Cat behaviour

Why Doesn't my Cat Use the Litter Box

Max. D Gray
By Max. D Gray. Updated: January 16, 2017
Why Doesn't my Cat Use the Litter Box

Your cat not using their litter box is a very common feline behavior problem, and we need to address this behavioral problem as soon as possible so that it does not get worse. When your cat starts to not use their litter box, what most often happens is that they do their business in other annoying areas that are not appropriate. Don't ignore this behavior, nor get angry with them. You should look for the reason behind it to nip this issue in the bud. In this OneHowTo article we explain why your cat doesn't use the litter box.

You may also be interested in: Why Doesn’t my Cat Purr anymore?

Steps to follow:


When your cat doesn't use the litter box, they will start to relieve themselves in the most unexpected areas of your home, whether it be in drawers, behind the doors, carpets, curtains, etc. Not using their litter tray correctly is one of the most common behavioral problems in cats, because sometimes they are very territorial. The point is that we must stop this habit before it becomes their normal behavior. Above all, you must forget the idea that this is your cat's way of revenge to punish you for something, these animals don't have these feelings.

Why Doesn't my Cat Use the Litter Box - Step 1

One of the most common reasons why your cat is not using their litter tray is due to a medical problem, it may be that their kidneys aren't working or they're are inflamed. Kidney disease is common in cats and can cause a lot of pain and discomfort due to inflammation. Its outlet ducts are blocked by crystal formations and therefore, your cat will have difficulty urinating. One way to tell if your cat has this problem is to see if they are in pain when they do their business. If so, you'll notice that they will cry and complain every time they go to their litter tray. Because they associate pain to this place, they begin to stop using it and urinate in other parts of the house. In the following article you can read about How to tell if your cat has kidney failure.

Why Doesn't my Cat Use the Litter Box - Step 2

Although your cat having a disease is one reason why they might not be using their litter box, another factor may be that their litter box is in a bad place. It is normal to have their litter box in a very remote area to prevent smells, but this is not a good idea. Leaving their litter tray in the basement, in cold areas or in the laundry room are not good options. They are unattractive and not nice places for your cat and therefore, it is rather normal for your pet to stop using it.

Putting their litter box in a good place is essential to ensure that your feline will always use it without any hassle. A good space should be: not in the open, free from drafts that will cause them discomfort, with some privacy, and be nice for them.

Why Doesn't my Cat Use the Litter Box - Step 3

Another aspect that may influence your cat to stop using their litter tray is the size and shape of the box. Generally, cats don't usually like covered litter boxes and remember that this tray should be at least 1.5 times the size of your pet so that they have enough room to move and cover up their business. Moreover, such behavior can influence how the container should be facing. You can try to position it so that they have a wide view of the surrounding environment and so that it is not against a wall. You should keep changing its location and try different areas to find out why they aren't using their litter tray.

Why Doesn't my Cat Use the Litter Box - Step 4

One of the most common reasons for your cat not to use their litter tray is due to poor hygiene or cleaning. Cats are very clean pets and very demanding in terms of grooming, that is why they spend so many hours at the end of the day grooming themselves. So a dirty box will not be well received by your cat. You have to clean their litter tray twice a day to get rid of any urine and feces; and once a week to replace all the litter and thoroughly clean the tray with soap.

It is important that if you have more than one cat, you have to have a tray for each one of them and an extra one as a spare. You need to follow the same guidelines for cleaning each litter tray.

Why Doesn't my Cat Use the Litter Box - Step 5

When a cat stops using their tray there is something that they don't like, so you must take action on the matter and assess the possible causes. Apart from the reasons listed above, some cats hate scented litter and this is one reason why they don't want to use their litter tray. There are some types of litter where the sand is in crystal-form, which is great for absorbing large amounts, but cats don't like it. It is mainly the sound it makes when the cat steps onto it and for some cats this seems unpleasant.

A final factor that influences litter tray behavior is that the tray may not have enough litter in it so that they can cover up their business, it should at least be 4 cm (1.5 in) deep.

If you want to read similar articles to Why Doesn't my Cat Use the Litter Box, we recommend you visit our Pets category.

Write a comment
What did you think of this article?
1 comment
thank you for this article it helped out a lot!!
OneHowTo Editor
You're welcome!
1 of 6
Why Doesn't my Cat Use the Litter Box