Top Reasons Your Cat Is Not Using the Litter Box

 

cat avoiding litter box

Despite what people say about cat litter boxes, you really can’t ask for a better set up.

The cat goes in, does his/her thing, and everything is contained in one little manageable box - rather than spread all over your yard, a cage, or an aquarium.

That is... when your cat actually uses her litter box.

If your cat is struggling to go to the bathroom where you want her to, start by taking her in for a checkup. Several cat illnesses can cause painful urination and discomfort during potty-time, which can cause your cat to avoid the litter box.

However, if you’ve ruled out any medical condition as the cause of your cat’s reluctance to get with the litter box program, you may be dealing with one of the following issues.

Here are the most common reasons your cat will ditch the box and the solutions for getting her back onboard.

Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen

PrettyLitter multiple cat in litterbox

Have multiple cats in your house? Bingo! This is the most likely reason why your cat isn’t using the litter box.

Cats are territorial by nature and they’re in a constant battle for dominance and their self-esteem.

If you have multiple cats, there’s bound to be a time when both need to go potty at the same time. Most cats don’t like to soil the same spot right after another cat. Another reason may be that one cat is dominant over the other, so the more submissive cat feels unwelcome to do his or her business in the dominant cat’s claimed space.

Solution:

Get another litter box. While most veterinarians suggest that multi-cat homes have one box per cat plus one more, this is usually not something pet parents are willing to do. However, having at least two litter boxes in a multi-cat household can be the simplest solution to the “peeing out of the box” problem.

OCD Problems

PrettyLitter Obsessive Cat

If you only have one cat in the household and she’s still refusing the litter box, examine the situation for any patterns.

Is she urinating in the litter box but depositing solids outside the box? Or vice versa? Does she only go #2 on shag rugs while she’s comfortable going #1 in the litter?

As awkward and unpleasant as it is, pay attention to what your cat’s bathroom habits are telling you. They can reveal the answer to your problem.

Solution:

Get another litter box. Sound familiar?

Some cats are very particular about how, when, and where they do their business. In fact, some cats will only use the litter box for one form of bathroom deposit and require a completely different setup for the other half.

Start by getting a second litter box for your finicky cat. If she continues to have trouble staying within one or the other box to do her business, see if there are any other details emerging from her bathroom pattern.

Some cats prefer to do their business on a particular type of surface, like a smooth, cool bathtub or on a furry shag rug.

If that’s the case, try lining one of the litter boxes with the material your cat prefers (for instance, you can pick up a $2 bath mat from the dollar store and line a litter box with it). If your cat starts using the makeshift “litter” box, you’ve found the true cause of her issue.  

Too Much Attention

Cat using litter box in private

In addition to being clean freaks, territorial, and OCD, cats are also very private creatures.

Cats feel extremely vulnerable when they’re using the facilities, so they like to know that they’re alone and out of sight of any passers by.

If your cat’s litter box is in a high-traffic or noisy area, this may be keeping her from using the litter box.

Even placing the litter box in the laundry room can be problematic as some cats will be scared away from their box if the washer or dryer are running.

Solution:

Move your cat’s litter box from the noisy or busy location to a more private area. If you don’t have a place where you can hide your cat’s litter box from sight while also providing her with a private, peaceful location, you may need to get creative with your litter box setup.

But for the sake of saving your rug, give Fluffy some privacy.

Claustrophobia

cat in undersized litter box

Even if your cat is small, she needs room to actually do her business in the litter box. Cats like to go in, sniff around, kick their litter into place, turn around a few times, then make their deposit.

This requires space.

Also, if your litter box is too small or if it’s covered, it may start to develop an offensive odor. If there’s not enough ventilation and your cat is turned off by the smell, she’ll avoid going in and using her box.

Solution:

Upgrade. Get your kitty a bigger box. Yes, it may take up more space on your floor, but your furry friend will be grateful for the added space and will actually use her litter box like you wish she would.

If your cat’s litter box is covered, remove the lid. Pick up a litter box with higher sides if you’re worried about litter being kicked out of the box or your cat’s stream being unconfined.

The important thing is for your cat to feel comfortable going into the litter box so she’s encouraged to use it every time.

Cats are special animals – and we say that with the utmost love... and an eye roll. It can take some time, patience, and creativity to figure out your cat’s unique idiosyncrasies.

