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Why is My Cat Avoiding the Litter Box?

Updated on February 4, 2015

Litter Box Aversion

Many cat owners struggle with the problem of their cat not using the litter box. After much hair pulling (yours, not the cat's), trips to the vet, examining your cats behavior and still being clueless, it's time to look at the litter box. If your cat is dissatisfied with his box then he will act out, in a most frustrating manner. Keeping a tidy litter box with unscented litter in a quiet area may alleviate your problem. We will look at different litter box options so you can have a happy, healthy cat.

photo credit: lazy_lobster

litter box problem
litter box problem

Avoiding the Litter Box - Is the Litter Box the Problem?

Most litter boxes made for cats are too small. You have an area slightly larger than the cat and he's supposed to do his business in there. Think about trying to use a bathroom that was only slightly larger than you are. You wouldn't want to use it either. Most cats outgrow their litter boxes by the time they reach adulthood. The larger the litter box, the better. Cats like privacy and space and this is especially true when they need to use the potty. I like the large storage containers you can buy at most retail stores. The plastic ones you put under your bed make great litter boxes. They are large and easy to clean. You can also buy extra large litter pans made especially for this purpose.

Covered litter boxes are not recommended. Some cats find them too containing and will avoid using them. Cats really hate being shut up anywhere and this could create a panic response leading to avoiding the litter box altogether. The last thing you want is for your cat to be scared or intimidated by his box. Covered litter boxes may be atheistically pleasing to your eye but it does nothing for the cat. Remember, this is about your cat's comfort so give him all the space he needs. It will save your home from his inappropriate urination. Keep the litter box in a quiet, secluded area so as to give your cat all the privacy he desires. The general rule of thumb in homes with multiple cats are one extra box for each cat. I have three cats and five litter boxes. They are cheap to buy and easy to maintain.

What about automatic litter boxes? I have no experience with them so I can't give a thorough review. I do know that they are expensive and it would be unfortunate to buy one only to have your cat avoid it. These boxes are most beneficial for those people who put off daily cleaning. Automatic litter boxes will make sure the cat has a clean litter box.

litter problem?
litter problem?

Litter Box Problem - Is It the Litter?

Your cat's litter box is the one of the most important parts of his health. If he is unhappy with it, he may stop using his box altogether and begin peeing in your house. To fix this annoying problem, try looking at it from your cat's point of view. He may be unhappy with the litter itself. Most cats prefer unscented clay litter. The scoopable kind is the easiest for clean-up.

If your cat has been declawed, his paws will be extra sensitive and the rough clay may cause him pain. Switching to a softer litter will help. You can use cut up newspaper or a non-clay litter brand such as Feline Pine. This brand of litter does have a strong pine scent. If your cat is sensitive to strong smells, you may want to avoid it. A cats sense of smell is much stronger than ours, so keep that in mind. Obviously, if the litter box is dirty, your cat will not want to use it. Many people hate cleaning the litter box but if you do it every day, it only takes a few minutes. A clean litter box means a happy cat.

What Type of Litter Box Does Your Cat Prefer?

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    • catspyjamas profile image

      catspyjamas 2 years ago

      Have you tried putting the litter box where he has been urinating? I would also praise and pet him whenever he does use the box properly. It lets him know you are pleased with him.

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 2 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      My cat seems to avoid the old litter box these days and have used the new one to poop in only for the past week. I've tried everything to get him in, while he worked past it or stops in front of it.I've even relocated it to the kitchen floor, since a neighbor mentioned the idea to me today. Voted up for useful? Any ideas?

    • catspyjamas profile image

      catspyjamas 3 years ago

      @Addy Bell: Yes, I agree.

    • Addy Bell profile image

      Addy Bell 3 years ago

      My cats prefer a basic, uncovered box with unscented clumping clay litter.

    • Addy Bell profile image

      Addy Bell 4 years ago

      @anonymous: My previous cats were indoor/outdoor, and while they still used the box, they used it *much* less than my current indoor-only cats. My guess is that your cat prefers to go outside where she can bury her business properly. The potential problem here is that the, er, contents of the littler box can provide important clues to your cats health. You may miss these signs if she doesn't use the box at all.

    • catspyjamas profile image

      catspyjamas 4 years ago

      @anonymous: Very true. Plus, some cats don't like the enclosed boxes and that can cause problems.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I also don't use a covered litter box, because it's important as my cats' primary health care giver that I know what is happening in their litter & if it smells to me, it smells for them!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      My cat is an indoor cat. Recently we began letting her out at night because of her crying during the night. We bring her back in early the next morning. Since we started this she doesn't use the litterbox at all during the day. Is this normal? What to do?

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I have a two year old cat and she has stopped using her litter box.

      She does a poo by the front door and is peeing behind the tv.

      She is an indoor cat as she is allergic to some foods. I have tried loads of things and have even bought the fellaway plug in and it hasn't helped. please help me.

    • Snowsprite profile image

      Fay 5 years ago from Cornwall, UK

      It would never have occurred to me to use something other than a made litter-box. My cat is super fussy and when I first got her wouldn't go in her box if it had been used even once which meant she ended up slightly bunged up. So I use a scented box or I am running ragged changing the litter several times a day. Also she didn't like wood litter which I used as more environmentally friendly. I think a larger area might suit her too. Thanks for a great lens very helpful.

    • profile image

      MissCat 5 years ago

      As far as litter goes there is one called 'Cat Attract' you may want to look into. It literally attracts the cat to use the box. My cat was so excited about it he used it several times in one day, just went in there instead of holding it at all.

      Feliway spray, which is basically kitty prosaic (safe and doesn't need a dr. Rx), can help them calm their nerves if it's a psychological reason: i.e. a move, a new animal, a new person, a new box, etc. There is a spray you can use, but there is also a plugin that lasts a month that you put in the room they are in the most, though they also suggest one for the room that upsets them most.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I have a cat,too. She never pees at home maybe due to our train from the very beginning. I once bought a litter box from an eBay store. It's large enough for her. Maybe you can try it. Here is the link.

      Anyway, thank you for your information about cats. I will keep readng on.

    • ColorPetGifts profile image

      ColorPetGifts 6 years ago

      I had no idea cats could outgrow their litter boxes and then not want to use them. Excellent info, many thanks.

    • delia-delia profile image

      Delia 7 years ago

      very informative lens...5*...I taught my feral cat to go in a box of sand in no time, I took her paws and made the pawing motion and she knew...

    • WildFacesGallery profile image

      Mona 7 years ago from Iowa

      We use a covered large size box for my gallery cat. As to the litter we like fresh results which is an all natural lightly pine scented. I think it made from corn cobs or something.

      You've provided some good information here.