Cat will not use new automatic litter box

by Anonymous

My girlfriend's cat has grown up with pellet litter. Fast forward three years later, and we decided to change litter to a new sand based kind, with an automated function (so that the litter stays clean while we travel abroad).

The oldest cat uses the new litter. The youngest has started to use it (she peed on the carpet instead of the litter, most likely because she also was trained with pellets).

However, our middle cat did not want to start using the new litter.

I did as instructed and put the old litter box (with pellets inside) next to the new one, and made sure to not clean it.

But no matter how much poop was overflowing, he still ONLY wanted to use the old litter, even though everyone else was using the new.

He would climb in there and scratch the side of the litter to try and make me clean it. Then a week later of trying to get him use the new litter, I placed the litter box in a closet so he couldn't get to it, hoping that would force him to use the new litter.

Four days went on, poop was no where to be seen, so we thought that he was using the new litter, so we decided to throw away the old one. Why keep the old one if the cats are using the new, right?

The only problem is, one day later, he started pooping and peeing on the carpet.

I can gently scoop him and place him in the new litter, and he will bolt out.

He will walk to the closet where the old litter was stationed, and scratch the closet door.

He does NOT want to use the new litter, for whatever reason. And apparently, he held his poop in for almost a week to deceive us.

I am at my wit's end. I'm starting to feel sick of the pee and poop smell, and we are tired of cleaning up after him.

Please, what do we do?

My thoughts: I'm sorry to hear your cat is so stressed with the litter and box switch. The idea behind side-by-side litter boxes is to allow the cats to choose which one they prefer.

If the old box is dirty (or removed), the cat is forced to either use the new box, or find another location to poop or pee.

Or, as you've seen, they're forced to hold it until they just can't hold it anymore.

Keep in mind you're making two changes here. Not only are you changing litter boxes, but you're changing litter types. Since cats hate change, it's usually best to make changes slowly.

Making slower changes eases the stress on the cat a bit. It also allows you to better understand what the problems are, if any.

In this case, that means making only one change at a time... litter first,
then box.

With each change, we give the kitties a choice. It's a test to see if they'll adapt.

What happens if you do the following?

1. Get a new litter box that is identical to your old box and add the new, sand-like clumping litter to it.

2. Place the two boxes side-by-side, old (with pellets) and new, keeping the old box in the exact same spot it's always been in. If you move it, you're adding a location change, too, which throws a monkey wrench into the whole thing.

3. Keep both boxes ridiculously clean.

Since you threw away the old box, you'll need to get two new boxes identical to the old one for this test. That fouls up the test a little because we've got two new boxes, but it will have to do.

Once all the cats are using the new litter type regularly for some time with no accidents and no problems, then you can slowly change the old box to the new litter type.

At that point, your cats are fully on board with using the new, clumping litter. This process could take up to several weeks.

Once you've gotten past that hurdle and the cats are good with the new litter, you're ready for the next side-by-side test.

You know what I'm going to say, right?

Replace one of the boxes with the new automatic litter box and again, let the cats choose. Keep the old box clean. You now have a fair test of whether or not the cats will use the automatic box.

Several things to note:

1. There are pros and cons to using automatic litter boxes. Some cats don't like them and refuse to use them. This applies to litter types, too.

2. Some cats develop a preference for peeing in one box and pooping in another. Providing two clean boxes at all times keeps problems related to this preference to a minimum.

3. The one-plus-one rule. The recommended number of litter boxes is one box for each cat, plus one extra. For two cats, you should have three boxes. For three cats, four is the magic number, and so on.

Any time you make changes, there's a risk. When I tested the cheapest cat litter I could find, I knew there was a risk that switching litters up on Jazzy might cause him to stop using the box. Luckily, he's pretty flexible on things like that and hasn't had a problem.

If you're going to be away from the cats for any length of time, I'm assuming someone must be taking care of the cats. Even automatic boxes need to be checked on and cleaned.

If it's a friend and they won't clean the litter boxes, I'd suggest getting a cat sitter and having them tend to the litter boxes daily.

I hope that helps, and please let us know how it goes.

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Nov 26, 2018
by: Ellyb

Hi, I agree with everything that Kurt said. Some cats just do not like the automatic litter boxes. If it has a motor noise they may run from it. Different litters are also a problem for some cats. Some cats have very sensitive paws and certain litters hurt their feet. If a cat has (Heaven forbid), been declawed this would be even more likely to be a problem.

When my family and I traveled, I usually found a responsible teen in the neighborhood to feed, play with and clean litter while we were gone. They had our phone number in case of problems. I always knew their parents well and they made sure their teen didn't forget. My one teen was at our house most of the time and we knew him well. Do you have any family who could do this for you? I never had a problem. Most high schools in our area require kids to get Community Service Hours and taking care of an animal is often a fum thing for them to do.

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