When Kitty Stops Using the Litter Box 🐱

As any cat parent knows, cats can be stubborn. Cats generally have five types of personalities.

Cats can be dominant and take over resources like toys or food. They can also be insecure, shy or skittish. Other cats are social butterflies and easy going. Some cats are spontaneous and respond differently in any situation. Finally, cats can be curious or nosy.

Whatever type of personality, your cat communicates in her own way. She sends a message when she leaves you a clue outside the litter box.

How do you decide if your kitty is leaving you a surprise by accident or on purpose? How do you know the difference?


Cat communicating happiness… (photo: @SocialClaude)

If you cat stops using the litter box, he may be telling you that he has a medical condition.

For example, my cat, Oscar started peeing frequently, in the sink and bathtub. His behavior was out of character. He’s an older cat and knows all the house rules.

One day, there was blood in his urine. Clearly, it was time to see his veterinarian. He was initially diagnosed with FLUTD (Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease) and treated for pain. But his urinalysis showed no infection. His peeing behavior continued, as did the blood in his urine.

A second trip to the veterinarian and an X-ray, revealed stones in Oscar’s bladder. Time for surgery to remove them. Oscar was a trooper and recovered nicely (despite two weeks of wearing his double “cones of shame”).

In hindsight, I was slow to respond to his message: Oscar was telling me that he wasn’t feeling well.

Also in hindsight, Oscar had a medical condition more than an emotional one. If your cat doesn’t have a medical condition, she may be stressed and unhappy about something.


Oscar (photo: @SocialClaude)

One source suggested trying different techniques to discover what’s bothering your furry friend:

  • Remove the cover. Your cat might feel confined in his litter box. Some cats like their privacy, some don’t. If the litter box has a cover, remove it. Or the litter box may be too small – replace it with a bigger one and see what happens.
  • Try another brand of litter. Or move the box to another area of the house.
  • Clean his litter box regularly. Sometimes cats won’t use a dirty litter box. Again, each cat is different. You may have to clean it daily to keep him happy.
  • Break the cycle. If your cat is using other areas of your home as a toilet, she will likely remember the scent and re-use that area. You can break the cycle with a good cleaning. Use a good enzymatic cleaner to remove pet odors.


  • Stress can make your kitty stop using the litter box. Cats can be stressed by big changes (moving to a new house, new family members, moving a litter box). Try to figure out what it stressing your cat. And remember to keep your stress level down as well.
  • Place obstacles on a favorite peeing spot. Try putting an obstacle where your cat peed: wax paper, aluminum foil, double-sided tape. Cats don’t like smooth surfaces or sticky things under their paws. Citrus or citrus-scented items can also help. You can also try other products like an alarm deterrent or citronella deterrent.
  • Never punish your kitty. Even when your cat stops using her litter box, don’t punish her. Never hit, yell, make loud noises or squirt water at your kitty. Your behavior will only add more stress. Better to think about what’s going on around the house to fix the problem. Your cat is only reacting to something she doesn’t like.

Be a good pet parent and never punish your pet!

Thanks for reading,
Dr. Pet Mom

“A cat is a puzzle for which there is no solution.”
–Hazel Nicholson

Top image source: thepetshow.com/litter-box-lapses/

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