Why Does My Cat Not Use the Litter Box?

By Phil / September 17, 2015
Why Does My Cat Not Use the Litter Box

You really only have two choices when it comes to providing a place for your cat to do their business. Provide a litter box indoors, or make sure they have access to the outdoors when they need it.

My cats have access to go outside when they please. However, I still have a litter box indoors for when it suits them. I think this works best for me, and my cats have no problem using the tray when it takes their fancy.

I have had problems with rescue cats not using the box or tray before though. But through process of elimination, and trying a few different methods. I have always been able to train my cats to use the box if they are indoors.

If you have an indoor cat, you are going to need to train them to use it pretty quick. And, if they find a reason to start avoiding using it, you have a problem. There can be a number of reasons why a cat will stop using their tray. Here are some of the more common reasons.

Why Does My Cat Not Use the Litter Box?

The Tray Is Not Clean Enough

Cats are clean animals, and if their litter box is not kept clean they will stop using it. You will have noticed cats like to check the area they are about to use as a toilet, and they will bury their waste after.

This is because in the wild they need to reduce their scent if they are to cover their tracks from other animals. As such, if you have multiple cats, it’s normal for other cats to not use a tray that has already been used.

So clean out the box as soon as you have noticed it has been used. Otherwise particularly fussy cats will refuse to use it again. Meaning, they may use somewhere else in your house. Use good odor control litter too, this helps reduce the scent from a used box.

Your Cat Has Not Learned How to Use a Litter Box

The best time to train a cat to use a litter box is when they are kittens. It’s easy to train kittens to use a litter box. While it is a lot more difficult with adult cats.

Kittens gravitate to the texture and feel of litter. Gentling helping them by placing them in a the box and using their paws is a burying motion is all it takes for most. So be patient, and use this technique to help.

Your Cat Has an Underlying Illness

When cats are sick, they often mess outside of the litter box. This can be due to physical pain, and they find it hard to physically use the box. Or, something else making them act out of character.

It’s worth getting your cat checked out by a vet if it looks like this is the case.

Your Cat Doesn’t Like the Location of the Litter Box

Litter tray placement is something that is often overlooked. With people choosing the location that is best for them. So they don’t see it, or visitors don’t come across it. But this isn’t the way to think, the cat needs the box in a place that’s convenient for them.

So think about where is quiet and private. While being easy to get to, and where the cat will not be disturbed while using it. If your cat isn’t using it, try another location.

The Litter Box Is Too Close to Where Cats Sleep or Eat

It’s a normal assumption for someone to put all the cats accessories in the same area. So they have a bed, food, and litter box in one room. But this is something that causes a lot of cats to find somewhere else to use the toilet.

Put the litter box in a different room to where your cat sleeps. I know cats can choose a different place daily to sleep, but I’m sure you can find a different room. Also keep the box well away from where they eat. It’s not a pleasant thought having to eat near the toilet, is it?

Different Cats Are Using the Same Litter Box

The rule of thumb is to provide one box per cat in your household. This way, each cat has their own toilet and will figure out which they want to use between them. Some households have several cats they happily use the same boxes.

But if you’re having issues with one or more of your cat’s not using a box. This may be the reason.

Your Cat Doesn’t Like the Type of Litter You’re Using

This is a problem I have had myself. The first brand of litter I used with a new kitten turned out to be the reason why she was not using it.

There are a lot of different types on the market. Traditional clay is the safest bet if you have any doubts. But it’s not the best at clumping, so it’s messy and gives off more odor. You can also use absorbent crystals, wood and sawdust, or grit based litters.

If your cat doesn’t like the feel of the texture, they will not use it. It doesn’t happen very often, but worth investigating if you’re having a problem. I always recommend buying quality litter, not only is it better for odor control but it has some health benefits for cats.

Your Cat Doesn’t Like the Litter Box

Some cats really are this fussy. There are open, closed, and automatic litter boxes. Some cats will not be comfortable using closed boxes, they don’t like feeling closed in.

Other cats will not use open boxes and they feel too exposed. So try both if you’re having issues, it may just be the deciding factor.