Cat Not Using New Litter Box

A Kitty Sitting In A Self-Cleaning Type Of Litter Box

Many cats don’t always use their litter box as expected. Even if your pet usually behaves properly, it can still defecate or urinate in inappropriate areas because of stress or when limited to a certain area.

However, if your pet’s problem recapitulates for unknown reasons, it may be a sign of a serious medical issue (prevalent to many cats) that needs to be addressed.

10 Possible Causes Of Your Cat Missing The Litter Box

Litter-Box Management Issues

The first reason why your cat prefers not to eliminate in the litter box that you have provided is either your cat is not comfortable with it or your cat’s litter box is not accessible.

Other common litter box problems and mismanagement that causes healthy cats to do their business outside the litter box include, but are not limited to the following:

  • You have not cleaned your cat’s litter box thoroughly enough.
  • The size of the litter box is not appropriate for your cat’s size.
  • It is not easily accessible at times, making your cat excrete outside the litter box.
  • The bed of the litter box is too deep. Usually, cats prefer a shallow bed approximately one to two inches deep.
  • Your cat’s box has litter box liners that make it uncomfortable for them to use.

Cats Have A Preferred Surface

Cats develop preferences especially for eliminating over certain surfaces or textures like carpets, rough or smooth pavements, or over potting soil. If it is the case, make sure that your cat becomes accustomed to using the litter box.

The Litter Box Smells & Is Not Clean

Like some other animals such as dogs, cats have a distinct sense of touch and smell. The sensitivity of the senses also influences how cats develop choices with the type of litter. Removing the litter that the cats have grown accustomed to and putting a different litter may result in the cats disliking the scent or the feel or texture of the newly bought box. Additionally, since cats have a strong sense of smell, an unclean litter box may be the reason why the cats dislike doing their business inside these litter boxes. [1]

Location Preference Or Aversion

Other cats have preferences for where the litter boxes are placed. Cats prefer to eliminate elsewhere and avoid the litter box if it is placed in different locations that they do not like.

Negative Litter-Box Association

There are various reasons why healthy cats who have reliably used their potty box in the past begin to eliminate outside the box. One common cause is that something may have happened to upset them while they were using the box.

If this is the case with your pet, you may notice that they seem to be hesitant to return to the litter. They may enter their potty but then quickly leave–sometimes before even utilizing it to do their business.

One common reason for this particular litter box problem is its painful elimination. Your cat may have learned to associate her litter box with the discomfort it receives from the painful excretion which may be caused by a medical problem or lack of fiber in its diet. This negative association prevents your cat from using the litter box again, even after its health has returned to normal.

A Cramped Litter Box

Litter boxes that restrict cats from doing their own business may cause them to urinate outside this designated box. If you happened to notice that your cat is urinating outside the box, look at the size of your cat and the litter box as cats may have outgrown the boxes they had since when they were tiny kitty.

Multi-Cat Households’ Conflict

Having multiple cats in one household can cause litter box problems. Most of the time, dominant cats control access for using the litter box and prevent another kitty from using the box despite the fact that the dominant feline is not confronted by other cats. The behavior of the dominant cat will cause litter box problems for the other cats in the household.

Your Cat Is Stressed

The stress that your cat is feeling can have a great impact on its behavior. More than that, it may cause your cat to have litter box problems.

Your cats’ stressors may be events that you may not think as traumatic for them. Minute changes may also indirectly affect your cat, like moving to a new neighborhood, new pets or new animals in the household, and additional family members. Changing your routine may also stress your cat, making it feel more anxious and becoming more hesitant of using the litter box.

Inability To Use The Litter Box

Old cats that may have physical limitations cannot use the litter box properly or they may have a hard time using a specific type of litter boxes such as top-entry boxes or litter boxes with high sides.

Underlying Medical Condition

If your cat does not manifest the aforementioned causes of litter box problems, there’s a high possibility that your cat’s problem is due to underlying medical conditions. And if cats have medical conditions related to urinating or defecating, your pets may experience pain or have a hard time eliminating wastes.

The most common medical issue that affects the litter box use of your pet includes kidney and bladder stones, infection in your cat’s urinary tract, cystitis, and constipation, which will be explained next.

A Kitty With Green Eyes Sitting On The Same Spot

Medical Issues That Can Cause Inappropriate Elimination

Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

One major indicator that a feline is having an infection in their urinary tract is when the cat frequently enters the litter box and only produces small amounts of urine. If you notice this, you have to set an appointment with your dog’s veterinarian for the diagnosis and treatment of this medical issue.

Feline Interstitial Cystitis

A type of neurological disease, the feline interstitial cystitis affects the bladder of most cats. When they have cystitis, the cat feels the need to frequently urinate and seems to look like they are struggling but having no success.

Some of the manifestations of your cat having this medical problem include blood in the urine of the cat, and sometimes, they lick themselves while they urinate. Cystitis causes a cat to eliminate anywhere else and not using the litter box because of the strong urgency and the need to urinate because of the pain that makes the cat feel uncomfortable.

Feline interstitial cystitis is one of the various medical conditions that need immediate medical attention from a practicing veterinarian.

Blockage Or Kidney Stones

Cats can have potential kidney blockage if they frequently enter the litter box and do nothing. They may vocalize when they try to eliminate as they may experience painful elimination. Their abdomen may also feel tender to touch. The best way to deal with the issue is by consulting your cat’s veterinarian.

