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Cat Not Using Litter Box? Try These Solutions

Updated on February 3, 2017
carolynkaye profile image

I'm a freelance writer and lifelong animal lover who's owned cats, dogs, birds, turtles, fish, frogs, guinea pigs, gerbils and rabbits.


Cats are naturally clean animals. They love snuggling in soft blankets or a basket of of fresh laundry. If your cat isn’t using its litter box, there’s usually a reason as well as a solution. Whether it is a undiagnosed medical issue or just a case of dirty litter box, here are some suggestions to solve this annoying problem.

Possible Medical Issues

If a cat isn’t using his litter box, especially if he always has in the past, it’s a cause for concern. A cat with a health problem such as a Urinary Tract Infection may associate pain with using the litter box and decide to go elsewhere. You should take your cat to your veterinarian so he or she can find out if there are any medical reasons for your cat’s behavior. Cats are extremely good at hiding symptoms when they’re sick, so it’s up to you to notice any little changes in their habits or behavior and get them to the vet. If an issue is found, the sooner it’s treated, the better.

Spayed or Neutered

If your cat is not spayed or neutered, they are more prone to marking their territory by “spraying.” This is common when a new pet is introduced to the home or even if your cat sees another cat lingering outside the house. Spaying or neutering your cat can help curb spraying, as well as prevent certain cancers and unwanted behaviors such as aggression.

Litter box issues can be a common problem.
Litter box issues can be a common problem. | Source

Litter Box Problems

If your vet has ruled out medical issues as the source of the problem, the next thing to consider is the litter box. Some cats can be very picky about their litter boxes and making even one small change can help resolve the problem.

Cleanliness of Litter Box

How often do you scoop the litter box? If you aren’t scooping once or twice a day and fully replacing all the litter once a week, your cat may be trying to tell you something. They don’t want to use a dirty litter box any more than we want to use a dirty toilet. Try keeping the litter box as clean as possible, especially if you have more than one cat.

How Many Litter Boxes?

The basic rule of thumb for litter boxes is “one per cat, plus one extra”. It might be a little extra work to have multiple litter boxes, but some cats like their “options”. You can keep them together or even try putting one of the boxes in a different place than usual. Cats enjoy finding a litter box in an unexpected place and this may encourage him to use it. In multiple cat households, having enough litter boxes is especially important. Some cats “claim” a litter box as their own and may even intimidate another cat about using that box.

Type of Litter Box

There are so many different types of litter boxes to choose from. Some cats don’t care for covered litter boxes because they feel too confined or because it holds in more odors. If you have a large cat, make sure your litter box is big enough for him to move around. If you can’t find a large enough box in the pet store, try a clear Sterilite container from a store like Target or Walmart. You can find sizes that have similar dimensions to a litter box, but are just a little longer and wider. I use these for my cats and they like the extra space.

Type of Litter

Switching brands or types of litter often can cause a cat to stop using its box. Some people will try new brands or buy whatever is on sale that week, but cats tend to like consistency when it comes to their litter. Find one brand that works for your cat and stick with it. If you do need to switch to a different type of litter, transition over a week or two, mixing the old and new litter together in the box until your cat adjusts.

Placement of Litter Box

It’s best to keep the litter box away from heavy traffic areas in the home and not near where the cat eats. Make sure it’s in a place the cat can easily access and not in a room where the door is often closed and the cat can’t get in.

Litter Box Poll

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© 2012 carolynkaye


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    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 4 years ago from Oakley, CA

      Well put. Cats, however, often are, and can be more adaptable than we give them credit for...they just don't want you to know that, for they are masters of (human) manipulation! ;-)

      We have 6 cats...but only space for 3 boxes. By scooping often, the litter stays cleaner, and the cats don't seem to mind.

      The only cat that gives me a problem is a "senior-catizen," who is 14 years old, and has been on strong drugs for 13 of those years to control her epilepsy. She is now having digestive problems (the vet found no obvious cause), and the result is that she has to stay out in the garage overnight, as she simply cannot seem to remember where the box is...even the one we have out there for her exclusive use. So, my day starts every morning with cleaning up after her..and cleaning HER as well... :-( But, she was our first kitty, and we still love her, so we take care of her because that was the commitment we made when we adopted her.

      Your suggestions are very good, and helpful for the majority of situations. Voted up, interesting, useful and shared.

    • carolynkaye profile image

      carolynkaye 4 years ago from USA

      Thanks much, DzyMsLizzy! I hope things get better for your senior kitty. I know how rough it is when they get health problems as they get older.

    • PaigSr profile image

      PaigSr 16 months ago from State of Confussion

      My daughters cat has been leaving a little something for us shortly after she moved home after school. I just realized that where she was leaving them was where a litter box used to be before the daughter moved out. So I placed a litter box in that spot to see if that would help. I am not sure yet as I just set it up a few minutes ago. Its interesting how cats get used to things in a certain order and in certain places.

    • carolynkaye profile image

      carolynkaye 16 months ago from USA

      Hi PaigSr, yeah that's a great idea to put a litter box in that spot. Cats are very much creatures of habit, especially when it comes to their box, food/water bowls, bed, etc. I hope that works. Thanks for your comments :)

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