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how to fix cat not using the litter box

Cat Not Using the Litter Box? Here’s Why and How to Fix It Now

This post may include affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.

Am I the only cat parent who loves pouring fresh litter into a squeaky clean litter box? Zero odor, zero mess, no dust; just clean, unadulterated, brand new cat litter. There’s something so satisfying about knowing my kitty, Olivia, has a pristine place to do her business. 

But sometimes our cats just don’t feel the same way. With our best attempts to give them what they need, every now and then our cats decide to do their business outside of the box. If your cat isn’t using the litter box, it can be gross and frustrating, I know. You may even feel slighted!

But if your cat is peeing or even pooping outside the litter box, chances are they’re trying to tell you something. Trust me, your cat didn’t stop using her box out of spite, so avoid scolding her. It could make the problem worse! It’s especially important to get down to the bottom of the issue because litter box problems could be the sign of a sick cat.

Why Is My Cat Not Using The Litter Box?

Cats have a well-earned reputation for being subtle and mysterious. Unfortunately for their pet parents, that makes decoding them a little tricky. But here are some common reasons why your cat isn’t using the litter box: 

It Could Be A Sign That Your Cat Is Sick: 

If your kitty has suddenly stopped using the litter box, the cause could be her health. Veterinarian, Dr. Liz Bales says the number one reason for a cat to poop outside of the litter box is a medical problem. Pay a visit to your veterinarian. They’ll likely do a thorough checkup, including urinalysis to check for problems like kidney disease or hyperthyroidism that could be contributing to the behavior.

cta check your cat's health with this free checklist

Your Cat Is A Senior:

Unfortunately, senior cats tend to have more problems with the litter box. They may develop medical conditions that change their bathroom behaviors. For example, about 95% of cats 10 years and older, are diagnosed with hyperthyroidism. Feline hyperthyroidism can cause increased thirst and urination which might explain why your cat is peeing outside of the litter box.

Kidney disease in older cats can also cause frequent urination, which means your cat may end up peeing everywhere except in her box! And arthritis may make it more difficult for your geriatric kitty to even get to her box, leading to accidents. 

Bottom line: if your cat is not using the litter box, it might be a sign that your cat is sick. So talk to your veterinarian right away to rule out any serious medical issues.

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Your Cat Is Spraying:

It’s hard to think of a more offensive cat behavior. But if your kitty is peeing in the litter box and spraying, this is a behavior issue and likely not a medical problem. Check out one of my other blog posts to learn more about how to permanently stop your cat from spraying

Your Cat May Be Anxious:

Pet anxiety is a topic near and dear to me. As a pet living expert, I’ve worked for years to help as many pet parents as possible learn the symptoms of anxiety. My pup, Tulip, suffers from anxiety and it breaks my heart to see her suffer. Cats can struggle with pet anxiety too. And peeing or pooping outside of the litter box may be a tell-tale sign that your kitty is stressed out.

The cause of cat anxiety isn’t always due to major trauma. The reason could be as simple as a change in daily routine or the addition of a new family member (or fur family member). If there are multiple cats in the home, your kitty could even be anxious because of conflict with another cat! Regardless, if your cat is peeing outside the litter box because she’s stressed, there are solutions that can help.

One of my favorite calming solutions for general anxiety in cats is a calming diffuser by Feliway. The diffuser mimics naturally-produced pheromones that help reduce stress-related behaviors in cats, such as urine spraying. This vet-recommended solution works best when plugged in a room where your cat spends the most amount of time.

What to Do If Your Cat Is Not Using The Litter Box

Once your cat gets a clean bill of health from the vet, the easiest solution to her bathroom problems may be staring you right in the face: her litter box! That’s right. The answer may be as easy as making changes to her box and litter.

Just like humans, cats really care about where they do their business. So when choosing the right cat litter and box, remember: it’s not about what’s convenient for us, it’s all about what your cat wants. But isn’t that always the case? 

Choose the Right Size Litter Box

The cause of cat anxiety isn’t always due to major trauma. The reason could be as simple as a change in daily routine or the addition of a new family member (or fur family member). If there are multiple cats in the home, your kitty could even be anxious because of conflict with another cat! Regardless, if your cat is peeing outside the litter box because she’s stressed, there are solutions that can help.

Picking the right litter box will save you a lot of headache and litter box drama. Most boxes are too small for your cat to feel comfortable when she’s doing her business. The ideal size of your next litter box can be measured from the length from your cat’s nose to the tip of her tail, plus another fifty percent.

Don’t Cramp Kitty’s Style, Lose the Hood

From our perspective, it makes sense to keep a potentially, smelly litter box covered. But our cats don’t feel the same way. Imagine how much you dislike using a small, dark smelly bathroom. If you keep the box uncovered, your cat is more likely to feel comfortable and less likely to do her business outside of her litter box.

