Recently, my cat stopped using the litter box.
This meant a lot of extra work for me to clean up after him. Now, I was already a pretty busy person, so this made my life that much more challenging.
As any cat owner knows, there’s nothing worse than a litter-box problem. I tried everything to stop my cat from peeing and pooping on the floor — and I mean everything.
Like that stuff that makes your whole house smell like a skunk that got drunk. Or making sure I cleaned the litter box out all the time which was hectic and annoying.
If there is a subject that is highly misunderstood by cat owners, it is the subject of the cat litter box.
As long as your cat is faithfully using it appropriately, your house is peaceful. Wait until your cat begins rejecting the litter box, and the drama that ensues turns life in the home upside down.
You implement all manner of defective mechanisms to fix this, from punishment to even giving your cat away to a shelter home.
A once-loving cat-owner relationship is shipwrecked and transforms into a stressful experience that you loath.
This unfortunately will continue until you begin to view the role of the kitty pan from your cat’s view and the importance it plays in his life.
In this article I’m going to tell you how I solved the biggest problem I had with my cat — she stopped using the litter box — and how you can solve your litter-box problems too!
Why Has My Cat Stopped Using the Litter Box?
“He’s doing it out of spite!”
“My cat is so stupid, he pees on the floor and carpet!”
“He’s too lazy to walk to his kitty tray!”
“He did it because he’s mad at me!”
“He knows he’s being bad!”
The above statements are a tiny sample of the kind of words I hear on my answering machine weekly.
While I certainly understand their frustration at the problem at hand, none of the things above are true.
Interestingly, it’s only when you stop viewing your cat’s behavior as spiteful or lazy, that you stand a chance at fixing this behavior.
Remember that peeing and pooping for animals, is also a means of communication. This means if he has begun eliminating outside his kitty tray, something has changed abruptly in his life.
The cause may be either:
The first step involves identifying the cause of the cat’s litter box aversion.
Remember, punishment is not the answer.Pro tip
The longer you ignore the kitty pan aversion problem, the more intense it will become and the more difficult it will be to solve.
What makes a litterbox undesirable to your cat?
1. Illness such as feline lower urinary tract disease:
If your adult cat has been using the kitty tray smoothly then suddenly stopped using the litter box to pee, the first thing to do should be to visit your veterinarian.
The culprit could likely be a complex syndrome called FLUTD; feline lower urinary tract disease.
Pro tip: Urinary infections are quite rare in kittens and middle-aged cats.
However, this doesn’t mean that your cat doesn’t have any other medical condition.
Your cat may have urinary stones that create a plug that blocks the urinary tract preventing the flow of urine and irritating the bladder. This can be fatal if your cat doesn’t pee and can cause death in hours.
Your cat feels pain when he tries to pee in the kitty pan, and associates the pain with the box, hence avoiding it. Your cat will end up going outside the litter box to pee.
2. Inaccessible litter box:
If you live in a three storey house, and your aging cat spends most of his time on the top floor, placing the kitty tray in the basement is a recipe for disaster.
Your cat will easily have a litter box accident on the rug. He will then continue to assume that he is supposed to eliminate that exact spot since the pee and poop scent will attract him there.
Before you know it, your older cat has already stopped using the litter box.
This can create a hard-to-break habit.
3. Different brands of litter:
Most cats prefer clumping and unscented litter though each has its pros and cons. Initially, you may need to experiment a bit.
If you introduce a new kind of litter to your cat, it will start pooping outside the litter box to show its dislike of the litter. A cat may dislike this litter due to its texture, scent, quality, and quantity.
4. Sudden radical changes:
Your cat may have stopped using the litter box to pee due to the sudden random changes in your house such as:
- New furniture
- A new person moving in
- Changing the position of the litter box,
- A change in the room arrangement.
This should be a short-term change for your cat will adjust with time.
5. Dirty litter box:
If you’ve been living under a rock, surprise surprise, cats loathe a dirty box! Your cat won’t the litter box if it has been unscooped for days and who knows when it was last washed.
He will simply pass by the box and look for a cleaner, more comfy place to eliminate and unfortunately, that might just be your fav carpet!
6. Too tiny a box:
If you notice that your kitten won’t use the litter box but will soil around the box itself, it might be because the box is too small.
Most cats prefer large boxes instead of standard medium boxes.
If you notice that your cat urinates horizontally, then your cat might have outgrown the box.
7. Busy locations and lack of privacy:
Cats prefer privacy when eliminated. If the box is placed in a high traffic area, they will avoid using it. They will then resort to a more secluded area, outside the litter box.
8. The kitty pan is near food:
Have you placed your cat’s litter box near his food and water bowls? You may have been misinformed that you need to place them adjacent to each other to remind your cat to use the litterbox.
This will cause your cat to boycott the box and relieve himself elsewhere outside the litter box.
9. Supremacy battles with other cats in the house:
If you have multiple cats using the same litter box, some cats will notice a cat peeing and pooping outside the litter box.
This occurs when one cat is being bullied and denied access or is harassed any time he tries to use the kitty tray.
What do you do if your cat stops using the litter box?
You can stop your cat from urinating outside the litter box by taking the following measures:
1. Contact a registered veterinarian:
If a cat experiences pain while urinating, it may associate the pain with the kitty tray. This can trigger inappropriate elimination.
