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The Danger Zone

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How to Stop Litter Box Ambushing

By: Mieshelle Nagelschneider, Cat Behaviourist, host of the TV show My Cat From Hell (2021), and author of the cat behaviour science book, The Cat Whisperer

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Even amongst bonded cats, tension can occur when it comes to sharing an important resource such as the litter box. When a cat feels as if he can’t use the box without being threatened or ambushed, he will find alternative places to do his business. You can feel sure that the place (or places!) he ends up deeming to be safer (under the dining room table, in your left running sneaker, etc.) won’t be desirable to you. The good news is that there are a couple proactive things you can do to prevent litter box ambushes, instill feelings of safety in your cats, and encourage them to use the litter box appropriately.

Use an uncovered litter box
Covered litter boxes are preferred by many cat owners, as they hide away the least cuddly and fun parts of living with a cat. Unfortunately, covered litter boxes in multi-cat homes can fuel the tension between cats, as they limit a cat’s awareness of lurkers and only provide one route for escape if threatened. Where in nature do cats search out hollowed out logs for their latrine site? Hint:  They don’t.  An uncovered litter box will allow your cat to determine and act upon the safest way to escape, and will subsequently make him feel safer while using the box. If you prefer a covered box as a way to avoid litter being kicked around the room, consider a box with taller sides (assuming your cat is able enough to easily step over).

Location, location, location!
Once you have uncovered litter boxes, it’s important to place them in appropriate locations. Multi-cat home should have at least one litter box per cat, plus one extra. Instead of placing them all in one room, spread them throughout your home in easily-accessible and well-lit areas.  Spreading them throughout your home will give your cat more options if another cat is standing guard over a litter box. Finally, make sure that the boxes are placed in a way that allows your cat the ability to see as much of the room as possible (including the door), so he can anticipate threats.


Competition for shared resources is one of the most common reasons for tension between cats in multi-cat homes and can escalate fast into severe aggression. Increasing and dispersing litter boxes throughout the home can actually decrease territorial thinking between your cats and help them get along better.   Let these simple steps transform your home into a more harmonious and stress-free environment for both you and your cats.

Check out Mieshelle Nagelschneider’s cat behaviourist clinic here!

By: Mieshelle Nagelschneider, Cat Behaviourist, host of the TV show My Cat From Hell (2021), and author of the cat behaviour science book, The Cat Whisperer

You can watch cat behaviourist Mieshelle Nagelschneider on National Geographic. An acclaimed, New York Times-noted feline behaviour science author, Mieshelle founded The Cat Behavior Clinic in 1999 and conducts consultations remotely throughout the United States and in over 30 countries. You can schedule a consultation with her through

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