ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Cats not using the litterbox?

Updated on November 9, 2015

How to retrain nervous cats to use the litterbox

How do you train cats to use the litterbox? Many worried cat lovers ask this every day and yet cats are the most fastidious animals in the world. So what should we do when cats won't use the litterbox? When litterbox problems develop the causes can be complex. Sometimes owners can add to the causes without realizing too. What do we do when soiling and marking threatens your relationship with a favourite pet?

The picture heading this page is not a pretty one, but then the topic is not a pretty one either and the consequences for cat and owner can be very upsetting. The picture shows Amberley's extended litter tray. She drew "the cat" in the litter herself which is why we took the picture of course, but she came with a history....

Cats not using the litterbox - this is Amberley - She is posing by her self portrait....


Amberley is a blue cream Persian who was sent into rescue because she had a litterbox problem. She was four years old and her behaviour had deteriorated to the point that her owners couldn't take it any more. She was very well behaved at the rescue and for several weeks in her new home before things started to go wrong. At ten years old we realize that Amberley is not likely to change much. Sometimes she will use her litter tray and at other times this little Persian cat will not use the litterbox.

Amberley reacted to the stress in her home environment by increasing her marking and middening. The family were at their wits end and as stress levels increased all around it became a vicious spiral that could only have one outcome. That was how she came into rescue and we came to be her new family.

When an outdoor cat becomes an indoor prisoner.... - An adorable Persian who came with a potty problem....


Dolcippi came to us directly under similar circumstances. Her "Mum" was at her wits end over marking and middening that was undermining her relationship with her boyfriend. Dolcippi had been used to toileting outdoors although she had been paper-trained as a kitten and knew how to use the box. The problem began when she was "cat-napped" from the garden and after a prolonged absence she came back with "problems". I offered her a home conditional on her being healthy and getting on with my other Persians.

How to understand and cope with your cat's toilet problem.

Pussy's Little Problem: How to Understand and Cope with your Cat's Toilet Habits
Pussy's Little Problem: How to Understand and Cope with your Cat's Toilet Habits
Pussy's Little Problem goes into the stories of Amberley and Dolcippi in more detail and has some interesting solutions and suggestions for coping with marking and middening in the home.

Cats not using the litterbox? Check your cat litter... - The Best Cat Litter

Cats are very fussy when it comes to the right cat litter. One of mine is fine with any litter, but likes World's Best, one prefers unbleached commercial wrapping tissue disposed of immediately and a third has decided on the bath mat. If your cat will go anywhere else but the box cat litter may smell wrong or feel uncomfortable on her paws.

Not all Persians have a toiletting problem though.... - These adorable Persians are as good as gold


How to understand Cat Behaviour - What does your cat's behaviour mean?

Making an effort to understand your cat and his behaviour can often make it easier to track down the reasons for litter box problems.

Cat won't use the Littertray? - Helping your Cat to Relearn Bathroom Behaviour

Here are some useful points to bear in mind when you are coping with marking and middening behaviour in the home and want to retrain Puss.

  • Just as with kittens, older cats need gentle encouragement when they get it right. Praise your cat with a soft voice after she has left her box.
  • If you catch your cat in the act pick her up gently, hold her for a moment in the litter box then stroke her and tell her she is a good girl.
  • Place the litter tray in a quiet spot, it must be easily accessible and have privacy!
  • Provide several boxes if you have more than one cat, some cats are possessive about their box.
  • Scoop the box at least once a day and clean it regularly.
  • Do not use strong-smelling disinfectants to clean the box, cats will not use a box that smells toxic.
  • A mixture of sodium bicarbonate, anti-bacterial washing up liquid and vinegar is great for cleaning up after accidents or deodorizing a smelly box safely. Rinse and dry afterwards!
  • If you must use disinfectant, ask your vet's advice about a non-toxic one!
  • Never EVER medicate, punish, nag, shout, or allow children to play with the cat when it is using the litter tray!!!
  • Introduce any change in cat litter gradually by mixing over a five day period.
  • Rubbing your pet's nose in urine or faeces is cruel, ineffective and disgusting. You would not abuse a child that way, would you?
  • Never use physical punishment on your cat, it is counter-productive and dangerous.
  • It is more effective to ignore bad behaviour and praise good than to reprimand a nervous animal.
  • Neutering your pet will reduce the risk of it straying or spraying!
  • There are some more odd solutions and tips I cover in my book, but to finish here always make sure you have ruled out any medical condition with the vet before you jump to the conclusion that poor potty behaviour is just a bad habit!

Was Your Kitten Paper-Trained?

Some breeders will use paper training before kittens are introduced to the litter box. This proves to be a handy way back to good potty habits for the erring adult too.

If a cat has become confused (such as an outdoor cat having to learn to be an indoor cat) taking it back to kittenhood may help.

If you use this method it is vital to change the paper as soon as it becomes soiled, otherwise she looks for somewhere fresher outside the box!

