Companion Connection

Questions Often Asked

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I hold that, the more helpless a creature, the more entitled it is to protection by man from the cruelty of man." -Mahatma Gandhi-

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Reasons Cats Stop Using the Litter Box (Revival Animal Health)



Cats who start to house-soil after having been reliably using their litter box may do so because of a litter box aversion, a surface or location preference, or to mark territory.† Determining the reason that you cat is house-soiling is the first step toward solving the problem.

 First, have the cat checked by your veterinarian; the cat may have a urinary tract infection.

 The most common cause of house-soiling in cats is an aversion to the box. Aversions develop for a variety of reasons. These include a dirty box (some cats are very particular about the cleanliness of their box), dissatisfaction with the type of box or litter, or having had a painful or frightening experience while in or near the box.

 Some cats develop a location or surface preference. This occurs when a cat finds a room or type of surface that he prefers to his box. Typical surface preferences include soft materials such as beds and carpets, or cool, smooth surfaces such as sinks and bathtubs.

 Cats who show a location preference will usually choose an area of the home that is quiet and protected or a spot where a litter box was previously kept.

 Finally, cats may urinate outside of their litter box to mark territory.† Spraying is the most common form of urine marking, and is most frequently seen in un-neutered male cats.† Cats may begin to urine mark after the introduction of a new cat or if there has been a change in their living situation or daily routine (i.e. an addition to the family).

Even well trained cats may occasionally stop using their litter box and develop a house-soiling problem.† If this problem should occur in your cat, it is important to first determine the underlying cause before attempting to stop the unwanted behavior.†


Things that may help:

 Cat Attract ---they make a litter and also some sprinkles that can be added to the current litter.

 Tin foil over the places they have marked may stop them from doing it again as cats donít like the sound when they step on foil or try to move it.

 Try adding a bird feeder outside the window to give the housecat some entertainment while you are gone to work.

 Feliway plug-ins: about 1 every 400 sq ft.† It releases momma cat pheromones that calm the kitties down.† This pheromone also comes in calming collars.†

Companion Connection Tip of the Week by Jerry Vinyard


Why wonít my cat use the litter box?


The number one reason that cat guardians turn in cats to the animal shelter, is the catís failure to use the litter box properly.

Cats are not born with a natural inclination to use a litter box. They must be trained. In feral colonies, the kittensí mom shows the kittens the appropriate place to relieve themselves within the first 3 to 4 weeks of life. The kittens will acclimate quickly to the idea of using that spot. If you are the new ďmommyĒ to a kitten or kittens, showing the kitten(s) to the litter box and encouraging its use becomes your responsibility.


Failing to do this leaves the selection of the bathroom location up to the cat. Unfortunately, the cat will quickly imprint on the texture and location of the chosen spot and return there when nature calls. The catís selection is seldom a good place for the rest of the family. If you are planning to get a kitten, make sure that someone in the family has accepted responsibility for this training.


If you are getting an older cat, assuming that the cat is already litter box trained, the cat will still need some orientation. Always introduce the cat to the new home by releasing him/her near the litter box. That will ensure that the cat will know where it is. If possible, use the same type of litter the cat has been using. The familiarity will speed the process.


Once the training is complete and the cat is consistently using the litter box, the cat will generally continue its use without problems. There are conditions that arise that may cause the cat to get off-target. Iíve listed a few of those conditions below:

Territory marking. Curiously, cats of both genders will mark their territory. Marking occurs more often in unaltered cats. The behavior may be difficult to arrest without having the cat fixed. Territory marking, with unaltered cats, is more of a hormonal issue than a training issue. A trip to the veterinarian may be called for to get hormone levels checked.

Cats can be very finicky about litter box cleanliness. Some cats will not use the litter box if any solid matter remains from previous trips. This behavior should be obvious from the beginning of your relationship and shouldnít begin as part of the catís mid-life crisis.

Cats may change their litter box behavior because of stress. If this is the case you should be able to determine that something has changed in the catís or your environment. Some things to look at:

A new companion animal or human is added to the family;

Redecorating or new flooring in the home;

The family goes on vacation and has a cat-sitter;

Having strangers working on/in your house or any continuously loud noises; and

Having guests in the house, especially rambunctious children (or rambunctious adults for that matter).

Has the cat been declawed?† Frequently, declawing causes so much pain that a cat will refuse to dig in the litter.† If it has been quite some time since the surgery, the cat could have bone particles or nail particles growing or imbedded in the toes that are causing pain.


The last thing to consider is illness. If there is not an obvious environmental change, then you should take the cat to the veterinarian for a checkup. Give the vet detailed information including when the behavior started, whether or not it is all the time, at specific times or random. How does the problem present itself? Is the cat spraying? Is the cat going to the litter box repeatedly? Does the cat yowl when attempting to urinate?


Some of the indicated illnesses may be serious enough to cause death, so consult your veterinarian immediately. For more information on some of the possible illnesses, see this website: