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Help! My Cat’s Not Using the Litter Box

September 15, 2014

Plenty of cats develop some sort of litter box usage problem at some point in their lives—in fact, some studies indicate that 1 out of every 10 domestic cats fails to use their litter box properly. Here, a San Jose veterinary professional tells you about some possible reasons.

Owner Mismanagement

That’s right, it might be your fault your cat isn’t going in her litter box! Some owners don’t clean their box thoroughly or often enough, and cats don’t like doing their business in an unclean environment. Sometimes, there is too little litter, or too much—most cats prefer somewhere between one and two inches, so adjust your litter amounts accordingly.

Faulty Location

Another common mistake is placing the litter box somewhere that your cat doesn’t like. It may be too hard to get to, or be in too busy of an area. Sometimes, cats develop likes and dislikes for certain locations for no discernable reason at all—you’ll have to experiment with your cat’s box locations to find one that suits everyone.

Undesirable Litter

The litter itself may be causing your cat to avoid the box. Some cats prefer clay-based litter, while some might like silicate or alternative ingredients. Some like clumping litter, while some prefer non-clumping. Still others might prefer a certain scent, while others stick exclusively to non-scented varieties. Ask your vet about the possibilities to figure out what your cat might like.

Negative Conditioning

Perhaps a negative experience, such as a fright, occurred while your cat was using the litter box. Now, she’s been conditioned to associate that negative experience with the box. Moving the box or getting a new one entirely may help correct this problem.


Cats under stress often struggle to use their litter box properly. Stress may be caused by an additional pet in the house, a recent move, or even a certain noise or activity that goes on in the house. Talk to your San Jose veterinarian for help with this. He or she may refer you to a certified animal behaviorist to help correct the problem.

Physical Inability

Some cats may be physically unable to reach their litter box, so they have to go on the floor. Cats with arthritis or other debilitating and painful diseases often suffer from this problem. Other medical causes, like urinary tract infections, kidney stones, and Feline Interstitial Cystitis, can all be causes of inappropriate elimination. Before doing anything, set up an appointment with your veterinarian to have your cat examined.

Posted in Behavior, Cat Care