Why is my cat peeing everywhere? - Medical Causes of Inappropriate Toileting

If your cat suddenly develops a problem with the litter box, it is wise to rule out medical causes before you look at behavioural problems or stress triggers. Some of these condition, like FUS, can quickly become life-threatening!

Common Causes of Litter Problems - Understanding your cats needs will help you solve his problems....

If toileting problems are due to stress triggers you need to identify them and help your pet get it right!

  • If litterbox problems arise from territorial disputes, introduce extra litter boxes and food bowls to reduce competition.
  • A playful, energetic cat is a happy cat - its energies are redirected.
  • As far as your cat is concerned you are a resource too - share your time fairly with all your pets and if you only have one, make time for a fuss!
  • When any cat smells other felines or anything strange, marking will increase.
  • Spraying is a natural activity for cats - it reinforces their territory - and increasing the generalized stress levels are likely to cause it.
  • A house move, new partner, new baby or increase in financial difficulties causing arguments - all these can lead to increased stress and poor toileting.
  • Any environmental change such as building work, rearrangement of the furniture, party or noisy visitors can give rise to spraying or middening as the cat tries to redefine its territory.
  • If a cat feels at risk or vulnerable, spraying or middening is likely to increase. Conflict within a family can cause marking over the whole house.
  • Cats will return to "over mark" as a smell decays; use this in retraining by putting a new litter box directly over the spot.
  • Having the tray close to food will trigger an innate sense of avoiding fouling eating areas.
  • Sometimes an outdoor cat is under threat in his own territory and if owners do not provide a tray he will urinate where he can in the house.
  • A cat will not use a tray where it feels threatened. It will go somewhere it feels safer.
  • If the cat has experienced a medical problem leading to pain it may well avoid the tray even when cured because it learns to associate that place with being hurt.
  • If the cat smells cleaning agents or the smell of the tray is too thoroughly removed the cat may not recognise its own lavatory.
  • A litter tray that is not cleaned and changed enough may smell too foul to use, especially if it has a cover to concentrate odours!
  • A cat's litter has to feel right. Sometimes it just doesn't suit your cat. The tray might be too small leading to near misses.
  • Cats generally prefer clumping litter with a feel similar to fine soil. Pellets can be uncomfortable to walk on or may contain deodorants which the cat does not like. When this happens, the carpet may feel more suitable as it is like raking grass.
  • Stick to a routine and schedule feeding, petting, playing and exercise times. This reduces stress as well as regularizing bowel movements. Routines are especially important to older cats.
  • Sometimes a nervous cat will evacuate in strange places especially where the owner's scent is strong.
  • Retraining a nervous cat can be a labour of love. If it becomes a battle, then the battle is already lost! Patience and understanding is everything. If you learn to think like your cat, you may at least learn to lessen the problem to a point you can tolerate even if it is well nigh impossible to cure.

CitiKitty Cat Toilet Training Kit (One Pack)
CitiKitty Cat Toilet Training Kit (One Pack)
I once saw our black moggy Puddles using the toilet for purpose and it is not unknown for cats to seek out the bath and the drain hole.... This system apparently trains them to do that!

Teach your cat to use the toilet! - Some People Potty Train Puss

Did you know you can buy books and equipment to train your kitties to use the loo? It looks a little dangerous to me though!

© 2009 Lisa Marie Gabriel

Did you find this page helpful? - You are not alone....

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • profile image


      6 years ago

      The cat food should be a brand that has a good reuatption and been around awhile.. also do the research on what should be in the food and what should not be. As a cat gets older the food needs to change to a better food. Some cats can handle dry and wet other cats only dry. The best combination is a tsp or two with a quality of dry food twice a day depending on your pets size. There are cats that will eat just dry food, but those sometimes end up with more hairballs which is not a problem for the cat, they throw them up easily enough but then you have to clean them up.. so that is a factor for you to consider.As for cat litter.. again make sure it is a good brand. There are ones out there that are just down right weird. But the clumping litter is good but again you want a good brand that has been around awhile and doesn't have a lot of dust when you use it. I have several brands that I like and let price make the final decision. Unlike food you can change the litter without problems. With food it isn't a good idea to change the food a lot.Hope this helps.

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 

      6 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Great hub, Lisa! Thanks for helping me out with my cat situation on Twitter. So far so good, though the clay litter is making a mess! You're a great friend, too!

    • LisaMarieGabriel profile imageAUTHOR

      Lisa Marie Gabriel 

      6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Yes, one of mine did that for a while. At least it was easy to clean but it was a pain if you had forgotten to check before running the bath. :)

    • Paul Ward profile image


      6 years ago from Liverpool, England

      I used to have two cats that would sometimes use the bath - just often enough to really annoy me :)

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      We have had several cats that have sprayed and not used their box.. it was definitely part of their personality, but I didn't get it :) Now we have Bibi and she always uses her box, no matter what :) Blessed!

