Cat Not Using Litter Box? These Tips May Clear The Air

Lisa Selvaggio
by Lisa Selvaggio
What’s that smell? What’s that mess? Looks like your kitty’s bathroom is out of order. Cat not using litter box? Check to see if it’s one of these problems.

One of the great things about owning a cat is the fact that you never have to worry about going outside to let your pet go to the bathroom. Instead, you have a handy litter box that your kitty can use whenever he needs to, and all you have to do is keep it clean and hygienic.

Sometimes, though, a cat will refuse to use the litter box and instead take it upon himself to claim the other areas of your home as his own personal toilet. Before you lose your cool, take a breath, remain calm, and try to figure out the source of the problem – your cat not using litter box may stem from one of these issues.

Related: What Is The Best Cat Litter For Your Kitty?

The Box Isn’t Clean Enough

Keeping your cat’s litter box clean is the first step in ensuring he’ll always be willing to use it. If you wait even an extra day or two before scooping out the waste and eliminating the odors associated with it, your cat will try to find a more suitable and more hygienic area to eliminate in. If you’ve ever had to use a filthy public toilet, you can sympathize with your cat. So if your cat has chosen to tinkle around the house instead of inside his litter box, check how clean the litter is. Scoop the box daily from now on, or even multiple times a day, especially if you have more than one cat. And be sure to completely empty out the box, wash it out, and refill it with fresh litter every couple of weeks or sooner, if necessary.

Your Cat Isn’t Feeling Well

The main reason why you shouldn’t get angry with your cat when he doesn’t use the box is because he may not be feeling well and his illness could be the cause of this strange behavior. If your pet is suffering with a painful urinary tract infection, he may be associating the pain he feels when he urinates with the litter box itself and, in an attempt to avoid that pain, uses the carpet as his bathroom instead. Diabetic cats or those with kidney disease may be thirstier and feel the need to urinate more often, and they sometimes can’t even make it to the litter box in time. Liver conditions and thyroid disease can also have this effect on your cat. And digestive upset could cause your kitty to go to the bathroom around the house because he can’t hold it in.

Related: Bathroom Break: How To Toilet Train Your Cat

If you can’t pinpoint the cause of your cat’s behavior (e.g. a dirty litter box) right away, be sure to bring him to the vet as soon as possible for a thorough exam, as the conditions that can cause a cat to eliminate outside of the litter box can be serious and need to be treated promptly.

Your Cat’s Annoyed with Change

Have you recently added a new cat to the family? Perhaps your resident feline is a little annoyed by the fact that he has to deal with another one of his own kind and that he now has to share his litter box as well. This could certainly cause him to eliminate outside of the box. If this is the case, consider getting a second litter box that your older cat can use almost exclusively, and make sure you continue to give him plenty of love and attention so he doesn’t view the newcomer as a threat.

If you changed the litter that you were using, your cat may not like it and may decide to avoid using the box. Whenever you do decide to change litters, first create a mix of the old with the new. Gradually transition your cat in this way by adding more of the new litter and less of the old over the course of several days or weeks, rather than making a drastic change.

Other stressful events can also trigger a cat’s avoidance of the litter box. That’s why it’s important to remain patient and try to figure out what your cat is thinking and feeling. Then you can target the cause of the problem and make adjustments so that your cat will start using the box again.

Lisa Selvaggio
Lisa Selvaggio

Lisa Selvaggio is a freelance writer and editor, and our resident cats-pert, with certifications in pet nutrition and pet first aid. She enjoys producing content that helps people understand animals better so they can give their pets a safe and happy home.

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