Are you looking for tips because your cat stopped using the litter box?

As a cat owner, a few things make you more worried than a cat peeing outside the litter box, especially when you’ve invested in the best toilet box and the best litter trapping mats.

Fortunately, I’m here to discuss why cats avoid their toilet box and what you can do to solve this unwanted behavior.

Just keep reading. 

13 Reasons Why Your Cat Stopped Using The Litter Box

Cats are clean animals, so they quickly learn how to use the litter box and avoid making a mess all over the house.

Still, inappropriate elimination is more common than you think. According to ASPCA, “At least 10% of all cats develop elimination problems.” (1)

But why do cats stop using the litter box? Usually, cats refuse to use their toilet box because of behavior issues or underlying medical conditions. 

Here’s some quick insight.

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Since it’s crucial to resolve this issue as soon as possible, let’s discuss the most common reasons.

#1 Dirty Toilet

As a study concludes, cats prefer a clean box to a dirty one, even if another cat has used the toilet box before. (2)

That’s because cats have an excellent sense of smell and hate the scent of dirty toilets. And most cats don’t like to step into their waste or dig around it. 

So, when you don’t remove the urine clumps and feces from the box, your cat will find an alternative bathroom stop.

ALSO READ: Why Do Cats Poop Outside the Litter Box?

#2 Box is Too Small

cat sitting on a small box

Cat not using the litter box? Then you should think if you have a suitable toilet box size – it should be at least one and a half times the length of your cat, measured from your cat’s nose to its tail. (3)

If the box is too small, your cat won’t have enough space to turn around and bury its waste. And your cat may also end up peeing just outside of the litter box. 

#3 Non-Accessible Location

Cats not using the litter box can be due to the wrong litter box location. The toilet box shouldn’t be where cats feel trapped, in a high-traffic area, or in a difficult-to-access room. 

My cat refuses to use the litter box when I place it near her cat food and water bowls. Some cats also don’t like it when the toilet is close to the washing machine or another loud household object.

#4 Type of Litter Box

Getting a toilet box for your furry friend is much more than going to the pet store and picking the first one you see.

Some cats like high-sided toilets, while others prefer low-entry boxes. And not all cats are fond of covered toilets or self-cleaning litter boxes. 

#5 Type of Litter 

cat coming out of her cat litter

In general, cats prefer clumping litters with a fine texture and no added fragrances or scents. So, using scented litter, crystal litters, pine wood shavings, or pellets can lead to litter box avoidance. 

Moreover, some cats avoid the toilet box if you haven’t poured enough substrate to satisfy their digging preferences. 

ALSO CHECK: Richell Paw Trax Cat Litter Box

#6 Household Stress

Why is my cat eating litter pellets or snacking on clumping litter? 

Cats are creatures of habit, so they don’t like it when things change in their environment. Any sudden changes can lead to stress, inappropriate elimination, and litter eating.

Think about peeing outside the box as your cat’s way of asking for help. Cats under stress can also start urine marking around the house, lose appetite, or hide under the bed.  

#7 Multiple Cats 

two cats using the same litter box

According to studies, multiple cats are one of the most common risk factors for inappropriate elimination around the house. (4)

It makes sense because cats don’t always get along with each other. One cat can block access to the toilet box or attack the other when using the bathroom.

#8 Urinary Tract Infection

Why did my cat stop using the litter box all of a sudden? Your kitty might have a urinary tract infection, which causes painful urination, frequent urination, or straining to pee, as you can see in this video.

When cats are in pain when using the toilet box, they think the box is what makes it painful to pee. So, they find alternative spots to do their business.  

#9 Other Medical Reasons

Besides cat UTIs, other medical issues can also make it painful for your cat to use the bathroom, such as:

  • Kidney stones/kidney failure
  • Bladder stones
  • Thyroid disease
  • Interstitial cystitis
  • Diabetes
  • Constipation/Diarrhea

#10 Age

old cat lying around

It’s normal for young kittens to have accidents until they learn where the toilet box is and what it is for. It’s a matter of patience and training.

Older cats also often stop using their toilet box because of a decline in mobility, dementia, joint pain, and incontinence. 

So, a senior cat suddenly not using the litter box is a cause for worry. 

#11 Bad Experience

cat being shocked

Why has my cat stopped using the litter box? Think about how you react when your cat makes a mess outside of its usual bathroom spot. 

Some pet owners punish their cats whenever they find a urine puddle on the floor. However, scolding or yelling at the cat is counterproductive and makes the problem worse.

Moreover, cats can become afraid of their toilet if something startles them in the middle of peeing or another animal beats them there. 

#12 Not Enough Toilet Boxes

Not enough toilet boxes around the house can be the reason for your cat not using the litter box. You need one box per cat plus one extra to promote good litter box habits. 

#13 Surface Preference

cat on carpet

When you ignore your cat not using the toilet box, some cats develop a surface preference for carpeted surfaces, soft bedding, or floors. 

How Do I Get My Cat to Use the Litter Box Again?

So, your cat is peeing outside the litter box or pooping on the carpet. First, you shouldn’t blame your cat or think she is doing it out of spite.

Instead, use these 9 tips on what to do when a cat stops using the litter box.

