Cats are creatures of habit and also especially clean. Litter box training is fairly easy, as it is in a cat’s nature to dig and bury their urine and excrement. If your cat is refusing to use the litter box, it is important to find out what may be causing this.
Reasons Why a Cat May Refuse the Litter Box
There are several reasons as to why a cat may be refusing to use the litter box from behavioral to a serious, emergency medical condition. The most important thing to keep in mind that cats never eliminate outside of their litter boxes out of anger or spite.
First, check to see if the litter box is near anything that might make loud noises that may scare your cat. Appliances such as washers, dryers, and furnaces can be quite loud and litter boxes should not be in close proximity. Your cat might be afraid of the loud sounds coming from these. A remedy to this is moving the litter box to a more quiet area.
What type of litter box are you using? If the litter box is too small, your cat may avoid it. A cat needs to feel safe and an owner of the space they are eliminating in. If your cat is large, or long haired, and having trouble turning around in the box to find a “good spot” and be able to bury, they may look for another place to do their business. Are you using a covered or hooded litter box? This can also be a problem, especially for a larger cat. A cat’s whiskers alert them to how wide of a space they can fit through. If the opening to your hooded litter box is narrow enough that your cat’s whiskers brush against it, they may refuse to enter it. Cats prefer space over privacy. Try removing the hood and see if that helps.
You may also want to double check what type of litter you are using. There are myriad of choices: scoopable, clay, crystal, scented, unscented, etc. Cats typically prefer a sandier litter, so if you aren’t using a clay-based litter, give that a try. Also be sure there is enough litter in the box. One to two inches is perfect. Make sure the box is cleaned regularly and remember the rule of thumb: One litter box plus one for each cat.
Your cat may be eliminating outside of the litter box due to stress or a medical condition. Did you recently get another pet? Move? Change your cat’s routine? Do you have more than one cat? If so, inter-cat aggression may be happening. When cats do not get along or one cat is afraid of another, they may be too frightened to use their litter box.
If your cat is still eliminating outside of his or her box, there may be an underlining medical cause. A common medical cause for litter box issues is “crystals” (a blockage in the urethra that makes it difficult or impossible for a cat to pass urine). If your cat suddenly starts attempting to urinate in places other than the litter box, especially if it seems they are straining and/or not passing very much urine, you need to see a vet as soon as impossible. This condition can become fatal for male cats in 24-72 hours.
Litter box issues can be frustrating, but with a bit of patience and investigation, they can be resolved quickly!