Why is my cat not using the litter box?

Cats are not just smaller versions of dogs. In fact, cats are very particular creatures, especially when it comes to their litter box. Tidiness, placement, and even the size of their litter box can all play a factor in deterring them away from using their “royal chamber.” If you notice that your cat is not utilizing the litter box, it may be an indication of what he does not like about his toilet, or, in some cases, even a medical warning.

Health Check:

First and foremost, you should take your cat to see your Veterinarian for a thorough Physical Examination. During the examination, your veterinarian will ask for a thorough history including any new stressors (i.e. pets to the house), the number of litter boxes used, type of litter or if your box is covered or uncovered. In addition, there are some medical conditions that can cause your pet to urinate or defecate outside of the litter box. Your veterinarian may want to get a urine sample to look for a urinary tract infection, or blood work to investigate if an endocrine disorder is present.

Reasons that cats won’t use the litter box:

Once you have ruled out possible sicknesses, you must then focus your attention on the litter box. There are various common litter box problems that can cause your cat to not use or stop using the box:

  • Cramped litter box/too small
  • Uncleanliness
  • Too few litter boxes to accommodate for the cats in the household
  • Covered or uncovered litter box
  • Too close to their food/water source
  • A change in litter
  • Too much litter
  • Stressors, such as moving or adding another cat to the household
  • Too far away from where they spend their time

Medical Conditions:

When your cat is suffering from a medical condition, it usually is due to a urinary infection or another underlying problem. Some conditions that are commonly associated with litter box use include:

  • Urinary Tract Infection (UTI). This type of infection is easy to spot on your cat. You will notice him frequently entering the litter box, but producing little to no urine.
  • Bladder Stones are another urinary condition which will cause your cat to enter the litter box quite regularly. Cries of pain are usually associated with this blockage.
  • Feline interstitial cystitis is a neurological disease that causes your cat’s bladder to become inflamed. Cats will attempt to urinate habitually with no success of relief.
  • Other systemic diseases can cause inappropriate elimination and when suspected, should be investigated.

How to make your cat feel more comfortable using their litter boxes

  • Some cats prefer a shallow litter bed. Putting one to two inches of litter will make them feel more comfortable as opposed to four.
  • Some cats prefer clumping litter
  • Some cats do not like box liner or lids on their litter boxes
  • Cats prefer a quiet, yet, not cornered location.
  • Cats like a clean litter box. Scooping and changing your cat’s litter on a daily basis will allow them to feel more comfortable in their box.

If your pet is urinating or defecating outside of the litter box, please call our office to schedule an appointment.