Cat That Refuses to Use Litter Box

Updated on March 13, 2009
V.T. asks from Cary, NC
8 answers

We have three cats (and two dogs). Our first cat is eight years old and was found in a trash can at the beach when he was about 6 weeks old -- we were given him at that time! He instinctively knew how to use the litter box from day one -- as a kitten! Our second cat was adopted by us from our vet when she was a year old. Again, always used the litterbox. We had two litterboxes -- one upstairs and one downstairs. Then 10 months ago we get given a tiny kitten that was born under a neighbors deck. At first she totally "gets" the litter box thing. She is not afraid of our first two cats, not afraid of our dogs, not afraid of anything or anyone. She really is the most social of all our animals, she cuddles and sleeps curled up with us... and the other pets. Sits on our laps, "helps' with all the cooking, washing up, typing, etc! She is hilarious and knows her name, etc. However, in the last couple of months she will not use the litter box. She will pee and poop on the carpet in front of me while I am standing right next to her and calling her name. She can be two feet away from a FRESH litter box. We now have THREE litter boxes and I use the crystals (expensive -- but they last a really long time -- two weeks). My husband and I monitor all three litter boxes constantly and scoop them as soon as one of the older two cats uses them. Then about two weeks ago she started using the sofa and the arm chair in the bonus room. She always uses the bonus room, by the way. I have just shampooed the carpet, and sprayed the carpet and the furniture with pet spotter and URINE GONE "as seen on TV". I am going to take the armchair and the sofa to the dump this weekend. They are saturated. My daughter is moving back home for a few months and she will have her own sofa and will use the bonus room as her office. How can I get my youngest cat to use a litter box? Even after all my efforts to make the room smell nice it is just disgusting.... I just went up there. Anyone have any suggestions?

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So What Happened?

Thank you to all who responded. I learned so much about cat behavior from all of you. I took her to the vet and indeed, she did have a urine infection and is now on a two week course of antibiotics. She never seemed uncomfortable, it was just the peeing, right in front of me onto the carpet, to get my attention! What a brilliant cat.... ha ha.... she is now peeing in the litter box but the smell in the bonus room is harder to get rid of than I realised! It has been a week and no sign of it dissipating.

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answers from Raleigh on

I agree, go to the vet and run blood work. May be something as simple as a UTI or possibly trouble with her kidneys. Don't confine her to a crate for several days! What a way to traumatize her!

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answers from Raleigh on

That is so frustrating. My cat, who is a shy one, was going outside the litter box. After the vet checked for a urinary tract infection, she prescribed an anti-anxiety medication. I was skeptical at first, but when the cat is on amytriptiline, she uses the litter box like a champ. I'd consult your vet to see what ideas he or she has.



answers from Raleigh on


I would first take her to the vet & check for a UTI. IF it urinary issue, there is a product called "Tinkle Tonic" (just google it) that can be very useful.

If it a stress thing, think if she has had any abrupt changes or experiences that might affect her. If you think this is the case, an animal communicator can be very helpful in identifying issues & suggesting solutions. I know a good one if you want more information.




answers from Raleigh on

have you taken her to the vet to rule out any medical issues? It could be something like a UTI or maybe she has something else going on. If it's hurting her to go to the bathroom she may be holding it and causing more issues.

One of my cats decided (after three years) that he hates the litter and started going outside of the box. I had to change the litter, and after a couple of different kinds, he started using the litter box again. I have two large cats (13 lbs and 17lbs) that use one litter box.

Have you tried putting a litter box in the bonus room just to see if she will use it in there(since she seems to like going there?) I dont know how your house is laid out, but my cat that started going outside the box also wouldnt use it if it was in a very public place... I think he didn't like too much activity while he was in the box. He went on the floor in front of me but I think that was because he couldnt hold it.

As far as the stink, try using enzymes. You can get them at the pet store, I usually get Natures Miracle or Petzymes from petsmart. You soak the fabric or carpet that has been urinated on (and I mean soak!!!) then let the enzymes do their thing. You can either let it dry then shampoo the carpet or use a carpet shampooer to suck up the wet enzymes after they have had time to pull out the urine.

I hope you find a solution... it's very odd that she used the litterbox before and now suddenly isnt.



answers from Raleigh on

I really feel for you, nothing stinks like cat spray or pee, except, maybe, skunk! I would buy a crate- fast! put her in with a litter box and water, confine her for several days, she may yowl, you may have to put her in the garage. Something has upset her, and she is getting back at you. GOOD LUCK!
I never even thought infection, but good idea, but still use the crate till she is better.



answers from Raleigh on

My friend's cat did this and she had an UTI. Once it was fixed, no problems.



answers from Raleigh on

I found this and thought it might be helpful:

My thoughts (which are also mentioned in the article) are to take her to the vet and make sure she doesn't have an uti, get her her own litterbox and try a non-crystal litter in a different location.

Here's another article

Good luck!



answers from Raleigh on

Hi V.,

Having 4 cats of my own at home, I know the horrors of being a cat lady. :)

Sounds like kitty may have a health issue, she doesn't like the litter, the box, the location, or she may have had a traumatic experience while in or near the litter box that you may be unaware of.

The first thing you want to rule out is a health issue. Cats (especially male cats) are more likely than other pets to have urinary tract issues, whether it be a urinatry tract infection (UTI) or urinary crystals that form in the bladder. Both conditions can come on at anytime, without many or any external symptoms, and can sometimes be life-threatening. UTI's tend to be more chronic issues, which can lead to crystals forming in the bladder. If crystals are forming in the bladder, they can cause blockages in the urethra--this is a very serious condition that can lead to toxicity death within a matter of hours or days, depending on the indiviual cat and the size of the urine crystals. Cats that are not feeling well (especially if they are having urinary tract issues) will 'show' you this by urinating in places other than the litter box, often times when you are right in front of her so you can 'see'. Other signs may include fatigue, unusually passive or aggressive behaviour, or sometimes no behavioural changes. So first thing I would suggest is a visit with the vet to make sure kitty is healthy.

If that checks out OK, kitty may just not like the crystal litter. Cats often are particular about the texture of their litter, and sometimes even the smell. Since you have multiple litter boxes, I would suggest trying a different texture litter in one, and introducing it to kitty when it's quiet and none of the other kitties are around. You may also try putting a litter box in another location of the house--sometimes cats are finicky about where they go as well.

Another issue that could be present is emotional trauma around the litter box. Some cats are effected by stress more than others. Kitty may have experienced aggression from another cat while using the litter box, or may have been frightened by a loud noise, etc, while trying to use it. This memory may be triggered when she tries to use the litter box again, and she may not feel safe and secure when she needs to go.

Yet another reason kitty may be continuing to use other places instead of the litter box is the smell from the first 'accident' may not have been completely removed. Kitties like to go where they can smell the ammonia and pheramones left behind from their previous 'potties'. Some products work, and some do not. Every cat is different, so its more a matter of seeing what works for your kitties/household.

Whatever reason it may be, remember that cat behaviour is unlike human or even dog or other animal behaviour. They do not have 'pack mentality' nor do they display emptions or needs like people do. They really cannot be 'trained' like other animals. Your kitty is trying to communicate something to you, whether she's not feeling well, or she's upset about something.

I hope this helps. There are numerous sites online on feline behaviour that may help. But first a trip to the vet is absolutely in order--your vet can also give you tips on how to resolve the situation. I feel your sofa pain. We are currently on our second. :)


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