Why won’t my cat use the litter box?
Litter Box Placement, along the type of box you offer your cat, are both very important for consistent litter box usage
by Rita Reimers, Multi Cat Behavior Expert
As I was sitting in my kitchen watching a webinar, I saw my 3-Legged Smoochy kitty exit the corner litter pan and walk up to me proudly. I told her she was a very good girl in very sweet syrupy tones, happy to see our battle over the litter box might be coming to an end, finally.
Smoochy has been “complaining” ever since I shut her out of my office for pooping under my guest chairs, so she’d been pooping on my sofa instead (grrrr).
Now, just because I am a Cat Behaviorist, this does not mean I don’t experience cat behavior issues as well. On the contrary, I go through the same things as everyone else; my bag of tricks is just larger than some of yours…
I had a similar battle going on with my wide-girth cat, Gigi. She had been pooping just outside of the hallway litter box, which is a big litter cabinet with wide openings at both ends. Gigi doesn’t think she can fit in there, I have come to understand, which is why she would at least go to it, but not get inside of it.
Never mind that there are 3 other large litter boxes downstairs, and 8 more upstairs in the bonus room, which is a combo kitty play room / litter area. Yes both of these issues have been a little challenging, illustrating the importance of proper litter box placement for your cat.
If your cat doesn’t like where the box is located, or if it’s too hard for her to get to it, chances are she won’t use it.
Litter Box Placement and Box Type; 2 Important Factors
Litter box type is as important as litter box placement. In the case of Smoochy, believe it or not, after showing her the corner litter boxes that are low and easy for her to get into, she is willingly using the litter box again. BUT that didn’t happen until I also opened my office up again (after removing the chair covers she had been using as her litter area, yuck). Smoochy needed a low-opening box that she didn’t have to jump or climb into, so she could easily get in and out with her tiny 3-legs.
For Gigi, I grudgingly put an open litter box (not lidded, not closed in) in my bedroom (litter box placement!), and now she uses it faithfully. She was telling me that she wanted to use the box, but she just was scared to get into one that was so closed up. She needed one that was more accessible to her and that didn’t make her feel trapped.
Where Should the Litter Box Be?
Experiment with litter box placement and type with your cats, using both lidded and non-lidded boxes to see which they prefer. I offer both types, and I do notice some kitties just prefer an open box vs the lid or cabinet type. Also, if your cat seems to be “going” in the same spot over and over again, she may be trying to tell you something. Perhaps the litter is all upstairs, but stairs are hard for her as she ages. Or perhaps Fido is keeping her from getting to the box, or it’s tucked to far away.
One person who called me for a behavior session for pooping outside of the box really stands out in my mind. What I found was a box that was tucked far behind piles of clothing and other things in the laundry room. It was so buried that I couldn’t even see the box myself. Kitty was not pleased, and of course the litter wasn’t getting scooped enough either since it was so hard for even the humans to access.
Think like your cat; give her the proper box type in the right place and soon your litter box blues will be a thing of the past.
***Of course, all this assumes a clean bill of health from your vet! That must ALWAYS come first, before addressing ANY perceived behavioral issue.
Great content! Super high-quality! Keep it up! 🙂
Annette Marsh says
I have two cats, one is 7 yrs, the other is 8 yrs. I’ve had them for 6 years and they have always used the same litter box. I moved from WV to Washington State a year and a half ago and lived with my daughter and her family until we could get a tiny house built for me and my cats. The house was completed and we moved in over the labor day weekend. The litter box is in my small laundry room with a cat door so they come and go as they please (we’re off a main road so they are outside-inside cats). Everything was fine until about 3 or 4 weeks ago, and one cat (Cissie, the oldest) started peeing right in front of the box. I’ve dumped and put in fresh litter hoping that would help, although the box was not not full since they both tend to do their business outside. The only problem we can come up with is my daughters young cat (a little over 1 year old), who keeps coming to visit. He doesn’t use our littler box too often, but occasionally will go in to pee. Could this be the reason?? I don’t have that much space since it is a “tiny” house, so I don’t know that I could get another litter box in without setting it directly in one of the rooms (bedroom or living room). Any suggestions?