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How to get a cat to start using the litter box again!

Updated on February 17, 2015
My Lovely cat!
My Lovely cat!

There is nothing worse than when your cat is not using the litter box. Cat urine is disgusting. The worst part is the smell, it lingers forever. When people come over you want your house to smell welcoming, clean, and maybe like cookies. You never want people to come over only to be welcomed by the overwhelming smell of cat urine. How embarrassing.

I have had many struggles with this issue. My female cat is 9 years old and it all started when we moved. She let the stress get the best of her and she peed all over our brand new house. I have struggled with training her to permanently use the litter box again, for years.

Here are some of my tips and advice:

  • First and foremost, bring your cat to the vet. There could be any number of medical issues that would cause your cat to stop using the litter box. I brought my cat in many different times to see if there was anything wrong. Each time, there wasn't.

  • Is your cat stressed out? When a cat is stressed out it can cause them to not use the litter box. When my cat is stressed out she reacts by peeing all over my house.

  • When you find out your cat is peeing around your house. The first thing you need to do is clean and completely remove the urine and odor residue. So your cat doesn't repeatedly urinate in the same spot. We have tried EVERYTHING! I mean everything, to get smell of cat urine out.
  • A black light comes in handy for urine you can not see.
  • Some people recommend and swear by, using dawn dish soap to clean the stain and then vinegar to get rid of the smell. A word of advice, if you try this be prepared your house will smell of vinegar for weeks. Unfortunately, I have never found this method to work.
  • We purchased every kind of cleaner we could find at the pet store. Then I watched the show on Animal Planet called "My cat from hell." Where a man named Jackson Galaxy (a cat expert) goes around helping people with their cats. He swears by this cleaner called FIZZION. I had to order it online, because I couldn't find it anywhere. It has a weird smell, but after the Fizzion smell wears away, we could still smell the cat urine.
  • After struggling to find a good cleaner, I called my vet and she recommended a cleaner called, Urine off. This is seriously the best cleaner I have come a crossed and it actually works at removing stain and odor.

  • We also tried Feliway, which is a plug in diffuser. It put cats natural pheromones in the air. Which helps calm their stress down. We have use this option, when we know our cat is going through a stressful situation. Feliway can be pretty costly. A month supply can run about $25 dollars.


If you can't think of any reasons why your cat would be stressed. Maybe your cat is just going outside of the litter box out of habit.

Here are some ways to re-train your cat and get them to use the litter box again:

  • First, make sure you have enough cat boxes. You should have a litter box for each cat. If you have 2 cats, you should have 2 litter boxes. You should also have a litter box on each floor of your house. So even if you only have one cat, but you have two levels, you should still have 2 litter boxes.

  • Sometimes you need to re-train your cat to use the litter box. My vet taught me a simple way to do this, is to keep your cat in a small room with the litter box for 10 days. A cat will more than likely use their litter box when they are in a small space. Make sure you feed and check in on your cat regularly. Give them affection and make sure they know you haven't forgotten about them.

  • Does your cat tend to pee on the same type of material. Like clothes? My cat likes to urinates in bins. Tote bins, laundry baskets, boxes, basically anything that she can climb in. If you cat keeps urinating on the same type of material, make it out of reach for your cat, so they are not tempted.

  • Spend quality with your cat. Play with them more. If your cat is depressed and feeling left out, this may cause them to stop using the litter box.

  • Some cats don't use the litter box, because they don't like the type of litter box they have. Try using another type of litter box. Some cats like open litter boxes, while others like closed litter boxes.. Some cats are terrified of self clean litter boxes. But make sure if you switch to a dome or boxed litter box to clean it regularly. If you don't clean it regularly the smell can stay trapped in the litter box and your cat wont want to use it.

  • Another thing that worked for me, is to clean the litter box regularly. My cat is very picky, If there is anything at all in her litter box she will not use it. So I change her litter boxes once a day and anytime that I see it's been used.

  • Where is the litter box located? Some cats don't like litter boxes by their food. I doubt you would not want your dining table in your bathroom. If your litter box is in a high traffic area, with a lot of noise, they may want it some place more private and quiet. Is the litter box in an old basement, a garage, or some place that is cold, dark, and dingy?. If it is I would suggest moving it. If they don't like where it is located in the home, they wont use it. Slowly but surely move it to a nicer location and see how they react.

  • Try unscented cat litter. (THIS CHANGED MY LIFE) When our other cat died. My cat peed all over the house. We tried everything to get her to stop. We even put her on anti anxiety medication. It worked, but as soon as she was off of the medication, she would start urinating outside the litter box again. I didn't want my cat on anti-anxieties the rest of her life. They completely changed her personality. After a few months of this, We decided to re-trained her, by my vets recommendations. We put her in the bathroom for 10 days. While she was being re-trained we cleaned our house like crazy (even ripping out carpet.) She stopped using the litter box initially because she was depressed and stressed, but than after a while became habit for her. One day I was reading a cat magazine and in it, it said that some cats don't like scented cat litter. So I figured I would give it a try. When we changed to unscented cat litter, it was night and day. She didn't have any more accidents out side of the litter box. As long as we kept her litter box cleaned, and used unscented litter, she will always use it. Some cats might be totally fine with scented litter. But like humans, cats have a right to change their mind. After a while, maybe the perfume scents bothered her.


Hope this helps. Don't give up. Trust me after years of figuring it out, you will be able to find out just what your cat needs from you, to help them use the litter box again. Make sure to continue to love them, don't punish them. As long as you keep trying, you will see light at the end of the tunnel. Best of luck!


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    • amanda5577 profile image


      3 years ago from Michigan

      I rescued a stray once and she didn't know how to use the litter pan. I locked her in a room with my other cat for about a week and she learned to use it after that. I have to say, it was very stressful coming home to feces on the couch or urine in the recycling bin...and other bizarre places. It is important to make sure retraining is done properly to avoid causing behavioral or emotional problems. It's great that you mentioned the importance of consulting a veterinarian, especially if the reason ends up being physical rather than behavioral. Great post!

    • mysweetlittle6 profile imageAUTHOR

      M. Winters 

      3 years ago from United States

      I defiantly recommend the Feliway plugs for you. It seems like your older cat is a little intimidated by your other cats, causing her to stay in your bed area. Feliway will defiantly put the peace in the air for all of you cats, especially when you move. My friend had a problem with one of her cats attacking the other cat. Making the cat that was being attacked go into hiding. Her vet recommended the Feliway to help them get along, and it worked. The cats aren't b.f.f.s by any means. They don't snuggle together. But they now tolerate each other and can peacefully be in the same room together. Best of luck. I can understand how stressful this issue can be!

    • girlgamers profile image


      3 years ago from Texas

      I'm having a problem with my oldest cat going to the bathroom under my bed. She has a litter box not 10 feet from the bed, and it gets cleaned daily, but I think my other cats are stressing her out to the point of not wanting to leave the bed area. I've had to move her food to the night stand next to my bed, otherwise she wouldn't eat, the water is on the tv stand a few feet from the bed, but I guess the litter box is too far away, in the master bath. It seems that any time she leaves the bed or elevated areas, my other cats target and chase her. But under my bed is the best place she can find to use the restroom. I've tried sprays, deodorizers, and all of the other methods and home remedies I could find, but i'll try the spray that your vet recommended to see if that will help. We are also moving within the next couple of weeks, so I want to get the Feliway plug ins a try to make sure the move isn't too stressful for them. The other cats cope really well, and I don't think I will have a problem with them, it's just my oldest cat... Thanks for the tips!


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