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Some Common Reasons Why Cats Stop Using the Litter Box


Cats who are declawed may continue to feel pain long after the healing period. Some cats’ paws remain sensitive for the rest of their lives and the texture of the litter may be too uncomfortable for them. There are so many reasons not to declaw your cat and this is just one of them. If you’re on the fence about whether to put your cat through this surgical amputation, please first read the article on this website on declawing.

A Dirty Litter Box

Would you want to use a toilet that is never flushed? Of course not. Cats are very clean animals and if the box is too dirty they will seek other arrangements. Scoop the litter box at least twice a day and completely wash out the box monthly. If you’re not using scoopable litter then wash out the box on a weekly basis.

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 from tip of the nose to base of the tail.

Not Enough Litter Boxes

In multicat homes you should have the same number of litter boxes as you have cats plus one extra for good measure. 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.


CatWise book and a quote from Dr Lore Haug


Litter Box Liners

Litter box liners are created for the convenience of the cat parent but they often tear from the cat’s claws. It’s also easy for urine to form pools in the folds of the plastic and that creates an odor problem. Since cats are very tactile you also have to keep in mind how the plastic may create discomfort when a cat is trying to dig and cover his waste.

Not Enough Litter in the Box

Don’t be stingy when it comes to filling the litter box. If you don’t want to create an odor problem, put an adequate amount of litter in the box and keep the level consistent. In general, about 3 inches of litter is a good amount. As you scoop, periodically top off the litter with a bit more to keep a consistent amount.

The Wrong Litter

In general, cats like an unscented, sand-like substrate. They like the soft feel on their paws and the sand-like litter makes it easy for digging and covering. Cats also don’t want to smell all the flowery, perfumed litters. Keep in mind how close your cat’s nose will be to the litter when he’s in the box.  Texture is also important when it comes to litter. There are so many litters on the market that are created to appeal to the convenience of the cat parent but in many cases they are just a litter box problem waiting to happen. While some cats may prefer the texture of an alternative litter, most prefer an unscented, soft, scoopable litter.

Stress and Environment Affects Your Cat

Whether the stress is due to multicat issues, household chaos or sudden changes (such as a move, renovation, new baby, new spouse, etc.), the effect can end up being litter box aversion. Cats are creatures of habit who don’t adjust well to abrupt changes or chaotic environments. A litter box avoidance problem may be the result of your cat being too fearful to even peek his head out from under the bed. Address multicat tension issues and/or environmental factors in order to provide your cat a sense of security and safety in his own territory.

Going High-Tech with the Litter Box

Electronic self-cleaning boxes have so many downsides that I don’t even know where to start. Many of them have motors that are frightening. Some are so big but the actual surface area for the cat is too small. Many self-cleaning boxes have covers as well. Even though some of these boxes are timed to not activate the cleaning until 10 minutes after the cat has left the box it doesn’t account for another cat entering. Some rakes in the boxes easily clog when there’s a large clump due to diarrhea. The other important downside to a self-cleaning box is that you are prevented from monitoring what is or isn’t happening in the litter box. When you clean the box it’s an opportunity to check on your cat’s health. It’s during cleaning time that you may notice constipation, diarrhea, a larger-than-normal urine clump or no urine clump at all.