Is your cat not using the litter box or only using it occasionally? We understand that having a cat with litter box problems can be very frustrating. But it is actually a fairly common issue in cats that can develop for a number of reasons. Here are some common reasons your cat may have stopped using the litter box so that you can resolve the issue and focus on snuggling.

1. Health issues

If you notice a change in your cat’s litter box behavior, the first step is to rule out any possible medical conditions. A few common conditions that can lead to litter box problems are urinary tract infections (UTI), feline interstitial cystitis, or kidney stones.

2. Inadequate access

Have you recently moved your cat’s box? If so, she may need some time to adjust. It’s best to move it very slowly over the course of several days. It’s also possible that your cat finds the litter box difficult or stressful to get to. A noisy or busy location could be the reason your cat is eliminating somewhere more comfortable for her. Try moving it to a more quiet, private spot in your house. 

3. Odor

A cat’s sense of smell is 14 times more powerful than ours. If your cat’s litter box is not cleaned properly and regularly she may refuse to use it. Be sure that you’re scooping the litter daily, and completely emptying out the litter and cleaning the box regularly. Avoid strong-smelling cleaning chemicals, such as ammonia, bleach, or citrus products. If you try all of these things to no avail, try switching to a different kind of litter. She may just not like the smell of the one you are using. Additionally, if you have more than one cat, be sure that you have one litter box per cat.

4. Stress or anxiety

Could your cat be experiencing any stress—such as a recent move, a new person in the house, frequent guests, a change of schedule, or something traumatic like surgery or an injury? Stress can have a big impact on litter box behavior. Never force your cat or throw her into her box. She may associate it with stress and refuse to use it. Identify any stressful triggers and create a calming environment to entice your cat to use her box again. 

5. Age

Like humans, as cats age, their cognitive and physical functions begin to decline. If you have a senior cat, she may not be able to easily climb into her box anymore, make it to the box in time, or even remember where her box is. To help her, get more litter boxes placed in convenient locations throughout the house and make sure they have low sides that she can easily step into. 

Be patient 

The first step in finding a solution is to address the issue with patience and compassion, because in her mind, your cat has a very good reason for not using her litter box. If you punish her for this behavior, she is more likely to associate her litter box with stress and fear, which will only compound the issue. 

Need help with litter box problems?

Don’t let the stress and frustration affect your relationship with your cat. At Anasazi Animal Clinic in Gilbert, we recommend you contact us as soon as you notice your cat has stopped using the litter box. We can help you rule out any medical issues and determine whether it’s a behavioral issue that needs to be addressed. Contact us to schedule an appointment today!


Image used under creative commons license – commercial use (6/22/2023) by Photo by Jenna Hamra on Pexels