If your cat has started refusing to use the litter box, she is not the only one! This is arguably the biggest problem faced by cat owners everywhere. It means your cat is trying to tell you that something isn’t right. Its up to us as cat lovers to determine what that is!
What you definitely do NOT want to do is punish your cat. This will not make the issue go away, and may even make it worse. If your cat is punished she will learn to fear and avoid you. It can lead to increased stress for your cat, which in turn can lead to an increased problem.
Do take some time to consider each of these possible causes. You may find that there are more than one, and that you will need to address each of them separately. These are the most common reasons why your cat may not be using the litter box.
– Medical Problems
The first thing you must do when your cat starts to eliminate away from the litter box is to have your veterinarian examine him or her for cake packaging boxes any signs of medical problems. There are some very serious medical conditions that can lead to inappropriate elimination, and we want to be sure that this is not happening with your cat before we start looking at other possible causes.
If your cat appears to be straining to urinate, but he is producing only a tiny amount of urine, take him to the veterinarian IMMEDIATELY. This is a very serious and life-threatening condition.
Once your vet has ruled out any medical causes, let’s take a look around your home and around your cat’s daily environment to determine what the other reasons may be.
– Litter Box Cleanliness
Be sure to keep your cat’s litter box sparkling clean. Your cat has a natural sense of cleanliness and order, and is upset by a dirty litter box. If the box seems dirty and/or smelly to you, it is even more so to your cat, because a cat’s sense of smell is approximately 40 times stronger than a human’s. Imagine how an unclean litter box smells to him!
There are also other instinctual reasons why a cat may avoid a dirty box. In nature, a predator would find a cat through its sense of smell. Outdoor cats thoroughly cover up their waste after elimination so that any predators in the area will not be able to find them. Even a domestic indoor cat will have their sense of security disrupted if the smell of their own waste is in the air. This may drive your cat to find new places to pee and poop, so that he feels less vulnerable.
Be sure that you clean the litter box at least once a day. Wash the box with mild soap and water when needed, but don’t use strong smelling soaps or cleaners, as these will also irritate your cat’s sense of smell. If your cat is still not using the litter box regularly you may need to do more frequent cleanings, at least until the problem has been resolved.
– Type of Litter Box
The actual box that you use can also matter to your cat. If she doesn’t like the size or shape of her box she may refuse to use it. Many cats dislike litter boxes with covers, because they can trap any smells inside the box. Or the cat may feel trapped himself! If your cat is overweight or especially large, the opening may be too small for him to use, or the inside of the covered box may be too small for him to move around in.
If your cat is older or arthritic, or if you have a very small cat or kitten, you should check the height of the entrance to the box. If it is too high and your cat has difficulty getting in and out, this could be another reason for avoidance. Be sure the box is easy for your cat to access. You can install a ramp to the entrance if needed.
Other cats might not like boxes with liners. You should take off the liner if you observe your cat scratching it or trying to pull it off. Giving your cat a choice about the type of box he uses may help the problem. Try using different styles until you find one she likes and will use.
– Type of Litter
Many cats show a preference for a particular type of litter. If he has stopped using the little box after you changed the litter you use, your cat is telling you that he liked the old one better. Try changing back to your previous brand, it may be just that simple!
Every type of litter feels different, and some are more pleasant to your cat’s paws. Some litters are sandy, some gravelly, some are more like dirt, and others like shredded paper. What appeals to one cat may not always appeal to another. Another thing to consider is that most cats dislike the smell of scented litter. Although this may be a nice thing for humans, to mask the smell of the cat’s waste, this goes back to the cat’s strong sense of smell, and the fact that the perfume in scented litter smells extremely strong to him.