Pain while urinating is likely caused by a medical condition called feline lower urinary tract infection. This is caused usually by feline interstitial cystitis or urinary stones that cause blockage of the bladder. This prevents the flow of urine out of the urinary tract and can turn fatal in hours.
Contact your veterinarian immediately who will treat your cat. They may use urinary acidifiers, or in dire cases a fine needle to withdraw the urine into a syringe to relieve your cat of the pressure.
The vet will then prescribe a special diet to manage the long-term urinary tract infection.
2. Clean the litter box:
Evaluating the kitty tray is the first step to identifying the cause of the litter box aversion.
Examine how desirable and accessible the litter boxes areas are compared to the new spots where your cats are eliminated.
Twice daily scooping of the cat’s box should be ingrained in your schedule to avoid having a dirty litter box lying around which your fastidious cat will avoid like a plague.
This should be the first step to take any time your cat stops using the litter box.
Empty your kitty tray, using mild soap and water, scrub the insides, and rinse it with clean water.
Air-dry the box. Put in fresh litter in the box.
If you cannot clean your litter box, consider getting a self-cleaning litter box.
3. Improve accessibility to the litter boxes:
If you live in a say 3 storey house, ensure you have a litter box on every level. This includes the basement.
I have a kitty tray in every level and my aging cat has an easy time accessing each box depending on where he’s at.
4. Buy Additional litter boxes:
The number of litter boxes available may be too few for a multi-cat household. The rule of thumb is one litter box per cat plus an extra box.
If you have multiple cats in the same household, invest in enough litter boxes to reduce the supremacy battles over the litter boxes.
Do not line up the litter boxes side by side, but place them in different locations within the house.Pro tip
If you fail to do this, some bully cats will guard the litter boxes so that the other cats can’t access them.
5. Move the litter box to a private area:
Just like you need your bathroom privacy, so do cats.
Place the cat litter box in a quiet place away from human traffic, to accord your cat the much-needed privacy.
If space is an issue, you can go for a covered box or use a screen in front of the kitty box.
6. Stick to one kind of litter:
If you keep changing the litter type now and then, your cat will randomly stop using the litter box. Stick to one type of litter that suits you and your cat.
You can try unscented clumping clay, which is a favorite to many cats.
Litter changes should be gradual, if at all necessary. Add a small amount of the new litter into the box and mix it up with the existing litter.
Over 5 days, continue to increase the amount of new litter as you decrease the amount of the old litter.
7. Buy a larger litter box:
If the litter box is too small for your cat to enter, eliminate and turn comfortably as he digs around to bury his waste, your cat may litter outside the box.
Provide your cat with a larger litter box with higher sides.
The litter box should be large, open, accommodating, and have an easy entry door where a cat will not strain to get in and out.
8. Replace the old litter box:
Replace old plastic litter boxes with new ones annually.
This is because cat urine that drips on the inner walls may drain into crevices and over time, even with thorough washing, the odor doesn’t completely disappear.
9. Retrain your cat:
If your new pet has undergone a painful or fearful event such as declawing, retrain the cat to use the cat box preferably in a different and isolated location.
Once the toilet behaviors have been reestablished, increase access to the rest of the house as you monitor the kitty tray behavior.
Finally, place the litter boxes in a desirable accessible location.
10. Erase accidents:
Accidents do happen; yes, they do; a cat may be too pressed to make it to the kitty tray and will poop around the corner.
Clean the mess using enzymatic cleaner so your cat will not stumble on the mess and think it’s quite right to poop there again.
What makes a litterbox desirable to your cat?
- Larger litterbox
- Litter texture options
- Clumping litter
- A covered box/hooded litter boxes
- Sandy litter
- Softer litter
Cat Litter Box Retraining
If you have resolved the problem causing your cat to reject the litter box, you may likely need to retrain the kitty to use the tray.
Follow these steps:
- Do not punish your kitty. This will terrify him and worsen the situation.
- Get a brand new cat box and place it in a peaceful accessible spot where your cat can enjoy some privacy.
- Ensure this new location hasn’t been marked via urine spraying by another cat. If it has, cleans out the area using an enzymatic cleaner to completely remove the odor.
- Add about 2-3 inches of cat litter to the tray. Don’t overfill.
- Monitor how he uses it and praise him when he does.
Why does my cat pee in the litter box but poop on the floor?
Ever wondered why your cat pees in his litter box but poops somewhere else?
It could be due to medical, physiological, or behavioral reasons, and you will have to examine your cat to determine the specific cause.
If you have encountered a litter box aversion by your cat, the truth is that this is due to either a medical, physiological, or behavioral reason.
You will have to examine your cat and involve your vet or even a cat behaviorist to determine why exactly they are rejecting the litter box.
Sometimes things aren’t as complicated as they seem. Sometimes they are. You can only tell the difference, once you identify the root cause of the problem.
Which hack do you think is the most important?
Davis WilkinsDavis Wilkins is a dedicated cat lover, with three cats under his care. He grew up in a cat-loving family, nurturing these feline friends. As a result, he purposed to share his cat knowledge with the universe. Wilkins has been writing professionally for over four years, specializing in feline care with a keen interest in litter box care and handling. He hopes to help other feline lovers achieve their pet care goals.
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