    • Churchmouse LM profile image

      Churchmouse LM 

      9 years ago

      Certainly have! My two Burmese are usually fine but occasionally one will spray when she notices a stray outside or feels insecure. Cuddles usually stop her. You're doing a great job with this lens, convincing owners to keep trying, keep patient and above all, love their animals!

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 

      9 years ago from Canada

      What a wonderful caring lens for cat owners. I loved it even if it was about you know what...

    • BeaGabrielle1 profile image


      10 years ago

      Hello there! Great info. Squidliked it! :-)

    • PromptWriter profile image

      Moe Wood 

      10 years ago from Eastern Ontario

      Our senior cat rebelled against the litter box when we brought a new cat into the home. We'd wake up and find poo on our chair, carpet, office. Then we realized that the new cat was guarding the litter boxes at night. We ended up moving one of the boxes to another room. Problem solved. Cats have interesting hidden behaviors. They can be so subtle. This is a great lens for litter troubles.

    • WindyWintersHubs profile image


      10 years ago from Vancouver Island, BC

      Congratulations on your Purple Star! Cats can develop bad manners or behaviors like people. This is great info for cat owners with problem cats. :)

    • LisaMarieGabriel profile imageAUTHOR

      Lisa Marie Gabriel 

      11 years ago from United Kingdom

      It is strange the things that can act as a trigger for this "misbehaviour" and it can be very difficult to get on top of. All I know is that cats who have been rehomed to us with the problem do not discriminate about "badness". Punishment in the past has only served to make them nervous about even using the litterbox! Therefore punishment is cruel and serves no purpose - trying to understand the triggers and working with the cat is better. Thanks for your visits. :)

    • profile image

      callinsky lm 

      11 years ago

      Wonderful lens. Very informative. I am a cat lover. I don't have any issues with potty stuff but that's because the cat I had issues with now stays outside. (O; I love my cats though.

    • FlynntheCat1 profile image


      11 years ago

      *sighs* just adopted a little stray kitten (was about 5 weeks old) and for the first month she was well behaved as her mother had taught her everything. Apart from my bed, which apparently was the perfect litter tray. She's finally grown out of it, but I had to watch her like a hawk or I'd me washing my quilt AGAIN!

      And my parents had a very nervous little SPCA cat that always (until she became less nervous) targetting shoes that smelt of 'outside'.

      So yes, a familiar problem :D Good lens!

    • LisaMarieGabriel profile imageAUTHOR

      Lisa Marie Gabriel 

      11 years ago from United Kingdom

      I am very grateful for my purple star and even more grateful for the friendship of some of the best lensmasters on Squidoo. Many thanks to you! :D :D :D =^@@^=

    • LizMac60 profile image

      Liz Mackay 

      11 years ago from United Kingdom

      Congrats on the purple star, well deserved

    • Stazjia profile image

      Carol Fisher 

      11 years ago from Warminster, Wiltshire, UK

      My goodness, you've certainly covered the subject of cats' toilet problems extensively and well. Not only that but you've given the information in a really interesting way. I don't have a cat now but I still read it all the way through. Blessed

    • delia-delia profile image


      11 years ago

      what lovely rescued cats you have! very informative lens...5*...will lensroll your lens to my "feral cat named Kitty" lens.

    • thepartyanimal2 profile image

      The Party Animal 

      11 years ago from Partytown USA

      I have 6 cats and two have similar issues. The one is a Siamese who loves to pee in my dogs bowl - she must love the stainless steel and she also loves plastic bags or plastic containers. I am going to try some of your ideas. My other is a senior cat who is goes in and out - I think his problem is spite from the newer cats and his age. I never punish them as you say - it is mean and it is not there fault, I am going to try some of your great ideas. I am also lensrolling to my The Best Cat Litter Box lens. You have been Blessed by The Party Animal. Party On....

    • jptanabe profile image

      Jennifer P Tanabe 

      11 years ago from Red Hook, NY

      Great information, nicely presented. I'm sure even the cats would approve!

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      If there is a cat out there with a litter problem, this is the place to go. Excellent lens!

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Oh for sweet! I'm so glad I stopped by to give you 5*'s.

      I see the 1 Star Bandit struck here,...grrr!

      I love this lens!!!!


    • ctavias0ffering1 profile image


      11 years ago

      Very informative and helpful lens. I used to have cats but being country cats, there was never a problem as they had constant access to the outdoors and honoured us with their presence when they felt like a bit of human company and, of course, to be fed. 5*

    • LizMac60 profile image

      Liz Mackay 

      11 years ago from United Kingdom

      Very helpful lens. You tackled the subject well.5*

    • Laniann profile image


      11 years ago

      Yes, I found it very helpful and informative. I have never had this problem with any of my cats. I wish all people that had pets where like you. You are a very special person. Thank you for being you. 5*s.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)