Litterbox Lessons

Has your cat stopped using the litterbox? Learn the 10 most common reasons and how you can prevent them from happening in your home.

By Peggy Scott

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The experts add that when selecting a private, accessible, quiet place for your cat's box, keep in mind the room's primary use. "If you use a laundry or utility room, don't put the box near anything that might suddenly make noise and scare the cat, such as water heaters, furnaces or washing machines," Bebiak says. And skip the bathroom; the room's humidity can affect a litter's ability to dry properly.

3. Unclean Box
The reason for box avoidance could be right under your nose and kitty's.

"Not only is a cat's sense of smell hundreds times sharper than ours, their noses are also 20 times closer to a smell's source, so they should be the final judge of what's clean enough," Hunthausen says.

"Cats would like [the litterbox] cleaned every time they use it. "They don't want to go where they've been before. They want the waste gone and buried. We need to re-educate cat owners that a box should be cleaned at least once daily. If a cat smells foulness, he'll just keep digging to find clean litter," Prange says.

Johnson-Bennett has three cats and scoops twice a day. "We don't want to smell litterbox smells and neither does the cat," she says. "They want to smell their own scent or a neutral smell." She keeps one box in her office and cleans it so often "no one ever knows it's there."

4. Litter Choice
If you've recently switched litter brands, your cat may be displaying its displeasure. Changing litters because a new one was on sale or the store around the corner was out of stock may not seem like a big deal to you, but it could be to your cat.

"Some cats are rather particular," Hunthausen says, noting that something as innocuous as a liner could also cause problems. "Some cats, if they're really strong diggers, can snag their claws on the liner," he says.

Johnson-Bennett agrees cats are not big fans of change and can react negatively if you switch brands on them. She and her cats prefer an unscented clumping litter one that does the job without any perfumes or additives to offend a cat's sensitive nose. Sometimes the problem is underfoot. Prange says cats with extra-sensitive feet can develop litter aversion syndrome from the discomfort of stepping on certain harder compounds.

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Reader Comments

carrie    layton, FL

9/12/2009 8:12:08 PM

My one year old, Mittens Louise, doesn't like to use the litter box anymore. We believe it is because a few months back she developed a terrible UTI. She was put on antibiotics that didn't even touch it. Shortly after she began having seizures every time she would try and pee. We took her back to the vet and he switched her to amoxacylin whiched cleared up the UTI,(apparently cats are infamous about throwing themselves into seizures when in too much pain or too stressed??) However, the seizures were still happening. The vet put her on meds for that to bring her out of the situation and it worked wonderfuly. Now, however, we battle with her peeing and pooping in the bathtubs. I'd rather it happen there, but it is still frustrating. I wonder if she is still associating the pain and seizures with the litterbox?

Lenette    Harrisville, RI

1/29/2009 6:32:12 AM

I had a savanah that would poop or pee in the bed,or the laundry, if you did something she didnt like.. ie go to the vet, take away something she was trying to eat & should not of been,after certain people would visit.

barbara cooney    monroe, CT

7/9/2008 7:54:47 AM

we just moved to a house with 3 pretty good sized male cats we own 2 4 yr old dsh females one who has taken to using the bath tub as aliter box, also how long should we wait to let them out side they are scared to death o f the others they HISS, GROWL ect help please!!!!

Neydine    Peoria, IL

12/31/2006 10:41:52 AM

Excellent article - we have five cats and one of them takes spells of defacting on the garage floor.
We are fastidious about the boxes being clean and we have five boxes. Can't find out which one is soiling outside the box.

Thanks for the tips.

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