You Need More Than One Litter Box

Every cat is unique. But most prefer having more than one litter box. And if there are multiple cats in the home, then multiple litter boxes are a must! Here’s a good rule of thumb: one box per cat in your family, plus one. So if you have one cat, plan for two boxes. If you have two cats, plan for three boxes.

Check the Location of the Litter Box

A good place to start is by putting her litter box in a private place, where she feels safe. Can she quickly escape if she wants? Most cats hate feeling cornered. Also, cats don’t like to do their business near their food and water bowls. If you have a senior cat, be sure the box is easily accessible and not too far away from where she likes to spend her time. Keep reading here about the 6 litter box secrets your cat wants you to know. 

Keep the Litter Box Clean

Cats are notorious for staying clean. Most are pretty picky about keeping their paws from getting dirty too. Scoop your kitty’s box regularly, daily even, to encourage her to use the box instead of peeing outside or next to the litter box. If her litter box smells clean, she’s more likely to use it.

And speaking of smells. If your cat does pee or poop outside of the box, it’s crucial that you clean it promptly and properly. I recommend using an enzymatic cleaner like this one by my Kinderbean brand. Instead of simply removing the mess and masking the odor, an enzymatic cleaner will release active enzymes that feed on ammonia left behind in pet urine and other organic materials.

So not only does it remove stains, but it also eliminates the odor at its source. This discourages re-soiling. So if your cat doesn’t smell where she’s been doing her business, she’s less likely to return to the scene of the accident!

Why I Love My Natural Cat Litter

Perhaps the most obvious solution if your cat isn’t using the litter box is to change your litter. If you’ve been following me for a while, then you know that I’m paws over tail in love with World’s Best Cat Litter™! I think it’s safe to say that Olivia loves it too because she faithfully uses her litter box.

Their formulas are made with whole-kernel corn and only the best and safest ingredients. The odor control is amazing and it clumps and scoops like a breeze, making clean up quick and easy. I personally use their Multi-Cat Lavender Scented formula and it works great for us.

The original, unscented formula is a huge hit with cat moms and dads everywhere. It has outstanding odor control and a tight clumping ability. So your kitty will appreciate having a clean place to do her business.


World’s Best Cat Litter™ also makes formulas specifically for cats who are having problems using the litter box. So if your feline bestie has decided to stop using her box or is all of a sudden peeing everywhere, except in her box, then it might be time to make the switch to one of these World’s Best Cat Litters™:

  • Picky Cat™ – Some cats are very picky and if that’s the case with your kitty, then this cat litter formula is for you. This multi-cat, clumping litter contains plant-based ingredients that naturally draw your cat to the box. Try it out with newly adopted cats, kittens, seniors, or any cat that is picky and not using the litter box.
  • Attraction Action®  – This high-performance litter has a natural plant-based additive that safely draws your cat to the box. It addresses three common reasons cats don’t go in their litter box: scent, texture, and cleanliness. It’s perfect if your cat has stopped using her box and will help you avoid any future accidents. 

Another thing I love about World’s Best Cat Litter™ is that they’re socially responsible. Through their #GIVEACRAP campaign, they’re donating up to 3 million pounds of litter — one for each of the estimated 3 million cats that end up in a shelter each year. If you love helping shelter cats, please #GIVEACRAP and donate!

Here’s where you can learn more about their campaign. When you choose World’s Best Cat Litter™, you’re helping your kitty and millions more. 

So, if your cat suddenly stops using the litter box, don’t despair. Once your veterinarian rules out medical or behavior issues as the cause, chances are, your cat is trying to tell you that she’s ready to dump her old litter. Give World’s Best Cat Litter™ a try and put an end to your litter box woes.

Chew on this: I may receive a small commission for affiliate links, but all products I “dig up” are ones I paw-thentically love!

Kristen Levine is a nationally acclaimed pet expert, influencer, and Fear Free Certified® Professional with over 30 years of experience working with pets.

Through this blog and her book, Pampered Pets on a Budget, Kristen has helped millions of pet parents solve problems and provide the best care for their dogs and cats.

Working alongside hundreds of pet professionals, including veterinarians, behaviorists and trainers inspired Kristen to become a pet parenting “guide”, providing readers with reliable information about health, wellness and lifestyle for dogs and cats and the people who love them.

A dogged advocate for pet adoption and rescue, Kristen has featured over 1,000 adoptable dogs and cats from the SPCA on live television and radio appearances to get them adopted. Her blog, KristenLevine.com has been featured in over 100 media outlets – including the New York Times, USA Today, FOX & Friends, Good Morning America, Women's Day, Reader's Digest, Good Housekeeping, Pop Sugar and more.

To stay up to date on the latest health and lifestyle trends for pets, Kristen regularly attends the top veterinary and pet product conferences, where she’s often a featured speaker.

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