#1 Schedule a Vet Visit

a vet petting a cat

What to do when a cat stops using the litter box? Talk to your vet as soon as possible so that your vet can do blood tests to rule out a medical issue. 

Keep an eye on other warning signs that your cat is sick, such as blood in urine/feces, straining to urinate, frequent urination, increased thirst/hunger, or loss of appetite. 

#2 Make the Other Location Undesirable 

To encourage your cat to use its toilet, make the alternative bathroom location undesirable.

You can use some smells that cats hate to keep them away from flower pots or put plastic liners or aluminum foil on furniture.

And don’t forget to clean the mess with enzymatic cleaners to remove all traces of cat urine odors, or your cat will return to that spot. 

#3 Experiment with Different Toilet Boxes and Litter

You should provide several boxes of different sizes and designs filled with different types of litter.

Likely, one will be up to your cat’s preferences, and once you discover what your cat likes, it’s easy to get them back to using the litter box. 

#4 Switch to Unscented Litter 

cat smelling something

As I already said, cats don’t like certain smells and fragrances. So, switching to an unscented brand can make all the difference. 

#5 Train Your Kitty to Use the Toilet Box

Sometimes kittens just don’t know where they are supposed to pee/poop. You can encourage them to use the provided toilet box by placing some of their poop/pee inside the box.

And check these cat litter training tips

#6 Consider medication

cat being checked on a vet

As vet specialists from VCA explain, “When frustration, stress, anxiety, or marking are suspected to be the cause, drug therapy and behavior modification techniques may be effective.” (5)

You can talk to your vet about prescribing anti-anxiety or calming medication to reduce your cat’s stress levels and make them feel safe. 

#7 Change Location

Move the toilet box away from your cat’s water and food bowls. Choose a low-traffic area where cats feel safe and not separated from the family.

#8  Resolve Conflicts

Keep your cat’s routine as stable as possible and resolve conflicts with other cats in the household.

Stop any bullying attempts and as Jackson Galaxy recommends in this video, keep a journal of when and where your cat pees/poops to find the possible conflict/stress trigger. 

#9 Add an Extra Box 

Even if you have enough toilet boxes for your cats, it’s worth trying to add an extra one. Some cats pee in one box but poop in another. 

FAQs

Do cats poop on the floor when they are mad?

No, cats don’t poop on the floor when mad. But why does a cat poop outside the litter box? Usually, cats poop outside the box when it’s too dirty, or the cat is in pain.  

Why is my cat peeing everywhere all of a sudden?

cat peeing somewhere

Why is my cat peeing outside the litter box? Usually, cats pee everywhere all of a sudden because they’re ill or the toilet box is too dirty.  

How do you know if a cat has a UTI?

The usual symptoms of UTI in cats are straining to urinate, frequent urination, inappropriate urination, blood in urine, crying when peeing, and excessive genital licking. 

Conclusion

It’s not normal for your cat to avoid its toilet box, especially if you scoop it on a daily basis. So, a cat no longer using its litter box is a red flag that something is wrong.

Your cat is not doing it because she is mad, jealous, or stubborn. Instead, your kitty is trying to communicate its problems in the only way possible.

As such, you shouldn’t ignore inappropriate elimination and try to find the reason behind this unwanted cat behavior.

How Do I Get My Cat to Use the Litter Box Again

What do you think about these reasons why cats stopped using the litter box? Has it ever happened to your kitty? Share your experience in the comment section. 

Resources

  1. “Litter Box Problems.” ASPCA, www.aspca.org/pet-care/cat-care/common-cat-behavior-issues/litter-box-problems.
  2. Ellis, J.J., et al. “Does Previous Use Affect Litter Box Appeal in Multi-Cat Households?” Behavioural Processes, vol. 141, Aug. 2017, pp. 284–290, 10.1016/j.beproc.2017.02.008.
  3. “Cat Litter Trays.” Www.battersea.org.uk, 17 May 2019, www.battersea.org.uk/pet-advice/cat-advice/cat-litter-trays. Accessed 22 May 2022.
  4. Barcelos, Ana Maria, et al. “Common Risk Factors for Urinary House Soiling (Periuria) in Cats and Its Differentiation: The Sensitivity and Specificity of Common Diagnostic Signs.” Frontiers in Veterinary Science, vol. 5, 28 May 2018, www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fvets.2018.00108/full, 10.3389/fvets.2018.00108.
  5. Horwitz, Debra. “Cat Behavior Problems – House Soiling.” Vca_corporate, 2009, vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/cat-behavior-problems-house-soiling.
Grigorina S
Grigorina S

I’ve grown up surrounded by animals – dogs, cats, cows, goats, sheep, and horses and that has shaped me into what I am today – a crazy cat lady who always has a place for one more cat (or a dog). I’ve got two female cats – Kitty and Roni, and two tomcats – Blacky and Shaggy, but I also feed my neighbors’ cats when they come for a visit. I just can’t say no to them.

I discovered that writing is my vocation early in my school years. Since then I’ve taken part in several literature contests – writing horror and fantasy short stories and novellas.
For the past three years, I’ve been an ELS teacher, pouring my heart into showing children and teenagers how important English is for their future and trying to educate them how to treat their pets with care.

Find her on Instagram. Read her latest articles..

Learn more about Grigorina here