruder in the act as often as possible and bring that cat to the right litter box. You probably won’t have a 100% hit rate and you won’t know who left what in the litterboxes. But over time they will learn to respect each other’s need for litter box privacy.

Some cat owners will have an additional box on top of a separate one for each cat. It can come in handy if you have one cat that is pretty insistent on using the other cat’s litter tray.

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