Litter Training Problems

Sometimes, cats stop using the litter tray and instead leave little surprises elsewhere. This is upsetting for you if they have previously been litter trained and this is a new behaviour. It is necessary to investigate possible reasons for the change in behaviour.

Why Have They Stopped?

If your cat used to be happy to use their litter tray but has recently begun toileting elsewhere, you need to find out why they are uncomfortable about using it.

  • The first thing to do is to rule out any health problems – cats can be susceptible to urinary tract infections and other diseases, arthritis may make it difficult to climb into the tray. Get a full vet check before you do anything else.
  • If your cat is in good health, then consider the possibility that she had a fright in the litter tray. Cats can be very sensitive. If another cat attacked her or something startled her whilst she was using it, she may make a permanent association.
  • Some cats develop a preference for certain surfaces or litters – they may like it more or less absorbent, a certain depth or a certain texture. Changing the litter from paper to crystal for example, can be enough for the cat to mount a protest and stop using the tray.
  • Stress is a very common factor – things that may seem mild to you can deeply upset a cat, such as new pets, lots of guests, or even rearranging the furniture.
  • If you have multiple cats in your house, their social interactions can change over time. One cat may guard the litter tray from the other, or start to bully them when they try to use it.

What To Do About It

There are many solutions to a cat that is toileting outside the litter tray. Unless you are sure of the reason they have stopped, it is best to try all of them.

  • Place litter trays in several locations around the house. If they have developed a fear of a location, one cat is guarding that spot or they need it in a quieter area, this will help.
  • Have different litter types in multiple trays. If you have the space, have several litter trays in each spot with different litters, and see which one they prefer to use. You can then cut back on the number of trays later.
  • Make sure you clean them regularly. Cats will often stop using the tray, if it is dirty. When they go on the rug, it is cleaned immediately and thoroughly – no wonder they like to go there again.
  • Remove any hood or liners that you may have changed, that your cat may be uncomfortable with.
  • If there is a place that she is eliminating regularly, put a litter tray over that spot. If that’s not possible, either make it her food and water spot, or place something there to discourage her for a while such as upside down carpet runners or double sided tape.
  • If you suspect your cat is experiencing stress, try using a pheromone calming spray and minimise any change in the household for the next few months.