Cats can sometimes stop using the litter box for a number of reasons which are not immediately apparent to you, and there may not always be a simple answer to the problem.
Below are the most likely reasons why your cat may have stopped using the litter box. A close observation may be needed to resolve this unpleasant situation as quickly as possible.
Your cat may have a medical problem
Your cat may need medical attention as several medical conditions can result in the cat starting to pee in all the wrong places. The lower urinary tract diseases are a common cause of the cat having difficulties with the litter box. For example a painful condition of cystitis or urethral blockage may result in your cat associating the pain of urination with its litter tray and it will therefore avoid going there.
Diabetes in cats can cause increased rate of urination, which can increase the possibility of your cat not being able to make it to the litter tray every time. With this condition, the cat may not have aversion to the litter box itself, but the logistics of getting there may sometimes just prove too much.
If a medical condition is suspected, arrange a veterinary visit as soon as possible for the wellbeing of your cat and your carpet!
Is the litter box clean?
Cats have an excellent sense of smell and will not like to use a dirty litter box. To minimize the possibility of the kitty doing its business all over the place, make sure that:
- the litter crystals are changed daily;
- the litter tray is washed with hot soapy water every few days;
- the soiled litter is scooped out regularly during the day in between the changes of the crystals.
Not all the cat litter products are created equal, and the white crystal variety absorbs the smells better than the sand. The crystals are slightly more expensive, but they considerably reduce the amount of attention you need to devote to the cat’s litter box on a daily basis.
Try experimenting with different depths of the litter material. Some cats like only a small amount of this and you may be putting too much litter in the box.
Your cat may not like the brand of litter you have chosen
Once the kitty is used to the smell and feel of a particular brand of litter material, it may have difficulty adapting to a new brand, particularly if you have switched to a completely different type. If for whatever reason you wish to change the type of cat litter you are providing, then the change should be introduced to your cat gradually by mixing a small amount of the new litter with the old one and then gradually increasing the amount until the new litter is accepted.
In addition, our understanding of what smells nice can vary hugely to what is an attractive smell to a cat. As a general rule, avoid scented kitty litter because it is unlikely to be appreciated by your cat as much as you think.
The location of the litter box is not to your cats liking
Some cats have issues with the location of the litter box. For example if the box is in a busy location or near a noisy household appliance, you cat may have issues using it. Whilst obviously the cats do not have the same concept of privacy as humans, cats still prefer to have their litter box in an area that is quiet, easily accessible and relatively “private”.
Some cats also do not like to use the toilet near their feeding area, and ... neither do we! Move litter boxes away from feeding areas or where their water is placed. In some cases a location where the cat can be easily ambushed by another cat may also be a concern.
This may be a common sense point, but be mindful not to put the litter box in a room or a basement where the door sometimes gets closed, as the cat will not be able to access the box and will have to come up with its own alternatives.
The cat is spraying urine not urinating
When cats spray urine it is not a normal urination like when they need to go to the toilet. It is territorial and can be stress related. This is particularly common to male cats and starts right about the age of sexual maturity because it is triggered by hormonal changes. Females can also spray, especially when they are in ‘heat’.
By way of elimination, cats normally pee on a horizontal or flat surface like the ground or in a litter box. When cats spray in order to mark their territory, they turn their backsides to the object and spray urine on the vertical surface, usually at another cat's nose level to tell the other cats that this territory belongs to them.
The easiest way to deal with the cat spraying is to carry out neutering or spaying. Statistically in a vast majority of cases this will address the spraying problem unless the cat has already established territory marking as a habit over an extensive period of time.
Your cat may be stressed
Cats suffer from stress as well as humans. Cats are creatures of habit and thrive in a consistent and familiar atmosphere. When their 'comfort zone' is disrupted it can often result in stress which contributes to inappropriate elimination.
If you catch your cat urinating on your carpet, gently and quickly move him to the litter tray. Do not punish him as this may increase the stress. This will also result in the cat learning to fear you without it necessarily understanding the reason for the punishment. Try to reinforce positive behavior as punishment only causes more stress.
Your cat may not know where the litter box is
Kittens are sometimes so busy playing that they may forget the location of the litter box. Once you have found a suitable location, try not to change it. If you do have to change the location of the litter box for whatever reason, take your cat or kitten to it.
Some cats do not like sharing their litter box with other cats while some do not mind that at all. Maybe your cat falls in the former category and requires his own personal litter box. In multiple cat households it is generally recommended to have one little box per cat plus one additional one. You may need to experiment with the number of the available litter boxes to find the optimal solution.
If once in a blue moon you find that the kitty has done its business in a wrong place, there may not necessarily be a good reason for this occurrence. Your cat may have strayed from its normal routine on a one off basis for a wide variety of reasons only known to the cat. Indeed, as outrageous as it may seem to you, your bed actually provides the soft surface that the cats like for their litter business. The bed also has you scent, which would have a special attraction for cats as a sign of affection towards you. Accordingly you may find that the bed (especially if unmade) is a likely location for “freak accidents”.
De-clawing is still legal in some countries. If you have had your cat de-clawed then it may be painful for him to scratch in the litter. This may result in urination outside the litter box as the cat may associate the litter box with a painful experience.