Why Your Cat Won't Use The Litter Box


11 Reasons Why Your Cat Won't Use The Litter Box & What To Do About Them

Your cat won’t use the litter box, and you're beyond furious with him. But instead of being angry, try being creative. Approaching the problem from the cat’s point of view is sure to bring a faster resolution than anger will. From such simple fixes as taking the top off a covered box to more elaborate ones, these are proven strategies that work when a cat won't use the litter box. But first, some litter box basics.

The Litter Box Through A Cat's Eyes

Cats can be even pickier about their bathroom facilities than humans are. And they don’t like dirty bathrooms any better than we do. If your cat won't use the litter box, take a hard look at that box through his eyes. Do you see clean places to walk when he steps into the box? Does he have room to move around? Can he see an escape route from the box? Does the box smell like him, not perfume? Is there enough litter to dig in, but not so much he sinks up to his ankles in sand? Is the box in a location he considers convenient and safe?

If your answer to all of these questions is yes, your cat probably has the perfect potty. If even one answer is no, you have some tweaking to do.

Why Some Cats Hate Litter Boxes

If your cat has stopped using his litter box, call on your inner detective to try to understand why. You’ll be more likely to solve the problem if you understand what caused it. Here are some reasons why cats won't use the litter box.

  • Stress
  • Moving to a new home
  • The box is in the wrong location
  • The arrival of a new puppy or kitten.
  • The arrival of a new baby
  • House guests
  • Fear of the family dog or another cat
  • Another cat visiting outside
  • Construction and loud noises either in the house or outdoors
  • Different litter or a new box
  • Health issues: Urinary tract infections and bladder stones and crystals can be so painful they can cause a cat to avoid the litter box. Diabetes, hyperthyroidism and kidney disease can all cause cats to urinate so often and in such volume they can’t always get to a box. And older cats with arthritis often have difficulty getting in and out of a litter box.
Assuming your cat is in good health, here are some ways to encourage him to start using his box again.

Provide Stress Relief

The most common reason for a cat not using a litter box is stress. While anti-anxiety medication can make him feel calm and resolve his litter box issues as long as he’s on the medication, a more permanent solution is figuring out and relieving the cause of his stress.

Kitty Stress-Relievers To Try

  • If he’s a strictly indoor cat, get him outside. Take him out on a harness and leash, provide some supervised outdoor time or build an outdoor enclosure for him. Being outside is a great stress-reliever for cats, and it lets them mark their territory on the grass instead of the rugs.
  • Relieve boredom by providing a stimulating and interesting indoor environment. Boredom in cats can lead to depression and stress.
  • If outside cats are visiting and upsetting your indoor cat, be relentless in discouraging their visits. If you’re feeding outside cats in your yard, move their dishes and shelter as far from the house as possible.
  • Resolve space issues in multicat families. Providing both high and low places for perching and hiding create the feeling of more room and relieve stress. Also put litter boxes in several locations in your house so the cats can always get to a box without having to deal with the others.
  • Bach Flower Remedies are homeopathic remedies that restore a cat's sense of balance and well-being. They cause no side effects and will not make your cat seem or feel like he's drugged.
  • Play with the cat with an interactive “wand” or “fishing pole” toy. Several vigorous play sessions each day will burn up energy and relieve boredom and stress. 

If your cat's not using the litter box, try to not be angry with him. Litter box problems can be solved with patience, flexibility and love.

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