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Some Common Reasons Why Cats Stop Using the Litter Box

litter box with litter scoop

Photo: Fotolia

A Covered Litter Box

You may think a covered box is a good idea because it gives the cat some privacy and also confines the litter odor inside the box. The truth is, a covered box isn’t cat-friendly. A covered box often makes the cat feel confined. The covered box makes it more inconvenient for you to scoop on a regular basis (out of sight…out of mind). Covered boxes also create more odor because air doesn’t get in there to dry the soiled litter. My biggest complaint with a covered box is that it prevents the cat from having escape potential. In a multicat household this can be a crucial issue because a cat may avoid the box if he feels he’ll get ambushed while in there.

gray cat next to covered litter box

Photo: Fotolia

Wrong Sized Litter Box

Don’t choose a litter box size based on where it conveniently will fit in a location. Choose a box based on the size of your cat. The box should be about 1 ½ times the length of your cat.

Not Enough Litter Boxes

In multicat homes you should have the same number of litter boxes as you have cats plus one extra. If there’s a litter box issue, then you really can’t avoid to skimp on the number of boxes. If you live with just one cat but you have a home with more than one level then there should be a box on each level.

Wrong Location for the Litter Box

Location choice should be about convenience and security for the cat and not about what is convenient for the cat parent. Don’t put the litter box near the food, in a damp basement, in a closet or near household appliances that may frighten the cat (such as the washing machine). In a multicat household, scatter boxes around the home and don’t have them lined up in one room. You don’t want a cat developing a litter box aversion problem because he’s afraid to cross the path of another cat in order to get into the one room where all the boxes are located. Place a box in each cat’s preferred area.


    I ‘am having a serious litter box problem that’s not covered in your book and I have looked on several other places we
    thought we had it solved when we got a low profile litter box then they all started using the low profile and backing up
    or peeing in between them. right now I don’t know to put a puppy pad in the middle I love them all but I’m faced with
    a bigger problem there is me and my mom I’m 54 and she’s in her early 70’s with arthritis .

  2. Very nice article! I never realized how sensitive my cats nose is. I have always bought litter for my nose convenience instead of her needs. I am going to try cleaning out this new litter box I have and then filling it with unscented litter. Then I can see if that helps. Please pray that it does! I will be getting back with you either way by how it goes. Plus that I have already taken her to the vet because of this problem and an ear infection. He put her on an antibiotic, which I had a hard time giving it to her, so the infection hasn’t already all of the way healed. So unless the LOrd heals her I am half expecting for her to get that fully back.

  3. My cat Patch is not using the litter box! He has had 2 cases of urinary stones or crystals and I saved his life both times but he now poops and pees outside the litter box continuously. I think he associated the pain with the litter. Cat litter is clean! I do not know how to change his behavior. I have tried putting his feces in the box, throwing him out at night I’ve drawn the line at strangling him. ( I wouldn’t do that but it sure crosses my mind) Please give me some advice.

  4. If he has had 2 bouts with painful urination he is probably associating boxes with pain.
    If he is the only kitty, I’d have 2 litter boxes,one in a new spot- he make not make a connection.
    Some humans are put on continous low dose antibiotics for recurring utinary tract infections- maybe vets can fo the same thing.
    We just rescued a cat, he was recently neutered, now after 3 weeks in the house he has started to pee on our bedspread about once a day-he actually peed on my husband while he was in the bed sleeping. Urine looks and smells fine. So Im going to completely clean and wash all 4 litterboxes and refill with new unscented litter, hopefully that will stop problem- if not, more money for the vet- yeah