6 Reasons Why Your Cat Forgot How to Litterbox (and How to Relearn Good Cat Litter Habits)

Did your cat begin missing the box or refusing to cover up after using it? Here's help.

By Julie Mignery | Posted: January 28, 2016, 10 a.m. PST

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I would like to know why a cat that has always covered his poop would suddenly stop covering it. I clean his box regularly, so it can’t be because it’s full.
–Cheryl Jones

My cat doesn’t cover her poop either—she never has. Before I adopted her as a 1-year-old she was living in a motel parking lot with her trio of kittens. In her case, I think the problem stems from an unstable childhood where she never learned the ways of litterbox use. Instead of covering her waste, Fergie scratches the wall and floor around her litter box but never the litter itself.

You cat’s behavior is more curious since he once covered his poop but now does not. Possible reasons why include:

    •    Your regular cleaning isn’t quite regular enough for him. Maybe he believes leaving his poop uncovered will send the olfactory and visual cues you need for instant removal. Also, he might not like the product you’re using for cleaning. Try something gentle such as a sprinkle of baking soda and diluted white vinegar.
    •    He doesn’t like the litter. Try something new; the choices are numerous.
    •    He’s sending a message to your other cats. If he and you live with other cats he might be using his scent to say he’s No. 1.
    •    He’s gotten bigger and his litter box is now too small for him to scratch around comfortably. Buy a new box.
    •    His paws hurt and scratching litter makes them hurt more. Check out his pads and claws for injuries.
    •    Pooping is uncomfortable, so he associates litter box use with pain and wants to exit as soon as possible. Talk to your vet.
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6 Reasons Why Your Cat Forgot How to Litterbox (and How to Relearn Good Cat Litter Habits)

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Reader Comments

Susie    International

2/2/2016 10:49:47 AM

One of our two cats has started using the carpet instead of the liter box for urinating. We have three new liter boxes, I change and clean the liter often. We had the carpets cleaned and a product added at great expense to eliminate all odors. He did it again. He had a complete exam at the Vet including blood work. I don't know what to do next.

Sue    International

1/28/2016 7:46:35 PM

We have 3 older cats, 18,17,16 years. We have 3 litter boxes and they are cleaned every day. About a year ago they all stopped covering after using the boxes. We thought it was probably because they are so old. We are just glad that they all still use the boxes. We just cover their poop ourselves with the pooper scooper.

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