10 Reasons Why Your Cat Is Not Using the Litter Box

08 May 2019

10 Reasons Why Your Cat Is Not Using the Litter Box

You’ve trained your kitty to go potty, have a fresh kitty litter tray ready for when they need to go and in a place they can easily find it. But what happens if they start going potty outside of the litter tray? Why are they doing that and should you be worried? As well as being concerning to you as to why they are going potty outside of the litter box, it is also unpleasant to find their deposits around the house, which isn’t nice to clean up. If this is happening, we will help you understand why it is happening and what steps you need to take to get your cat using the litter box.

10 reasons why your cat is going potty outside the litter box

It may be confusing that your cat is going potty in places other than the litter box. Cats like to bury their deposits, which is why kitty litter boxes are great for cats, as they have somewhere they can do this. So why is this happening? Here are some reasons to help you work out why this is:

1. Your cat may have a health problem

If you discover your cat is going potty outside of the litter box, it may be an underlying health issue. Your kitty may be struggling to go potty or get there in time. They may also find it too painful to get to the box. You should always check with your vet if you see unusual changes in your cat’s routine, especially an issue such as this. Try and monitor your cat’s bathroom habits. If you see them using the potty outside of the litter box, you should gain more answers and understand what, if any, health issues they are experiencing, They may not have full control of their bladder, which should be checked by your veterinarian.

2. They may not be able to reach the litter box

If the litter tray is in an awkward place, they may find it difficult to get to, especially when they get older. Try and place the box somewhere a little more easy to get to. You may not want to keep the litter box in plain sight of guests, but when it comes to your pet’s health and hygiene, it’s important to keep the box somewhere that is easily accessible. If you have a kitten, make sure the box is not anywhere they will struggle to reach. You may have a litter box that is suitable for their height, but if it is placed on a step or raised surface, it may make life a little trickier, especially when potty training.

3. The smell of the box may not be to their liking

Your cat may be put off by the scent of the box. This may be to do with the type of litter grains you use, which may be too dusty or have a smell they don’t like. Try a different type of litter to see if that helps. Give the box a thorough clean to remove any smells caused by them going potty in there. This little step could make a big difference. If another cat has used the box, they may want to stay away if they think that this pet has marked their territory. Cats like to mark their scent through urination or rubbing against things, which leaves a scent to warn off other animals. Having a few litter boxes in the house may help to solve this problem.

4. Your cat had a negative experience with the litter box

You may not realize it, but your feline friend may have had a bad experience with the box that startled them. Perhaps something fell on them, there was a loud noise or perhaps something happened with another pet interfering while they were going potty. Try and train them and tempt them back to the box. Move it to a different, quiet location. You can use things like catnip to make it a positive experience again. This may not be the reason why, so take a look around to see if anything could have startled them during their bathroom break, or think back to any construction work or loud storms that might have taken place recently, which could have scared them. If they think the scary noise or being hit by something was because of the box, they will try to stay away.

5. You may need more litter boxes

Cats love to explore! So placing a couple of litter boxes around the house will allow them to find their bathroom more easily. If you have two or more floors, try and keep a litter box upstairs as well as downstairs. Introducing more boxes may be the key to solving this problem, but it’s all about trialing different options. By purchasing a few different kinds and sizes, you will be able to find out what kind of litter box they prefer and use this box in the future. Just remember how many you have placed around the house and remember to clean them! You will soon know if you’ve forgotten, as your house will probably smell pretty bad!

6. The box may not be clean enough

You may need to clean out the box more regularly. As we said before, cats like to bury their deposits, so if the litter grains are dirty, they may be put-off. You should clean out the litter box everyday, for cleanliness and to stop bad smells. As we also suggested previously, if another cat has used the box, your fur baby may not want to use it due to the smell of their deposits, which may be perceived as marking their territory. Remember to fully wash out the box and clean in the corners to avoid any leftover cat litter that may smell.

