What to do when your cat won't use the litter box

For some cat owners, the litter box is the worst part of pet ownership.  However, it doesn't have to be.  Cats usually require little to no training to use their sandbox.  Once they know where it is, instincts take over. Unfortunately, some cats do not consistently use it, or they suddenly stop using it.  Try some of the following solutions to get your cat to use the litter box again.

Medical problems
Always check for medical problems first.  If a cat suddenly changes his behavior, he may have some health problems.  Be sure to get him checked out at the vet.  This is especially important if he seems to be have difficulty going, produces small amounts of urine, seems to be in pain while going, or seems unable to get to the box in time.  Some medical problems with these symptoms, like urinary tract blockages, can be fatal if not treated quickly.  I learned this the hard way as my cat had a blockage.  Other medical problems are simple treat once diagnosed.  In any event, be sure to get your cat checked out by a vet.

Add another litter box
The recommended number of boxes is one more than the number of cats you have.  This means if you only have one cat, you still need two sandboxes.  I noticed that my kitty prefers to have two with different litter.  The extra becomes especially important if you have more than one cat, as they may be territorial and claim one box.  Or, they may need to relieve themselves at the same time.  You will also need multiple boxes if you have a large house or one with two floors.  You can have litter boxes in multiple locations to make it easier for your cat.

Consider location
Speaking of large houses, you want to be sure the boxes are not inconvenient for your cat.  If you have multiple stories you will need one box upstairs and one downstairs.  You may also want to consider placing a box at each end of a larger house.  You also need to make sure that the litter boxes are in peaceful locations where the cat has no fear of ambush.  Ensure that cat's litter box is not in a location where the dog, or children, may surprise or attack the cat.  Finally, make sure that the cat's litter box is not near his food or water.  Keep in mind that if you decide to change the location of the box, it's best to add one instead of moving the litter box he is already used to.

Change the litter type
Some cats are very particular about their litter.  I already mentioned my cat and his two boxes with different litter.  One box has clumping litter and the other has a fine, low dust litter.  He will only urinate in the box that has the clumping litter.  This actually makes it easier for me to clean too!  Anyway, it may help to change the types of litter and maybe use different types in each box so you can see what your cats prefer.  The reason to consider litter is that some cats will refuse to use clumping litter because it sticks to their paws.  Other cats avoid larger pellets because it can hurt their paws.  While we're talking about litter, be sure to check the depth.  Some cats will avoid litter if it is too deep and others will avoid it if it isn't deep enough.  If you are using a liner (I can't because my cat tears them up), you may want to try without the liner.  Some cats will avoid a litter box if it has a liner.

Clean the box - scoop daily
This tip goes without saying, but it is one of the most common reasons cats stop using their box.  Cats are typically very clean animals and do not like to use a filthy litter box.  Just think of your feelings about using port-a-potties!  All litter boxes should be scooped out daily.  The frequency that litter is changed and the box is cleaned varies depending on the number of cats you have and the type of litter you use.  

Clean up old accidents
While you are in cleaning mode, be sure to thoroughly clean up any accidents your cat has had outside the litter box.  Even if you don't smell any odor, the cat may.  This scent may cause him to consider this a place to do his business. Or, your other cats may see it as competition and decide that they need to mark that same territory.

Change type of box
You may also want to consider changing the type of litter boxes you use.  Some cats do not like covered boxes, while other cats prefer the privacy that a covered box offers.  You will also need to consider the size of your box - is it large enough for your cat?  Don’t forget to think about the sides of the box and the entry.  Can an arthritic old cat or a small kitten get into the box?  

Cat in a BoxCredit: Admiller on Flicker

Hopefully some of these tips will help solve the cat litter box problem.  After all of thse tips your cat should be ready to return to his box.