1. Why has my cat stopped using the litter box? 

Good question.  Unfortunately, you cannot simply ask your cat this question and get the answer, so some detective work, trial and error, and most of all patience will be required to find a solution.  The sooner you begin working on the problem, the better.  Litter box issues usually will not resolve on their own, and waiting will only make the problem worse.

  1. How often do you clean the litter boxes?

You should be scooping out the litter boxes once or twice daily.  The litter should be completely changed and the boxes washed weekly or more often if necessary.  Cats are fastidious beings and will usually not tolerate dirty litter boxes.  If their bathroom is not kept clean, they will understandably find somewhere else to go.  You should be keeping the litter boxes as clean as your own bathroom because your cat probably has the same or even higher standards for cleanliness.  Some cats need to have a completely pristine litter box each time they use it.  You may think this is unreasonable, but please consider that you flush the toilet every time you use it.  Do you usually use a toilet that already has something in it?  Probably not.  Some cats have the same standards.  If you have a kitty like this, an automatic litter box might be a good idea (please keep in mind that some cats are afraid of these). Another idea is to put out enough litter boxes to ensure that there will be a clean one each time your cat needs to use it while you are not home.  You will need to be vigilant and make sure all litter boxes are scooped out as needed and kept clean.

  1. Make sure to thoroughly clean any areas that have been soiled.

If the smell is not completely removed, your cat may be attracted by the scent and continue to return to the area to pee/poo.  If it is something that can be thrown away, do so.  If you want to try getting rid of the smell, here are some effective cleaners:

Kids ‘N’ Pets (available at Walmart and some grocery stores):


Nature’s Miracle (available at any pet store):




Zero Odor:


All of the above products are also available online at Amazon.com.

*Note:  Using a UV (black) light may help to find all possible sources of odor.  Here are some very good tips on buying and using a black light:


  1. Is the cause physical? 

Has your cat been drinking a lot lately?  Is the urine pink?  Is there any blood in the urine or stool?  Does anything have an unusual smell?  Has your cat been straining or making frequent unsuccessful visits to the litter box to pee/poo?  Has your cat been vomiting and/or having diarrhea?  Does your cat have little or no appetite?  If so, your cat needs to see a veterinarian ASAP.  These are all symptoms of physical issues that require veterinary attention, and some of them can be fatal if not treated immediately.  There are a number of medical problems that can cause a cat to stop using the litter box, so your first step should be to rule out physical problems with a visit to your veterinarian.  If you would like to monitor the urinary condition of your cat, PrettyLitter cat litter may be helpful.  The litter changes color when there are changes in the pH of the cat’s urine.

Website:  https://prettylittercats.com/

Demonstration of PrettyLitter: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6bN8oZcnuvc

Another demonstration: https://youtu.be/JWTlhUEO3nE

  1. Is the cause psychological?

When there is no physical cause for not using the litter box, it is often said that a cat has “behavior problems.”  Actually, not using the litter box is a form of communication for cats, who cannot verbally express that something is wrong or something is stressing them out.  Please do not make the mistake of assuming that your cat is not using the litter box just to spite you and make you angry, or to “get back at you” for something.  A cat’s mind does not work like that.  Your cat is trying to tell you something, and you need to figure out what that something is.  If you respond to this problem by getting angry at your cat, that will only serve to increase the tension in your household.

Please keep in mind that declawed cats may develop an aversion to using the litter box because their paws are extremely painful following the procedure (which is an amputation of the first digit of all of the toes), which makes it painful for them to dig in the litter box.  Consequently, they may learn to associate the litter box with pain and may understandably decide to find somewhere else to pee/poo.

If you have ruled out physical problems with your cat, then it is time to explore the possible psychological causes of litter box issues.  This can get complicated, so be prepared to be patient and persistent.  The following are possible issues and solutions.

  1. Has anything changed recently in your household?
  • Have you acquired new pets, have there been visitors, any kind of construction or remodeling, different or new smells or sounds inside or outside your house (noisy stray cats yowling and/or spraying)?
  • Is there a new baby? Have existing children become mobile and begun to explore the house and invade your cat’s territory?
  • Has there been a change in the usual household routine or anything else? If it is only a temporary change, your kitty may need some help getting through it to get back on track.  If it is a permanent change, your kitty will definitely need help.  If it is something that can be returned to the way it was, please do so.
  • Have you been gone on vacation or unusually busy and not home as much as you normally are? Some cats, particularly females, can be very sensitive to even the smallest change in the usual routine.  (Keep in mind that cats have much sharper senses than humans, so your cat may be reacting to something that you consider to be very minor or may not even notice.)
  • Keeping a journal of when and where your cat pees/poos and what is happening in the household at that time may show a pattern and make the cause of the problem more obvious to you.
  • Products and activities to help your cat are listed on the last page.
  1. What should I do if the problem is caused by incompatibility with other pets?

This is a situation that is more complicated than simply not using the litter box, and will require additional steps to correct.  Some of the products and activities suggested here may help, but ultimately you will also need to work on appropriate introductions and interactions with your pets.  Please contact me for further information if this is the case in your household.

  1. What kind of litter box and litter are you using?
  • Is your litter box covered? Remove the cover.  Many cats feel unsafe, cornered and nervous when they enter a covered litter box because there is only one entrance and exit and they are unable to see their surroundings.  Having a swinging door on a covered litter box can be downright frightening for some cats.
  • How big is your litter box? Most cats prefer large litter boxes.  If you have observed your cat hanging his/her butt over the edge and peeing/pooping right next to the litter box, you definitely need a bigger one.  (Family Dollar, Ocean State Job Lot, & Walmart have large litter boxes) 
  • How deep is your litter box? If your cat is very young, older, or obese they may have trouble getting into a litter box with high sides.
  • What kind of litter are you using? Some cats are finicky about their litter and prefer certain textures.  Pellets can cause problems for some cats because the pieces are chunky and may be uncomfortable and not as much fun to dig in.  Cat Attract cat litter is an excellent choice for kitties with litter box issues-product info is available on the last page.  If your cat stopped using the litter box just after you changed the brand that you were using (it was on sale!), go back to the previous litter.  If that doesn’t work, use the Cat Attract.  If you would like to use a different kind of litter, try gradually introducing the new litter over a period of 3-5 litter box changes rather than all at once.  If your cat doesn’t like the new litter, then go back to using whatever your cat prefers.
  1. How many litter boxes do you have?

The general rule of thumb is that there should be one litter box for each cat in the household, and one extra. Some households can get away with two litter boxes for several cats.  There should be at least two litter boxes in your house (even if you only have one cat) because some cats like to use one box only for peeing and the other box only for pooping.  If your cat is having problems, adding more boxes is always a good idea (Family Dollar, Ocean State Job Lot, & Walmart have inexpensive litter boxes).  Read further for suggestions on where to put the new boxes.

  1. Where are your litter boxes located?
  • Are the litter boxes in the basement or some other out-of-the-way location? Is the area musty, stuffy, damp, or stinky?  Maybe your cat finds that repulsive and/or inconvenient.
  • Are the litter boxes near a washer, dryer, water heater, furnace, shower, toilet, or anything noisy that is used frequently and/or turns on suddenly? Are the litter boxes in a high-traffic area of your house, such as near a doorway or in the bathroom?  Maybe your cat is afraid to use the litter box!  If a cat is startled in the process of peeing/pooping, s/he may learn to avoid that area and find a quieter place to go.
  • Are the litter boxes in the middle of an open area? Maybe your cat needs more privacy.
  • Are the litter boxes up or down a flight of stairs? Maybe your cat has trouble with stairs.  If your cat is very young, older, or obese it might be difficult for them to navigate a staircase.  If your cat has any kind of neurological damage or balance issues, a staircase would certainly be dangerous.
  • Take a look at where your litter boxes are located through the eyes of your cat, and see if perhaps changing the location might solve the problem.
  1. Where does your cat seem to prefer to pee/poop?
  • On a rug? Maybe your cat prefers soft surfaces.  Try using a bit more litter in the box.
  • On a smooth surface, such as the floor, bathtub or sink? Maybe your cat prefers to scratch away all of the litter and pee/poo on the smooth, clean bottom of the box.  Try using only a small amount of litter in the box to make this easier for your cat.  *NOTE:  Putting more litter in some boxes and less in others may clearly indicate your cat’s preference.
  • Behind the sofa, TV, refrigerator, or something else? In a closet or in a corner?  Maybe your cat needs more privacy.  Try moving the litter boxes to quiet, private places.
  • On someone’s bed or on a sofa? This can sometimes indicate a deeper issue.  Try all of the suggestions listed on the last page, and keep the beds/sofas covered with a hospital bed pad, plastic or a tarp when not in use to make clean-up easy.  Try using more litter in some boxes and less in others.  Make sure that all family members give extra affection and attention to your cat to promote a positive environment.
  • Does your cat consistently pee/poo in the same place, or in different places each time? Again, keeping a journal of where and when your cat pees/poops and what is happening in the household at that time may show a pattern and make the solution more obvious to you.

*NOTE: In all cases, putting a litter box in the places that your cat currently prefers to pee/poop is a good idea for the time being (again-Family Dollar, OSJL & Walmart have inexpensive litter boxes).  Make sure to clean the area thoroughly to remove the smell prior to putting down a litter box (see #2 on page 1).  After things have settled down, you can try gradually moving the litter boxes to other locations that fit the criteria that your cat requires (privacy, etc.), and see what happens.  However, if you find that your cat prefers to pee/poop in a certain place no matter what you do and keeping a litter box there solves the problem, then just admit defeat and leave the box where your cat wants it.  After all, is it really such a big deal, or are you engaging in a pointless battle for control?

Products & Activities That Can Help

*Everything is available on Amazon & Chewy, and most are also available in pet stores.* 

*IMPORTANT:  These suggestions focus on relieving stress.  You will need to use a combination of several of these suggestions over time to completely resolve the issue. 

  • Helpful videos from Jackson Galaxy: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=jackson+galaxy+litter+box+issues
  • Give your kitty extra attention (cuddling, play time-whatever your cat enjoys).  As much as possible, you should have the same daily schedule for feeding times and play/attention times.  This will help your cat to relax and feel loved, secure and comfortable.
  • Add some extra toys, scratchers, and/or a kitty condo or cat tree to your cat’s environment to help relieve stress.  Cardboard boxes and paper bags are fun places for cats to hide, as well, and will need to be replaced on a regular basis. Rotate toys to keep things interesting.
  • Cat Attract cat litter can sometimes be a quick fix for litter box issues.

Website:  http://www.preciouscat.com/

  • PrettyLitter cat litter can be helpful-it changes color when there are changes in the pH of the cat’s urine.

Website:  https://prettylittercats.com/

Product info and helpful suggestions: http://www.feliway.com/us/

More info/suggestions: https://www.comfortzone.com/

How to conserve the diffuser: https://www.amazon.com/review/R2B6ZJY3456UQW/ref=cm_cr_pr_viewpnt#R2B6ZJY3456UQW

  • Use one of the following products with your cat’s food. You may need to experiment, as some remedies work better than others with certain cats. Use each one for at least 4 weeks before switching to a different one. Suggestions #1 and #2 are most effective if used together, but they can also be used separately.
  • Vetri Science Composure is a calming supplement treat designed to promote relaxation during stressful situations. This product is typically highly effective.

Website:  https://www.vetriscience.com/composure-153-for-cats.html

  • Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Supplements Calming Care is a probiotic powder used to help cats maintain calm behavior.

Website:  https://www.purina.com/cats/shop/pro-plan-veterinary-supplements-calming-care

  • Vetoquinol Zylkene for small dogs & cats is a natural veterinary behavior supplement that serves to help cats relax.

Website:  https://zylkeneusa.com/

  • Jackson Galaxy Holistic Solutions is a collection of natural remedies that can help cats overcome a plethora of issues. Customer service will recommend an appropriate product for your cat. Please call them at 1-833-886-2287 from Monday-Friday 10 am-2 pm EST.

Website:  https://shop.jacksongalaxy.com/collections/solutions?sort=best-selling&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIkebXsI3H-gIVxfrICh0ImQB7EAAYASAAEgJ6vfD_BwE