Why Do Cats Stop Using the Litter Box?
A sudden change in your cat’s litter box behavior should be taken seriously. It can be a warning sign of poor health or emotional distress, and it’s always a good idea to discuss it with your vet right away. However, there are lots of reasons that a cat may stop using the litter box, even if they have used it in the past. Let’s look at some of the reasons why cats stop using the litter box.
Common Reasons Why Cats Stop Using the Litter Box: Protest
Some cats stop using the litter box because they don’t like it and it makes them uncomfortable. Make sure that the litter box is large enough and full enough for the cat to feel comfortable. Keep the litter box clean, and make sure you place it in a convenient, but private, area for the cat.
Common Reasons Why Cats Stop Using the Litter Box: Change and Stress
Generally speaking, if a cat has been reliably using the litter box, and then suddenly stops, it’s because something in their environment has changed. It’s important to consider the following questions:
- Have you gotten a new litter box?
- Have you moved the litter box?
- Have you changed the cat litter?
- Have you moved homes?
- Have you added a new person or pet to the household?
All of these factors may stress a cat or cause them to dislike using their litter box. If you are changing litter brands or moving the litter box to a new location, it’s best to do so gradually, so the cat has time to adjust. If you have added a new pet, roommate, or baby to the household, the cat may be expressing unhappiness with the new situation by refusing to use the litter box.
Common Reasons Why Cats Stop Using the Litter Box: Competition
If you have two or more cats, the litter box may be a place where they express competition and territorial behaviors. Even if cats seem to get along well, or have gotten along in the past, these behaviors may emerge or change over time.
If a cat stops using the litter box, and you have two or more cats, make sure you have at least one litter box for every cat you have. A cat that may have shared a litter box in the past may stop being willing to do so, and having more options reduces competition.
Common Reasons Why Cats Stop Using the Litter Box: Litter Box Aversion
Litter box aversion is a serious issue, and difficult to address. If a cat has had a negative or scary experience in their litter box, they may not want to use it any more. This is a natural reaction to scary experiences, but can be frustrating to pet owners. To avoid litter box aversion, make litter box training a calm and peaceful experience for the cat. Make changes to cat litter or the litter box environment gradually, so the cat has time to get used to the changes.
If a cat has developed litter box aversion, you can try to address it by creating a new litter box environment and experience for them, to remove the old, negative association. Here are some things to try:
If the litter box is covered, remove the cover
If the litter box is in a very dark place, add a night light. Creating space and light may help a cat feel more secure, since they can see if anything is sneaking up on them.
Move the litter box to a new location
Moving the litter box may remove a negative association with the old environment. Move the box gradually, a few yards at a time, so the cat always knows where to find it, but change the surroundings that caused the bad experience.
Talk to your vet
Litter box aversion can be overcome, but it takes time and patience. Your vet may have suggestions to help you.
Common Reasons Why Cats Stop Using the Litter Box: Illness
The most common reason for any sudden change in a cat’s litter box behavior is a medical issue. The first thing you should do when a cat stops using a litter box is take them to the vet for a checkup. Your vet can run some tests to eliminate medical issues, and offer advice and counseling on the best solutions for your pet and your household.
Unfortunately, too many cats who stop using the litter box end up in pet shelters, when the problem could have been addressed at home with some time and patience. If your cat suddenly stops using the litter box, take them to the vet and work on a good solution. Most cats will resume using the litter box with the right care and attention.