7. Another pet is in the way of the box

If you have another cat or a dog, they may be guarding the box without your knowledge. If they are intimidated by this other pet, they may not want to go near an area they are guarding. If they can’t go in the box, this will force them to go potty elsewhere. Keep an eye on the relationship between your pets and find out if this is happening. You may have to find a way of taking the box away from the pet that is guarding it and finding a new place for it. Be careful when doing this as pets tend to dislike having things taken away from them.

8. The location of the box isn’t right

If the box is located somewhere loud, like by the washing machine or dryer, your cat may be scared or deterred from using the litter box. Try and place it somewhere calm and quiet that is easy to get to. Try and find somewhere suitable as soon as you can, as if you move the box too much your cat may become confused and it may continue to be a problem. If you think they are struggling with the new location, you may need to use some potty training techniques, like taking them to the box in the morning to get them used to their new bathroom area. Place a bit of newspaper down in the place they used to go, so if they decide they would like to go back to that area, you can protect the floor from mistakes that take place. This shouldn't really happen if they disliked this location in the first place, but it is a good precaution if you want to save your floors.

9. The box is too small

Your cat may find the size of the litter tray uncomfortable. If it is too small, they may not want to go in there, or they may go and their deposits may land outside of the box. They may also end up kicking the dirt and the litter grains outside of the box, causing a mess. Find a box that is the right size for your feline friend. All cats are unique and are different sizes, so it’s important to find the right box for your kitty-cat. It’s probably better to buy a large litter tray in most cases, to give them plenty of room to do their business comfortably. Cats are used to doing this in the wild in large amounts of space, so don’t be surprised if they miss the box from time to time.

10. They may need extra training

You may need to give your kitty additional training. Try and reward them when they use the box, with catnip or other cat treats. It may be that they still need a little more encouragement to use the box and understand that this is exclusively where they should go potty. If you think your potty training techniques aren’t working, as a professional to see if there is anything else you can be doing to get your feline friend potty trained once and for all.

How do you potty train your cat?

If you think your cat needs more potty training, or you have introduced a new fur baby into your home that needs potty training, you may be looking for advice on how to do this.

Choose the right size litter tray. If you are potty training a kitten, make sure you get a box they can climb into easily. You can get different types of kitty litter, some scented or different textures. Find the right kitty litter for you and your cat. To start, make sure you place your feline friend into the box to get them used to it. Start doing this first thing in the morning and a little after meal times, so they know this is where they need to go potty. If you see them attempting to go potty somewhere in the house, quickly move them to the kitty litter.

Once they have successfully gone potty in the litter box, make sure you reward them. Use treats like catnip which they can’t resist! They will know they have done a good job and will be more inclined to use the litter box for more treats.

Keep the litter box as clean as you can. Make sure you clean the kitty litter daily to make it a more hygienic and comfortable place for your cat. The kitty litter itself should be changed at least once a week. Don’t punish your cat if they go potty somewhere other than the litter box, just clean it up as quickly as you can so they don’t recognize the smell and think this is the right place to go.

Place a good amount of kitty litter in the box. This will allow your feline friend to do what they would naturally do in the wild, which is kick the litter over their deposits to hide them. Having enough in there will allow them to cover it as much as they wish and feel comfortable going potty here.  As the kitty litter is absorbent, it will allow your feline friend to go potty a variety of times before you need to change it.


Overall, there may be one out of a multitude of reasons why your cat may be going potty outside of the kitty litter. Try and keep the tray as clean as possible, in a quiet and easily accessible place and make sure to speak to your vet if you think it is health related. They may be finding it difficult to get to the box if they are unwell. Also, if you think they are going too often, it is worth speaking to your vet about this too. Trial different ways to see why your kitty isn’t going potty in the right place. They may require additional potty training to make sure they understand that they need to go exclusively in the litter box. Make it a positive experience and don’t punish them if they have a potty accident in the house. Try and put a few different boxes around the house if you need to remember to reward them when training. If you are still concerned or none of these tips are working, speak to our veterinarians at FetchMyVet.com for more advise.

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