Cat owners love their cats and will do anything for them but cleaning the litter box isn’t the most pleasant job.  What makes it even worse is if the cat deposits their waste outside the litter box.  Around 10% of cats will experience a problem of this nature at some point in their life but most of these cases will be to do more with the facilities provided and less to do with awkwardness.  When your cat begins to go outside the litter box, you need to play detective to find out what the problem may be.  


The most common reason that a cat stops using the litter box correctly is that they don’t like it, don’t feel safe using it or are having problems getting into it.  This is particularly common if you have changed the litter box and the cat doesn’t like the new version.  There are three main categories of litter trays – open, closed and those with automatic cleaning mechanisms.  Of these three, the first is the least likely to meet with the cat’s disapproval.  Closed boxes can bring up their fear of the dangers hidden in the darkness or of being closed in and unable to flee from danger.  Boxes with cleaning mechanisms may reduce the work for the owner but scare the cat into not using the tray.

The size of the box is another reason that the cat may turn down its use.  It needs to be big enough for them to fit in, turn around and have a good scratch as well as deposit their waste.  If it isn’t then they will seek alternative arrangements.


To us, the litter box may smell clean and fresh but to a cat, it may smell terrible.  Cleaning the litter tray should be done with the remembering that cat’s sense of smell is far better than we humans and therefore a clean tray to them will be different to us.  Consider having two trays to allow one to be in use and the other to be going through a good clean as over time, the smells may mean the box becomes unsuitable for the cat.

The litter itself can also be an issue, if it has a strange smell whereas their old litter was unscented.  The texture of the litter can put them off as well, so if you have changed the litter type then this may be the reason for the problem.

Health Issues

There are some health issues that can lead to them going outside the litter box.  For example, a urinary tract infection may mean they don’t get enough warning to get to the litter box to deposit their waste.  Kidney stones or a blockage can have a similar effect and may be accompanied by cries or howls as it hurts to urinate.  Finally, a condition called feline interstitial cystitis is a neurological condition that effects how the bladder works and can lead to rapid and uncontrolled urination, as well as blood in the water.