Cat refuses to use his litter tray

by Christine

I have a chance of giving a home to a 7 year old neutered cat. Unfortunately, he refuses to use his litter tray.

I don't want him doing this. So unless I can find a way of correcting this problem, he won't be coming home with me.

My thoughts: I appreciate your willingness to adopt an adult cat, especially one with litter box problems. I'm sorry to hear he's having trouble.

I'm assuming a veterinarian found no physical or medical reason for his condition.

I'm also assuming he's completely refusing to use the litter box for both urination and defecation.

I don't know his background or current circumstances, but if it's a behavioral problem, sometimes a change of venue and a little TLC can do wonders for a cat.

For example, cats in a stressful situation, such as a shelter, often aren't able to show their true personalities. A frightened cat with a behavior problem can become an amazingly loving and well-adjusted family member if given the chance.

Is he, or was he, in a home where conditions aren't right for him? It's possible that getting him started off right with you will be just the thing he needs.

There are no guarantees, though, and you may not be able to get him to use the box. I'm afraid the only way to know is to try. If you're willing to try, here are some things you can do to improve his chances:

1. Prepare the house. When you first bring him into the house, set him up in a single, sunny room, where he has everything he needs. Provide food, water, toys, bedding, and a litter box placed far enough away from the food and water.

With only a small territory to defend, he'll have less to worry about than if you give him full access to the house right away.

It's also important to keep him separated from any other pets in the house, so the single room idea can serve a second purpose. This initial isolation period is a best practice for any cat coming into a new home, but especially one with issues.

2. Add Dr. Elsey's Ultra Litter Attractant to the litter. In some cases, this can encourage cats to use the box.

3. If he was an outdoor cat, adding some grass and a small amount of dirt may help attract him to the box.

4. To help him feel more calm and adjust to his new home, I would suggest Feliway or Bach's Rescue Remedy for Pets.

5. Keep him well exercised and give him lots of attention if he'll accept it.

In difficult cases, it may be necessary to work with a
cat behaviorist who can address the specifics.

I hope that helps and please let us know how things turn out.

P.S. I was writing a comment as a reply, but it became too long, so I decided to add it as a P.S.

If he normally goes outside instead of using the litter box inside the house, and he's allowed access to the outdoors, then nothing is going to attract him to the litter box inside.

There's no reason for him to use it if he can go outside.

A cat that usually goes outdoors instead of using a litter box, if given a choice, will likely choose to go outdoors. That's habit at work.

If instead, you cut off access to the outdoors during the retraining process, then the cat has no choice. The cat will have to go indoors, we hope in the litter box.

But let's say we cut off access to the outside, and we have problems. What do we do if the cat doesn't use the box indoors, but instead uses a rug, the floor, the furniture, etc.?

In this case, we can use confinement as part of the retraining process.

For example, if a cat ends up in a shelter in a cage with a litter box, will the cat use that box? Probably. This is one method of retraining that can work in extreme cases.

In many cases, however, we confine the cat to a single room, and it works the same way. If that doesn't work, you may need to shrink the area. A large cage can work as a starting point, much like those in shelters.

Once the cat is using the box on a regular basis, you can open the cage and allow your kitty access to the room. See how it goes. Eventually, you allow access to the rest of the house.

If there is a setback, you revert back to the cage again. Once the cat is using the box, you can (SLOWLY) move the box. You want as few changes as possible (cats HATE change), so you place the litter box next to the cage. See how it goes.

Then, gradually give the cat more freedom and set up a more normal living area. Slowly move (or add) litter boxes as appropriate. Dumb Friends League recommends moving litter boxes one inch per day.

"Put a litter box in the location where your cat has been eliminating. When she has consistently used this box for at least one month, you may gradually move it to a more convenient location at a rate of an inch per day."

If there is a setback, you revert back to the previous conditions. Baby steps.

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Aug 16, 2017
Cut off access to the outside
by: Kurt (Admin)

This comment ran way long, so please read my P.S. that I added to the post. Thanks!

This is worth repeating since so many people seem to skip this step... when re-homing a cat, a best practice is to confine the cat to a single room when the cat arrives.

It's also a best practice to keep an indoor/outdoor or outdoor cat confined to a new house for several weeks. Only then do you let the cat outside. This allows the cat to get used to the new territory before expanding it to include the outside. It can help prevent runaways.

I'm a firm believer in keeping cats indoors anyway. Not only can your cat be picked up by animal control, but there are too many dangers.

Where I am, there are cars, foxes, raccoons, coyotes, and of course, crazy people. Indoor cats tend to live a lot longer.

To allow safe and protected access to the outdoors, you can buy or build outdoor enclosures and catios.

I realize this doesn't fit with everyone's notion of how cats should live. I also realize that in some cases, it may not be possible to keep a cat inside on a permanent basis.

Aug 14, 2017
Litter tray problems
by: Anonymous

Just a follow up regarding the 7 yr old ragdoll I;m thinking about taking on. He is neutered and microchipped. His owner has tried all sorts of things to try and get him to use a tray. He goes outside most of the time. Even the idea of your regarding placing dirt and grass in the litter tray didn't work. Don't know your cat/dog laws there but, here in Queensland if your cat/dog is out after 6 pm or wandering anytime during the night. The Ranger will be on his way. There's always a complaint and next, you know you're up for a big fine. I'm worried that if I let him out and he doesn't return, [being a new area for him] it means he will have lost his way. This is my major worry.
His owner was saying he never goes outside other than to go relieve himself, then he's back inside. Again, any help would be appreciated, with thanks Christine.

Aug 14, 2017
litter tray no way
by: Christine

Thank you, Kurt for your prompt reply. I really don't anymore about the cat other than what I have already said in my email. I just don't want him put down. Thank you for the info'. I will keep you in the loop and let you know what's going on with him as soon as I know too.

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