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Why Would a Cat Suddenly Stop Using a Litter Box? 8 Potential Reasons

Rachael Gerkensmeyer

Cats are naturals when it comes to using the litter box inside of their home. Most kittens need nothing more than a bit of direction to their new litter boxes to understand where they should use the bathroom. However, some cats may suddenly stop using their litter box. Why would this be the case? There are a few different reasons that your cat might have suddenly stopped using their litter box. Let’s examine each one here.

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1. The Litter Box Is Too Dirty

Cat litter box cleaning II_borzywoj_Shutterstock
Image Credit: borzywoj, Shutterstock

One of the most common reasons for a cat to suddenly stop using their litter box is that they are tired of dealing with a dirty situation. You might not think that the litter box is dirty, but that does not mean that your cat feels the same way. Some cats are finicky and require a pristine place to do their business.

If another cat is introduced into the situation and uses the same litter box, if you switch litters and choose one that does not clump well, or if you miss even just one day of cleaning, your cat might decide to use the bathroom anywhere but in the litter box.

If you got a new cat, consider getting a new litter box to solve the problem. If no new cats are involved, you can try a new litter or clean the box more often to lure your cat back to their proper bathroom area. If these ideas do not work, chances are that there is another reason that your cat has decided to stop using their litter box.


2. The Litter Is Unattractive

Dirty Cat Litter
Image Credit: Ninotee, Shutterstock

If you have switched to a new cat litter recently and your cat has stopped using the litter box ever since, the chances are that the new litter is unattractive for some reason. It could be the smell, the texture, the absorbency, or various other reasons. Unfortunately, we cannot read our cat’s minds. What we can do is switch back to the old cat litter or try another one until our cats decide that the litter box is a great place to use the bathroom again.

If your cat does not like any cat litter at all and none of the other reasons outlined here seem to fit the description of your cat’s situation, it is important to consult with your veterinarian as soon as possible to find out what the problem might be. This will at least help rule out health reasons and enable you to focus on other considerations.


4. Privacy Is Too Scarce or Too Obstructive

cat-litter
Image Credit: Tanya-Plotnikova, Shutterstock

Some cats like privacy when they use the bathroom, while others want to maintain tabs on everything going on around them. If your cat does well in an uncovered litter box but stops using it when it gets covered in some way, the chances are that privacy is a hindrance more than a luxury.

Alternatively, if cats are used to plenty of privacy and are then thrown into a situation where their litter box is completely open to view, they will probably not use the litter box and will choose someplace more private, like a corner or under the bed, to use the bathroom instead.

To correct this problem, simply provide your cat with the privacy that they are used to or remove the privacy that you are trying to give them, depending on the situation. If that does not work, there may be another reason that the litter box is being ignored.


5. Outdoors Have Become a Pastime

birman cat sitting outdoors
Image Credit: Jeannette1980, Pixabay

Cats that live primarily indoors typically have no problem using a litter box to relieve themselves when necessary. However, any cat that spends time outside is more likely to relieve themselves in the “wild” rather than in a litter box. If your cat grew up living indoors and has always used a litter box, they might stop using the box so much if they are granted access to the outdoor world.

Cats that get even an hour of outdoor time each day will use the litter box less often than a strictly indoor cat. So, don’t worry if your cat stops using the litter box as often once they are spending time outside, as they will likely relieve themselves on grass and trees. There should be no health repercussions to worry about.


6. The Cat Got Declawed

Paw Pads
Image Credit: Aldair-Pho, Pixabay

Cats use their claws to protect their paws from sharp objects as they walk around. Their claws keep litter pieces from getting inside paw creases and from damaging toes. When their claws are removed, a cat does not have protection for their paws and toes anymore, which can lease to discomfort and injuries. If your cat’s litter is too hard or lumpy, it could damage your cat’s newly declawed paws and make them feel uncomfortable.

Therefore, your cat could start looking for another place to use the bathroom. To make your declawed cat feel more comfortable while using the litter box, look for a sandy litter to try. You can try one made of recycled newspapers or other soft materials. Also, make sure the litter that you choose does not contain any artificial perfumes because they could irritate your cat’s declawed paws.


7. The Location Is Not Preferred

owner cleaning her cat's litter tray
Image Credit: Yuliya Alekseeva, Shutterstock

One reason that your cat might suddenly stop using the cat litter box is that they do not like the place where you have put it. If your cat is used to using the bathroom in one place and you suddenly move the litter box to someplace else, your cat may not like it and will protest by using the bathroom in other places, like where the litter box was last located.

If you want to move your cat’s litter box to a new space, set a new box up in the new location and keep the old box in the old location. Encourage your cat to use the new box using toys and treats until they become used to going to the bathroom in the new location. Hopefully, you can remove the old litter box and just keep the new one in the new location after positive reinforcement.


8. Health Problems Are Brewing

Cornish Rex cat on top of blanket
Image Credit: duodenum82, Pixabay

Certain health problems can stop cats from urinating or defecating normally. It could be something like a urinary tract infection that stops your cat from using the litter box. Luckily, this is a problem that your veterinarian can help you easily fix. Other medical reasons that your cat may not want to use the bathroom anymore include:

Potential health concerns:
  • Kidney stones
  • Feline interstitial cystitis
  • Liver infections

Even problems that do not seem to correlate to using the bathroom, like blood sugar instabilities, can affect your cat’s ability to use the litter box. If you suspect that your cat cannot use the litter box due to health problems, the only solution is to schedule a full checkup with your veterinarian.divider-cat

Final Thoughts

While there are many reasons why your cat might suddenly stop using the litter box, it is important not to overreact. Your cat might just be constipated for a day or two, or they may have an issue with where you have chosen to move the litter box. They might be feeling stubborn for a few days, or they may have health problems. Paying attention to the signs and symptoms of your cat’s displeasure with the litter box should help you get to the bottom of the problem.


Featured Image Credit: Jennifer McCallum, Shutterstock

Rachael Gerkensmeyer

Rachael has been a freelance writer since 2000, in which time she has had an opportunity to research and write about many different topics while working to master the art of fusing high-quality content with effective content marketing strategies. She is an artist at heart and loves to read, paint, and make jewelry in her spare time. As a vegan, Rachael is obsessed with helping animals in need both in her community and anywhere in the world where she feels she can make a difference. Animals also happen to be her favorite topic to write about! She lives off the grid in Hawaii with her husband, her garden, and her rescue animals including 5 dogs, a cat, a goat, and dozens of chickens.