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Top Reasons Your Cat Is Not Using the Litter Box


Despite what people say about cat litter boxes, you really can’t ask for a better set up.

The cat goes in, does his/her thing, and everything is contained in one little manageable box - rather than spread all over your yard, a cage, or an aquarium.

That is... when your cat actually uses her litter box.

If your cat is struggling to go to the bathroom where you want her to, start by taking her in for a checkup. Several cat illnesses can cause painful urination and discomfort during potty-time, which can cause your cat to avoid the litter box.

However, if you’ve ruled out any medical condition as the cause of your cat’s reluctance to get with the litter box program, you may be dealing with one of the following issues.

Here are the most common reasons your cat will ditch the box and the solutions for getting her back onboard.

Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen

PrettyLitter multiple cat in litterbox

Have multiple cats in your house? Bingo! This is the most likely reason why your cat isn’t using the litter box.

Cats are territorial by nature and they’re in a constant battle for dominance and their self-esteem.

If you have multiple cats, there’s bound to be a time when both need to go potty at the same time. Most cats don’t like to soil the same spot right after another cat. Another reason may be that one cat is dominant over the other, so the more submissive cat feels unwelcome to do his or her business in the dominant cat’s claimed space.


Get another litter box. While most veterinarians suggest that multi-cat homes have one box per cat plus one more, this is usually not something pet parents are willing to do. However, having at least two litter boxes in a multi-cat household can be the simplest solution to the “peeing out of the box” problem.

OCD Problems

PrettyLitter Obsessive Cat

If you only have one cat in the household and she’s still refusing the litter box, examine the situation for any patterns.

Is she urinating in the litter box but depositing solids outside the box? Or vice versa? Does she only go #2 on shag rugs while she’s comfortable going #1 in the litter?

As awkward and unpleasant as it is, pay attention to what your cat’s bathroom habits are telling you. They can reveal the answer to your problem.


Get another litter box. Sound familiar?

Some cats are very particular about how, when, and where they do their business. In fact, some cats will only use the litter box for one form of bathroom deposit and require a completely different setup for the other half.

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Start by getting a second litter box for your finicky cat. If she continues to have trouble staying within one or the other box to do her business, see if there are any other details emerging from her bathroom pattern.

Some cats prefer to do their business on a particular type of surface, like a smooth, cool bathtub or on a furry shag rug.

If that’s the case, try lining one of the litter boxes with the material your cat prefers (for instance, you can pick up a $2 bath mat from the dollar store and line a litter box with it). If your cat starts using the makeshift “litter” box, you’ve found the true cause of her issue.  

Too Much Attention

Cat using litter box in private

In addition to being clean freaks, territorial, and OCD, cats are also very private creatures.

Cats feel extremely vulnerable when they’re using the bathroom, so they like to know that they’re alone and out of sight of any passers by.

If your cat’s litter box is in a high-traffic or noisy area, this may be keeping her from using the litter box.

Even placing the litter box in the laundry room can be problematic as some cats will be scared away from their box if the washer or dryer are running.


Move your cat’s litter box from the noisy or busy location to a more private area. If you don’t have a place where you can hide your cat’s litter box from sight while also providing her with a private, peaceful location, you may need to get creative with your litter box setup.

But for the sake of saving your rug, give Fluffy some privacy.


cat in undersized litter box

Even if your cat is small, she needs room to actually do her business in the litter box. Cats like to go in, sniff around, kick their litter into place, turn around a few times, then make their deposit.

This requires space.

Also, if your litter box is too small or if it’s covered, it may start to develop an offensive odor. If there’s not enough ventilation and your cat is turned off by the smell, she’ll avoid going in and using her box.


Upgrade. Get your kitty a bigger box. Yes, it may take up more space on your floor, but your furry friend will be grateful for the added space and will actually use her litter box like you wish she would.

If your cat’s litter box is covered, remove the lid. Pick up a litter box with higher sides if you’re worried about litter being kicked out of the box or your cat’s stream being unconfined.

The important thing is for your cat to feel comfortable going into the litter box so she’s encouraged to use it every time.

Cats are special animals – and we say that with the utmost love... and an eye roll. It can take some time, patience, and creativity to figure out your cat’s unique idiosyncrasies.

But remember: she’s not doing it to spite you. So keep calm, keep lovin’ on your fur baby, and keep trying different options until you find the solution that works best for you and your little one.

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