Understanding and Addressing Cat Litter Box Issues

Cat Not Using its Litter Box & What To Do?

Cat ownership comes with its joys and challenges, and one of the most common challenges that many cat owners face is dealing with urination and poo issues outside the litter box. Especially, when you are fostering or adopting cats that have suffered trauma. Or cats that come from hoarding and other situations where litter boxes were unclean and they learnt to go elsewhere (like two recent fosters from a house of 50 cats that would pee and poo right in front of the clean litter trays lol)

There’s no denying the frustration and concern that arise when our feline friends choose to relieve themselves on furniture, carpets, or other inappropriate places. Not only does this behaviour create a mess, but it can also result in unpleasant odours that linger around the house.

In this guide, we’ll delve into the reasons behind cats not using their litter box, explore effective strategies to encourage litter box use and discover ways to handle the aftermath of cat accidents.


Why Isn’t My Cat Using its Litter Box?

Understanding Feline Preferences

To address cat litter box issues, it’s important to consider your cat’s preferences when it comes to their litter box. Just like we enjoy specific types of hygiene and bathroom experiences, cats have specific preferences for litter type, box placement, and cleanliness.

The litter box’s location matters; it should be placed in a quiet and low-traffic area to provide privacy. You should also attempt to keep it in the same place so the cat feels a sense of routine and comfort. Many cats also prefer to have their own litter box, rather than share with other cats. If there is a certain place they tend to pee outside the litter box then put the litter box there (If it is practical). My foster cats loved to pee on the landing of my staircase. I have no idea why. So after getting sick of cleaning it up I put a tray there and they all love it.

Additionally, the size and depth of the litter box should be appropriate for your cat’s comfort. Some cats prefer a litter box with a roof and sides. Others struggle to manoeuvre in these. Tiny kittens need trays low enough to get in and so do older cats that find it difficult to lift their legs.

Understanding your cat’s litter preference is also crucial. Some cats are particular about the texture and scent of their litter. Experimenting with different types of litter can help you identify the one your cat prefers. Some cats like to dig and prefer a soft sand-like litter. Others prefer to not have to cover their pee so a crystal litter may be good.

Similarly, the number of litter boxes matters, especially in multi-cat households. The general rule is to have one more litter box than the number of cats in your home.

Stress and anxiety also play a significant role in influencing a cat’s litter box habits. Changes in the household environment, such as the introduction of a new pet, a move, or even a change in routine, can trigger stress in cats and lead them to urinate outside the box. (This is why it’s important to keep the box in the same spot.)  If I introduce a new cat into the main area of 4 cats I have a boy cat that will initially do little squirts of pee on the things the new cat has been on.

Cats are creatures of habit, and disruptions to their routine can result in behavioural changes. Just keep trying things until something works.

In the meantime, there are sprays you can get to remove the urine smell. See Cat Urine Enzyme Cleaners


Addressing Medical Concerns

When your cat consistently avoids the litter box, it’s crucial to consider underlying medical conditions. Cats are known to be masters at hiding their discomfort, and changes in urination behaviour could signal an issue that requires prompt attention. If your cat’s urination habits change suddenly, or you notice blood in their urine, it’s time to consult a veterinarian.

Common medical causes of inappropriate urination include urinary tract infections (UTIs), bladder stones, and even more severe conditions like kidney disease. UTIs can cause discomfort and pain during urination, leading your cat to associate the litter box with discomfort. Bladder stones can obstruct the urinary tract, making urination difficult and painful. Kidney problems can lead to increased thirst and urination, causing your cat to urinate in unusual places.

A thorough veterinary examination is essential to determine the underlying cause of strange behaviour. Your vet might recommend urine tests, blood tests, or even imaging to identify any health issues. Treatment can vary depending on the diagnosis. UTIs can be treated with antibiotics, while kidney issues might require dietary changes and medications. Addressing medical concerns can often resolve litter box problems, restoring your cat’s comfort and proper litter box usage.


Encouraging Litter Box Use

To encourage your cat to use the litter box consistently, maintaining a clean and inviting litter box environment is key. Cats are meticulous creatures and prefer a clean box. Imagine using a toilet that’s stinky and unflushed – they’re just like us! Regularly scooping waste and changing the litter helps maintain hygiene and prevents your cat from seeking alternative places.

For my two fosters peeing and pooing in front of the trays I put plastic in front of the trays. I gave them 5 litter trays between two cats and cleaned them 3 times a day. Theye were both pregnant so I needed to use the paper kitten litter in preparation for when the babies came. Within a week they were both using the trays

Positive reinforcement is a valuable tool in shaping your cat’s behaviour. After your cat uses the litter box, offer praise, treats, or gentle petting to create a positive association. Conversely, avoid punishment if your cat eliminates outside the box, as this can increase stress and worsen the issue.


Cleaning Up Cat Urine and Eliminating Odours

Cat urine accidents can leave behind unpleasant odours and, if not cleaned properly, might prompt your cat to continue urinating in the same spot. Remember, cats are very scent-based, and are creatures of habit. But this is a habit you want them to break. Effective cleaning is not only important for your home’s hygiene but also for preventing recurrence of the behaviour.

Start by acting quickly. Blot up as much urine as possible using paper towels or a clean cloth. Avoid using ammonia-based cleaners, as the scent of ammonia can resemble cat urine and attract your cat back to the spot.

Next, use an enzymatic cleaner specifically formulated for pet accidents. Enzymatic cleaners contain enzymes that break down the proteins in urine, eliminating odours at the source. Apply the cleaner to the affected area according to the product’s instructions and let it sit for the recommended time.

After the enzymatic cleaner has done its work, blot up any excess moisture and allow the area to air dry. Using a fan or opening windows can help expedite the drying process. Remember that some fabrics or surfaces may require multiple treatments to completely remove the odour.

If the accident occurred on a carpet, consider using a carpet cleaner designed to handle pet accidents. These machines can help extract urine from deep within the carpet fibres and prevent lingering odours.


Seeking Professional Help

If your efforts to address your cat’s urination issues are unsuccessful, seeking professional help is a wise decision. Veterinarians and professional animal behaviourists can provide tailored guidance and strategies to tackle the problem effectively. They can conduct a comprehensive assessment of your cat’s behaviour, environment, and health to pinpoint the root cause and devise a targeted plan of action.


Caring for a cat involves understanding their unique behaviours and providing them with an environment that meets their needs. Cat urination issues can be perplexing and frustrating, but with patience, knowledge, and the right approach, these challenges can be overcome.

By addressing medical concerns, catering to your cat’s preferences, and using positive reinforcement techniques, you can guide your feline friend towards a healthier litter box habit. Remember, each cat is an individual with its own personality and quirks, so the journey to resolving litter box issues may require trial and error.

Ultimately, the goal is to create a harmonious and comfortable environment that fosters a positive relationship between you and your furry companion.

Are you looking to adopt a pet or donate to a pet rescue organisation? Georgie and Cindy from Large Hope SEO foster cats and kittens on the Sunshine Coast in Australia. If you’re local, get in touch to discuss adopting from the rescues. See cats and kittens available for adoption or donate so we can save more kittens.