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Some Common Reasons Why Cats Stop Using the Litter Box


Strong Cleansers for Cleaning Litter Boxes

Strong-smelling household cleansers may leave enough of a strong scent on the plastic box that it drives the cat away. When you clean the box use bleach that is heavily diluted in hot water or you can even use dish soap that is very diluted. When you’re done cleaning you don’t want to have any traces of scent on the plastic. To give you an idea of how sensitive a cat’s nose is, he has 67 million scent receptors compared to the 5 million that humans have.

Litter Scatter Mats

These mats are designed to catch the litter that gets trapped on the cat’s paws as he exits the litter box. Some mats may have a texture that cats find uncomfortable.

Punishing Your Cat

I include this on the list because it’s important to know that a cat may avoid the box because he has been punished for eliminating in other locations. When you punish a cat for peeing or pooping outside of the box, the messages he receives are 1) he should be afraid of you, and 2) peeing and pooping will get him in trouble. Even though you think you’re teaching him that his location choice is what you objected to, the message he got was to avoid peeing and pooping when you’re around. Punishment also means you are assuming the cat is misbehaving and in reality, he isn’t. If a cat isn’t using his litter box it’s because he feels he can’t. Your job is to figure out why. Punishment is inhumane and counter-productive.

Need More Information?

For more specific help when it comes to setting up a litter box or dealing with litter box aversion issues, refer to any of the books by best-selling author Pam Johnson-Bennett. Her books have been called the “cat bibles” by veterinarians, behavior experts and cat parents worldwide. You can purchase Pam’s books at bookstores everywhere, through your favorite online book retail site and also here on our website.


Quote from Beth Stern


    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