Why has my cat stopped using the litter tray?

Find out what is behind your cat’s sudden change of behaviour…

One day, they are happily digging in the litter tray. The next, they’re nowhere to be seen and there’s a bad smell behind the sofa. It’s time to work out what’s wrong.

Rule out some common health conditions first.


Is it your cat’s health?

You’ll need to become a cat detective for this one. Pay special attention to your cat ­­- if they have decided they’d prefer to go outside, you can carry on as usual. But if they are not going at all, then it’s time to act.

It’s common for cats to hide a problem with their health. They’ll often suffer in silence, making it difficult to spot that something is wrong. Many reasons for a change with their litter tray are no cause for alarm, but you’ll want to rule out any cat health problems first. A trip to the vets will put your mind at ease.

If there does turn out to be something wrong, your vet might spot a common cat health problem such as a urinary tract infection, cystitis, constipation, or something else. Cats with these conditions may also be drowsy or have stopped eating and drinking. Kidney disease, meanwhile, may mean they urinate more.

Got the all-clear from the vet? Read on for more reasons they may have stopped using the litter tray.

Little one not so little anymore?


Tips for kittens

If your little one has outgrown their cat litter tray, they may find another place to go instead. It might be outside in the garden, or it could mean cat urine on your carpet.

While it’s best to start kittens off in a smaller litter tray, you’ll need to replace it as they grow. Otherwise, they’ll soon find somewhere else with enough space for them to move and turn freely. Aim for a litter tray that’s one-and-a-half times as long as your cat from nose to tail.

Big old cat sitting on elderly woman’s lap. Senior lady pets her blue russian kitty. Grandmother smiling & petting her mature domestic animal, wrinkled hands. Close up, portrait, old friends concept.

You can teach an old cat new tricks


Tips for older cats

 In our later years, we all need a little extra help with things that used to come easily. Just ask your older relatives!

As the years go by, your cat’s joints may stiffen due to arthritis and prevent them from climbing in and out of a tray with high sides. Their eyesight may not be what it once was. And they may not be able to jump up to a litter tray in a high place like they once could.

Help your older cat by making the litter tray more easily accessible. Choose one with lower sides that’s easier to climb into. Pop it in an easy-to-reach place. And show them where it is, so they’ll know how to get back into old habits.

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Has one of your other cats staked their claim on a shared litter tray?


Got company?

In homes with more than one cat, it’s essential to make sure everyone has enough space to go about their business in peace.

If one of your cats decides to become territorial over a shared tray, it’s no wonder that the others would go outside the litter tray. Cats sometimes need privacy just like us humans!

Every cat and home is different but, in general, we recommend one litter tray per cat, plus one spare. If you have three cats, that means four litter trays.

Place them in different areas of your home so that they won’t feel threatened or closed-in when they’re trying to go.

Has something happened at home to spook your cat?


What else is going on?

Your home is your cat’s kingdom. Their territory to roam, the place they feel safe. If something unexpected happens, there’s no telling how your cat will react.

There are lots of reasons your cat could be spooked:

– Children are visiting your home for the first time since you’ve had your cat

– Your friend has popped round for a coffee and brought their pet dog

– Fireworks or a thunderstorm shook the house

– A new cat in the neighbourhood isn’t getting on with your cat

– You are packing up to move house, or have just moved

– You’ve suddenly switched cat litters instead of making a gradual change

– Plus many more reasons.

There’s no single answer to helping your cat find their confidence again. Be patient, confident and kind to show kitty there’s nothing to worry about. Give them time and space if they need it, and don’t force them back into the litter tray. They will show you when they are ready.

In time, they’ll be feeling themselves again – and back to using the tray!

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