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Why Won't My Cat Use The Litter Box?

Adorable grey cat near litter box indoors. Pet care

Is your cat reluctant to use her litter box? There are several reasons why a cat will stop using a litter box. We’ll cover those reasons, and possible solutions, below but your first step should be a visit to the veterinarian. After your vet has ruled out a possible medical problem, you can concentrate on environmental issues.

You Have a Big Cat But a Small Litter Box

Just like us, a cat needs to be comfortable before she can ‘go’. If the litter box is too small for comfort, your cat may go looking for somewhere a little less confining. That more spacious place might be under a side table, a corner of the carpet, or even your bed! Don’t force your cat to go hunting for comfort. Instead, offer her a spacious litter box that lets her turn around easily.

That Cover Makes the Litter Box Feel Too Confining

If you have cats with dominance issues, they may not like feeling trapped inside a covered litter box. This is especially true for a cat that’s being bullied. She won’t want to risk being trapped within the box by her aggressor.

Some cats prefer the privacy that an enclosed litter box provides. Others are like claustrophobic humans and can’t relax in such an enclosed space. You may want to offer both types of boxes and see which one your particular cat prefers.

The Sides of the Box Are Too High

Kittens and older, arthritic cats may find the sides of a standard litter box too high to climb over comfortably. A shallower plastic box, like one meant for storage under a bed, is a better choice for them.

Your Cat Doesn’t Like a New Brand of Litter

Do you have a favorite brand of toilet paper? You may prefer a particular brand because of its softness, texture, or scent. Believe it or not, cats are just as picky about what’s inside their litter box. If you’re switching kitty litter brands, try adding a little more of the new brand to the old with every litter change. That way your cat can gradually get used to the new brand.

The Litter Box is Dirty

Just like you prefer a clean toilet to do your ‘business’, your cat prefers a clean litter box. After all, cats are fastidious creatures and don’t like standing in a filthy litter box. Can you blame them? Frequent scooping and regular litter changes will make both your cat and you happier.

Multiple Cats Require Multiple Litter Boxes

Many experts recommend at least as many litter boxes as you have cats. In fact, PetMD recommends one more box than there are cats in the household. For example, a home with two cats would ideally have three litter boxes. Having plenty of litter boxes allows you to spread them throughout the house. This not only makes the boxes easier to reach in a hurry, but it also prevents guarding by the dominant cat.

The Litter Box is Too Far Away 

Large, multi-level homes generally have several bathrooms so that one is always conveniently nearby. Your cat will appreciate the same convenience. The larger your home, the more litter boxes you’ll need so that your cat is never caught too far away from one. This is especially important for kittens and aged or arthritic cats who may be unable to reach a distant litter box quickly enough to prevent an accident.

The Litter Box is Difficult to Access

A litter box is not the most attractive (or sweetest smelling!) thing in the house so there’s a natural tendency to want to hide it away. However, your cat needs quick and easy access to it. If you make it difficult for her to use the litter box, don’t be surprised if she finds a more convenient alternative!

Besides easy access and a bit of privacy, your cat also wants a box with multiple escape routes, so she doesn’t feel trapped. For this reason, an area with more than one exit is probably a better choice than a small, confined space.

Your Cat May Have a Medical Issue

Not using the litter box may be a plea for help. Before you assume that it’s a behavior problem or environmental issue, schedule a checkup with your vet. There may be an underlying health issue affecting your pet’s ability or desire to use the litter box. Contacting us is the first step in solving any of your pet’s problems — including not using the litter box!