Litter box problems – Cat not using litterbox all of a sudden?

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Is your cat not using the litter box all of a sudden?

I recently met up with a friend of mine who was telling me that his cat keeps going to the litter box but nothing happens. My cat, Honey had the same problem about 2 years back. I tried everything but my cat simply won’t use the litter box.

As it turns out, she didn’t have any medical problems. My wife had just flown out to meet her family and no sooner my cat started eliminating outside the box. With the help of our vet, we eventually determined that stress (due to the missing family member) may have caused this sudden change in behavior.

However, litter box problems aren’t always easy to diagnose. There can be many reasons for litter box problems in cats. If your vet rules out any medical problems, this puzzle needs to be solved by analyzing the preceding events and some educated guess work.

Possible reasons why your cat won’t use the litter box

Did you introduce a new brand of litter to your kitty?

There’s a possibility they don’t like it. Try switching it back.

Did you replace the old litter box?

Sometimes cats won’t use a new litter box because it’s not familiar to them. Quite often you will also find your cat sitting in the litter box doing nothing.

Is the litter box too small for your cat?

Most commercial litter boxes are quite small. If your cat is 2 years and older, they may prefer a long litter box.

Does the litter box pass the cleanliness test? How often to clean litter box?

If the litter box smells foul or if you notice enough clumps, it’s time to clean the litter box. Cleaning it once in two days should be enough.

Is there too much or too little litter in the box?

Cats love to dig the litter so make sure adequate litter is in the box. How much litter to put in litter box? Generally, 2-3 inches of litter should be in the litter box.

Senior cat not using litter box?

Due to physical limitations, some elderly cats start pooping on the floor when they have difficulty getting into a litter box with high sides. Switch with a low sided litterbox for older cats.

Litter box fights

In a house with multiple cats, there may be a bully cat, due to which litter box fights happen. Make sure there are litter boxes for all cats otherwise they may choose not to go in the litter box. Instead, it may lead to your cat urinating in the house. 


Cats can and do get stressed when their environment or something in their day to day life changes. If your cat is not using the litter box to urinate, then as it’s clear from my cat’s example, it could be due to house hold stress.

Medical Issues

If your cat keeps going to the litter box but nothing happens, it may be a sign of some blockage. If this is followed by licking his genitals, your cat is likely to have Urinary Tract Infection (UTI). If you notice small blots of urine in the litter box, it’s a clear sign of UTI and you should consult your vet without any delay. This condition is treatable and your veterinarian will prescribe the appropriate medication for it.

Other Health Issues

If your cat is going to the litter box every few minutes, there may be other underlying health issues that require medical attention.


It doesn’t really matter whether the reason is behavioral or medical. If a cat has not eliminated for long, it may lead to serious problems, often in a matter of hours. Always consult your vet before attempting to give any medication or treatment.

Thanks for sharing. You're pawsome!

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