Cat Not Using Litter Box

There could be many reasons for why a cat stops using, or intermittently uses, the litter box and instead eliminates in inappropriate places in the home. The first step is to have the cat examined by a veterinarian to make sure it is healthy. After medical problems have been ruled out, some detective work is needed to figure out what might cause the behavior.


  • Most cats prefer unscented clumping litter, 2 inches deep.
  • Avoid using plastic liners.
  • Place uncovered, large litter boxes in low-traffic areas where the cat can eliminate undisturbed. Make sure dogs and small children do not have access to the area.
  • Keep one litter box per cat + 1 at different locations in the home.
  • Keep food and water at separate locations from litter boxes. If needing to relocate litter boxes, do so gradually as cats are creatures of habit and sensitive to environmental changes.
  • Cats do not like dirty litter, so make sure to remove urine and feces at least once per day.
  • Remove all litter and wash the litter box in soapy water once per week. Avoid using bleach and ammonia-based products. Use vinegar to remove odor.
  • Clean any soiled areas in the home with enzyme cleaner.
  • Keep in mind that unaltered males and females can both spray urine to mark their territory. It is best to have them spayed and neutered.

If the problem persists, discuss with a veterinarian if a behavior-modification medication, or consultation with a certified applied animal behaviorist, is appropriate.



Sirois, M. (2017).  Principles and Practice of Veterinary Technology, Fourth Edition.   St. Luis,

Missouri:  Elsevier


Ellis, J.J.  & McGowan, R.T.S. & Marting, F. (2017, February 14). Does previous use affect

litter box appeal in multi-cat households?  Behavioural Processes, 141(3), 284-290. Retrieved January 20, 2019, from


Feline Behavior Problems: House Soiling. (2015). Retrieved January 20, 2019, from


Posted in About Cats, Cat Behavior.

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