But remember: she’s not doing it to spite you. So keep calm, keep lovin’ on your fur baby, and keep trying different options until you find the solution that works best for you and your little one.

Have you gone through this process with your cat? Tell us the most valuable thing you learned in the comments below!

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Rai Cornell
Rai Cornell

Author



10 Responses

Rai Cornell
Rai Cornell

May 09, 2018

@Sharon you are so right! Our fur babies can be so picky!

@Patsy those are all wonderful ideas to help make litter box clean up duty so much easier! Thank you!

@Liann if you have followed all of the suggestions mentioned I would consider a call to your vet to make sure your girl doesn’t have something else going on.

@Bob thank you so very much! We are glad to hear our comments and suggestions are so helpful to you and your friends “little loves”. “Kona” sounds like a real sweet kitty!

@Bunny perfect advice. Oliver must really appreciate your effort to give him the private clean place he needs.

@Sondra – very true! Thanks for the reminder.

@Jaime so very glad to hear that your little kitty is a fan of PrettyLitter!

@Heidi, isn’t it funny how finicky our fur babies can be? We love PrettyLitter for the same reasons and are so glad that you have had a great experience with it and that your cat is doing so much better using PrettyLitter.

@Jean, so very very true! No one can stand a dirty bathroom!

Sharon Gebhardt
Sharon Gebhardt

May 07, 2018

Also, another reason is if you change brands of litter they may not like it. I bought a different brand and Lucy went right outside the box. Them I changed back and she was fine. Lol

Patsy Quinn
Patsy Quinn

May 07, 2018

Hi Rai,
I have multiple cats in my home. I buy the long rectangular clear boxes. They are primarily used for tubes of wrapping paper for events and holidays. I have 2 of them side by side filled with litter. They like lots of litter and they need it. They scratch a lot in there, so I make sure they have plenty at all times. 1 large box of litter will fill both of them equally. I also keep a mat in the front to catch the litter, as they hop out. Those litter boxes are cleaned twice a day. Also I NEVER use any tops. That is a really bad idea for cats. They have to be able to move around freely. Tops are bad, unless you custom make one that is 2-3 feet tall. Adult cats hate to be crammed in a small box. I’ve had cats my entire life and have learned a ton of information through the years. I just purchased Pretty Litter. Awesome idea to see if your cat is unhealthy so you can quickly help get immediate help. Enjoyed your story. Thank you.

Liann Stewart Williams
Liann Stewart Williams

May 07, 2018

My 17 year old female has suddenly started urinating on my bath mat! She still uses her large, covered litter box, I don’t know what to do about her!?!

Bob Devon
Bob Devon

May 07, 2018

I appreciate your analysis of situations. Your comments and suggestions are Spot-On for us and we share your recommendations with our friends that have kitties as their “little loves”. I know how attached I am to our “Kona” and I think the feelings are mutual. Every day when I’m working on my computer busy completing copy for my publisher, she lets me know when it’s time for “Dad” to go sit down and put his feet up. Really, for her it’s “nap time”. Believe me, I’m not complaining!!
Thank you, again.

Bunny Garlington
Bunny Garlington

May 07, 2018

Great article! I have my litter box in the bathroom closet. I keep the door open just enough for Oliver to get in. I am blessed! he uses it every time! I did get the high sided box though..he gets enthusiastic with covering!

Sondra York
Sondra York

May 07, 2018

I have one thing to add. If you have an old litter box, try throwing it out and getting a new one. Sometimes plastic retains odors of yesteryear.

Jaime Bartell
Jaime Bartell

May 07, 2018

We were having problems with our young cat peeing outside of the box, but we switched to PrettyLitter and have had no problems since! The proof is in the litter box!

Heidi
Heidi

May 07, 2018

I was using a high end litter that was organic and safe. It was very expensive but I felt like it was a good option for my cat and my family. My cat spent years of occasionally pooping outside the litter box though. In one residence, she chose the shower. In our current house, she chose a corner by the front door. She seems to like pretty litter and what I think I learned is that the fancy litter was getting caught in her claws and tracking out of the box. I knew that of course but I didn’t realize that it was bothering my cat. Now seeing how fine pretty litter is and how little it tracks, I see what might have been the problem all along. Hopefully that’s it and the problem is finally solved!

Jean
Jean

May 07, 2018

Main issue, keep it clean, they don’t like dirty bathrooms! Their nose is very sensitive.

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