A Lazy Kitty Sleeping On The Ground

Signs Your Cat May Have A Problem Beyond The Litter Box

  • Poor appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Visiting the litter box more often
  • Bad hair coat
  • Lethargy
  • Increased water intake
  • Spending more time in the litter box
  • Making sounds while in the box
  • Urinating and defecating patterns outside the litter box
  • Urine spraying around walls, windows, doorways, and other objects in the house.
A Sleeping Orange Tabby

Basic Tips On Cats Not Using New Litter Box

  • If your pet’s vet confirms that the cat doesn’t have any medical issues, you can proceed to resolve the box-related issues.
  1. Provide enough litter boxes
  2. Make it accessible
  3. Have the food bowls and water bowls adjacent to the box
  4. Remove liners and covers
  5. Clean the box daily
  • If your cat has a preferred surface, you can make it less appealing by placing a tin foil, double-sided sticky tape, or upside-down carpet runners. This will prevent your cat from doing the same behavior of defecating or urinating over the same surface again.
  • If the smell of the box is the one that bothers your cat, try using another variety of litter. Cats usually prefer certain litter that has a medium to fine texture and an unscented litter. You must also keep the box cleaned out every day and refilled with fresh litter sand every week.
  • If your cat has developed its behavior of eliminating in its preferred locations, try making it less appealing. For instance, if the cat likes to defecate in a dark place, try putting motion-activated light in that area.
  • If cats associate litter boxes with negative and upsetting events, try minimizing the occurrence of these events and develop pleasant associations with the litter boxes, like food. Some of the negative events that may upset cats include loud noises, the cats feel trapped by dogs, another cat, or a person, or experiencing pain when eliminating.
A White Persian Strolling In A Beach Sand
  • To address the cramped litter box, simply make sure that it is approximately one and a half times longer than the length of your kitty. If it is unable to turn around in it easily, it simply means that you need to buy a new one.
  • Rinse the box with unscented soap or baking soda once a week. If you’re a busy cat parent, you can try buying a self-cleaning potty, which is generally cleaner than a traditional cat sandbox. Due to their strong sense of smell, you should also keep your food and water dishes well away from their litter boxes.
  • If you have multiple cats, try using a harmless dye (fluorescein), to know which cat is soiling. Fluorescein causes urine to glow under ultraviolet light for 24 hours. If you can’t procure fluorescein, you may confine all your cats one at a time and determine which one eliminates outside that one box. You can also supplement a few litter boxes in various locations, all of which should have multiple escape routes. Ensure that other animals or your children don’t have access to the boxes.
  • If the vet diagnosed your kitty as stressed, you can create a simple daily routine to be followed. If possible, try eliminating the stressor. For example, stop the dog from playing with your cat, or keep the cat’s food bowl full and in the same place.
  • The inability to use the litter boxes by cats who have special needs may be addressed by making it cat-friendly. Avoid using covered litter boxes, top-entry boxes, or boxes with high sides.
  • The first step to do if your cat has a medical issue is to immediately consult your vet as it may be a threat to your feline friend. The veterinarian will then give your feline some medications to treat the illness.
Healthy Cats In One House

What Not To Do If Your Cat Has A Litter Problem

Regardless of the reason for the elimination problem, here are some things that you should not do if cats eliminate outside the litter box:

  • Do not drag or carry your cat to the litter box, while scolding her.
  • Do not rub any excrements like urine and feces to your cat’s nose.
  • Do not temporarily confine or restrain your cat in a small room with a litter box for a long period of days or weeks without addressing the main problem of her elimination issues.
  • Do not use an ammonia-based cleanser when cleaning up elimination accidents. This is because urine contains ammonia and using ammonia-based products (oven cleaners, toilet bowl cleaner, glass cleaner, all-purpose cleaner) to clean the area would only attract your cat to that same spot again. Use a product specifically for cleaning pet accidents instead.
An Example Of Cat's Behaviors

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I get my cat to stop peeing on the floor?

You can employ the following methods to stop your cat from peeing on the floor:

  • Makes sure that your cat likes the litter box
  • Follow a sustainable routine
  • Regulate environmental factors
  • Pay close attention to your cat and break the cycle of urinating everywhere except the litter box

In any event where the cat may have urinated or defecated outside the box, use an enzymatic cleanser which is designed to neutralize pet odors.

Will my cat eventually use the new litter box?

Yes, your cat will eventually use the litter box. Most felines will instinctively go to the litter box when it is time to use it, as long as it was properly introduced to your pet cat.

How long does it take for a cat to use the litter box in a new home?

It takes few weeks before a cat uses the litter box in a new home. Kittens need to be stimulated to go to the bathroom and are not accustomed to using the litter box until the 3rd week. Once the kitten has reached week three, litter box use can be appropriately introduced to the kitten.

Can you have a cat without a litter box?

No, you cannot have a cat without providing any litter box. Unless you want your cat to eliminate anywhere they like, give yourself a favor and buy a litter box for your cat. If you have a multi-cat household, make sure to provide enough litter boxes for your cats to use.


If your pet cat is still manifesting the behavior of constantly eliminating in inappropriate places even after trying to solve it on your own, consider making an appointment with the veterinarian of your pet to identify what medical conditions are causing this issue and determine what measures to manage the problem would be.

The veterinarian should conduct multiple tests to identify the problem and after which, litter box training may be needed to eliminate behavior problems and revert your pet to its normal patterns.

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