6 Common Reasons Why Cats Stop Using the Litter Box


As a cat owner, you know how important it is to make sure that your cat is cared for. This entails everything from making sure that their claws are trimmed to making sure that they are eating the right type of food, and enriching their environment with toys and places to play and sleep. Having a litter box or two is also key if you have a cat that stays indoors. If you begin to notice that your cat is not using the litter box regularly, it is important that you determine why. There are a number of potential reasons why you may notice that your cat has stopped using the litter box.

Here are a few of the most common explanations for why your cat has stopped using the litter box:

There is a Reason

The thing that you need to remember, is that when your cat stops using the litter box there is always reason. This means that your feline friend will just not just stop using the litter box one day without an explanation. What you need to do is determine what the reason is so you can correct it – and hopefully your cat begins using the litter box again.


Is There a Medical Issue?

When there’s a litter box issue, the very first thing a cat parent should do is take kitty to the vet to rule out any medical reason for the behavior, like a urinary tract infection or kidney problems. It’s very common for cats who have medical issues to associate the pain of using the litter box with the box itself, so they will stop using the box in order to avoid the discomfort! Or, a cat may be having trouble getting in and out of the litter box or simply isn’t making it to the box in time. Always have a cat who stops using the box seen by a veterinarian as the first step.


Is It Cleaned?

The most common reason why your cat may not be using the litter box any more may have to do with how often you clean it. It is important to remember that most cats are habitually clean. This means that they will not want to go into and use a litter box that is very dirty. Just think about using the bathroom in a toilet that is unflushed. It is the same concept for cats. This means that you should make an effort to clean the litter box more often and you should begin to notice that your cat will start to use it again. Litter boxes should be scooped at least once a day and the litter should be completely dumped and replaced and the box scrubbed every month.


Do You Have a Covered Litter Box?

Many cat parents like the idea of a covered box because it offers the cat privacy and also keeps odors confined to inside the litter box. The truth is, these types of boxes often make cats feel trapped – especially if you live in a home with multiple cats. Also, by confining odors inside the box, it makes using it very unpleasant for kitty, whose sense of smell is many times greater than our own. A covered litter box to cats is actually very much like a smelly, dirty port-o-potty is to humans!

Has Something Changed?

You should also look to changes in the routine as the reason behind your cat stopping using the litter box. Have you recently moved, added another pet or human to the family, rearranged the furniture, had a major change in your schedule, or any other big change that your cat would notice? Cats are major creatures of habit and are affected by stress and changes in their routines. You can help your cat adjust by trying some stress relieving plugins and sprays like Feliway, spending quality play-time with your kitty, and doing your best to get back on your cat’s routine.

Do You Have Enough Litter Boxes?

If you have recently added a new cat to the family that also uses the same litter box, this could also be the reason that your cat is acting differently with its litter box habits. This means that you can solve the problem by getting the new cat in the household their very own litter box. Your cat will once again begin to use their litter box once the new cat has their own one to use. The general rule of thumb for litter boxes is one box per cat, plus one. So, if you have one cat, you should have two litter boxes. If you have two cats, you should have three litter boxes, and so on. A lot of cats, for whatever cat reason, prefer to urinate in one box and poop in a different box.


Have You Changed Litter?

If your cat usually has good potty habits and suddenly stops using the litter box after you change the litter, then it should be obvious – kitty doesn’t like the new litter. But why? Generally, cats don’t like litter that is scented like flowers or perfume. They usually prefer litter that is the consistency of sand, not big pellets or rocks that might hurt their paws. So while we humans often go for the convenient litter that smells good to us, think about what your cat would prefer to use when choosing a litter and you’ll be less likely to have problems.

One thing to keep in mind if you’re dealing with a kitty who’s stopped using the litter box is that you should never punish a cat for going potty outside of the box. Punishing a cat is counter-productive. They do not learn what you’re trying to teach them! In fact, if you punish a cat for peeing or pooping outside of the box, he’s only going to learn to be afraid of you and not to pee or poop when you’re around. The only way to solve a litter box problem is so figure out why your cat isn’t using the litter box and resolve that issue. Good luck!



  1. Audie Dewey

    Mar 23, 2017 at 10:48 am

    Thank you so much for this article–so many helpful tips here. But, I just saw this post (“Vet reveals how to stop your cat peeing outside the litter box permanently”) and actually was reading about this same topic the other day. I did some searching around and stumbled onto this cool article… I thought it was helpful…

  2. Reasons Why Cats Meow

    Nov 5, 2017 at 6:56 pm

    People need to be reminded that they need to address the real cause of their cat not using the litter box. Honestly, this post here should be read by everybody. Patience is a key when this starts happening. Understand and address the right way. Never punish a cat for not using the litter box for whatever reason. As a cat parent, you should be understanding enough and address the real cause.

  3. Karen M.

    Dec 28, 2018 at 10:01 pm

    My cat, since birth, has not used litter box for poop but he uses it for urine. I need help to figure out how to train him to use it for poop too. I told the vet but they did not help me( I think they were just very busy and forgot what I said); I use Banfiiel; affiliated with PetSMart. Thank you.

  4. Tischa Weathers

    Dec 29, 2018 at 5:53 am

    When my cat was about 15 yrs old (he is now over 20), he started peeing outside the box. I don’t remember WHY I decided to set up a 2nd box (one for pee and one for poop, but it worked and he has never gone outside the box since. I have the 2 boxes right next to each other.

  5. diy

    Jun 17, 2019 at 12:03 pm

    Hi mates, how is everything, and what you would like to
    say about this post, in my view its actually remarkable in support of me.

  6. Joan

    Sep 2, 2019 at 4:03 pm

    My 1 year old cat, has begun pooping in other areas of my house. The kitty litters are clean, there are ample for everyone. She has three litter mates and my two other cats, 4 years old, all live together. The mother of the three, live in the basement because she hates her kids! She hisses at them and was aggressively mean to them, so I had to separate them. I know they are sad about that, but she nursed way too long. They ate food, but would all still want to nurse as well, for 6 months. My husband and I went away for 24 hours. Came home to find two spots of poop in our living room. There have been days when we find poop in random locations. One of the the older cats is a bully, and I think the pooper, Honey, is reacting to his aggression. Everyone has been fixed. The bully, Bobby is such a sweet cat, otherwise, and I don’t know why he is picking on Honey. (He also hates Honey’s Mom, literally tried to kill her.) Bobby has also stressed out his sister, Rosie, before the kittens came into play. She would aggressively lick herself bald! (Rosie is meek and much smaller, but Honey, if had the confidence, could kick Bobby’s Butt!) Honey, I have seen go after Rosie, and Bobby then chases Honey, and the merry-go-round continues. Rosie is fine now, fur grew back, and she sleeps with me. The three mates used to come up to sleep with us as well, but Bobby doesn’t allow that, anymore!!

  7. Pingback: How To Keep Cat’s Litter Box from Smelling Up The House

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Just when this dog-eat-dog world has handed you all the poop you can take, it's time to walk the dog. Or wash the dog. Or feed the dog. You get the idea. So welcome to the world of easy-to-care-for cats. Entertainment comes bundled in a furry, huggable, self-cleaning cat who won't beg for your food. In his eyes, you don't eat well enough anyway. Just keep a laser pen handy, sit back and wait for the fun to begin! Cats...ya gotta love 'em.

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