Litter Box Avoidance


Litter box avoidance can arise in one of several ways: your new kitten or cat simply refuses to use the box you provide, or your cat suddenly stops using his or her litter box. Cats are very fastidious in their habits, and even very young kittens will attempt to use a designated litter box rather than soil the floor or furniture.

When you find an 'accident' of one type or another, it's important that you refrain from punishing your cat - harsh words or blows will not encourage your companion to return to the box - it's up to you to determine why the cat is eliminating inappropriately.

Seeking a Solution

The very first thing to do if your cat starts avoiding the litter box is to schedule a visit to your veterinarian. There could be factors such as a bladder infection, bladder stones, or constipation that could be causing the problem. However, if your cat's health is normal, there are other things that are making your cat avoid the litter box:


  • Most cats will avoid using a dirty box. Cleaning the box frequently will often be the answer. Too many cats using one box contribute to this problem.
  • Moving the litter box to a new place can cause confusion. Cats are creatures of habit, and shifting the box to a place that might be more convenient to you can result in soiling inappropriately.
  • If you have started using a new kind of litter, your cat may not like the smell of the new product or the texture. Scented litters might be too strong for the delicate nose of a cat.
  • While mechanized, self-cleaning litter boxes do save owners work and will keep the box cleaner, many cats are afraid of the noise these boxes generate, and may take some time to get used to them.
  • Make sure that the cat's box is the right size - boxes that are too small make the cat uncomfortable.
  • Hooded litter boxes can keep the home looking better and the floor neater, but some cats are afraid of entering a dark place. Liners may also cause a problem.
  • Intact adult cats mark their territory with a spray of urine, especially the toms. Neutering the cat will help resolve this cause of litter box avoidance.


Getting your cat back on track and using his or her litter box may take some time, but in most cases a solution can be found that will work for both you and your feline friend.

Is Your Cat Marking Your Home?

The smell of ordinary cat urine is strong enough, but when a cat spray marks, the odor will be even more overpowering and unpleasant. Unlike urination, which does leave a message for other cats to an extent, spray marking is more like a billboard with lights. The whole reason for marking is to inform other cats of a particular cat's presence. And, while urine is simply the waste that has been filtered out by the kidneys, marking includes other bodily chemicals with information about sex, health, and undoubtedly other important cat messages.

Unlike normal urination, which is made by the cat squatting down, spray marking is done when the cat is standing and the deposit will be made on a vertical surface such as a door frame or the front of a sofa or chair. The cat will back up to the chosen area, and wiggle its tail as it delivers the spray behind it. The volume of the spray is much less than is produced when the cat urinates.

Stopping Spray Marking

Cat Spraying No More While some female cats will spray mark, the main culprits are intact males. Spray marking is used not only to deliver some information about the sprayer, but also to mark territory, which is especially important in the wild where hunting grounds must be protected. This behavior is also much more common in homes where there are several cats, and an order of dominance constantly needs to be established. However, there are steps you can take to minimize the chances of spray marking.


  • If you have a multi-cat household, provide several litter boxes, rather than just one, there should be a box for each cat, and a spare.
  • All litter boxes should be kept completely clean. Feces and clumps of urine-soaked litter should be removed daily and the litter changed completely once a week.
  • Block off the area being spray marked. The cat will usually return to the same spot periodically to 'renew' the fragrance, so denying access can help to eliminate the problem.
  • Use an enzyme cleaner to remove the spray. You may have to apply it several times to remove all the smell.
  • Neutering both toms and tabbies can help to stop spraying behavior.


Stress can also trigger spray marking, so address any issues that may be making your cat, or cats, nervous