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Ask the Veterinarian/Cat does not use litter box


We have had our cat for about 4 years.  We received her as a kitten.  From the very beginning, the cat would not use the litter box.  Not sure if the original owners even tried training her. We have tried different types of litter, boxes, location, punishment.  She will usually poop next to the box, so it is not hard to clean up and she does usually pee in the box.  She just will not poop in the box.  She is now peeing on the carpet in various places, so it is becoming a much bigger problem.  We are willing to try to help her, but the frustration is getting pretty bad.  Any suggestions?  Thank you!!!

Cats are born with the instinct to use a litter box because in the wild, they will cover their "scat," as it's called, up with dirt to prevent animals that would prey on them from finding them.

In our homes the litter box becomes their "dirt" and they will use it out of that instinct. This problem started when she arrived at your house (if she was small as you said) due to something that either frightened her, or smelled bad to her, or that there was too much traffic near the litter box. Now you said that she pees in the box, or was, up till just recently. Not blaming you, just stating that this may have started from her being weaned from momma or trauma from leaving her momma. So many things could have started it.

Changing litters over and over in the box is actually detrimental to them using the box. They usually get fixated on one kind of litter and if you change it she will not want to use the box anymore.

Now I know this is a very frustrating problem. She has pretty much been "trained" as it were, by circumstances to defecate outside the box, but if she is now not using it to urinate, I would be worried about there being a physical problem with her. When they start to urinate in strange places or miss the box then often there is an underlying medical cause such as a urinary tract infection, bladder stones, etc.

If it's due to the litter being changed again, then switch back to the old litter.
If she is has a covered box, get rid of the cover. If the box is a normal sized litter box, get her a bigger one. Those types of changes sometimes can help a lot, as long as there is no medical reason.

So the first thing you want to do is have the vet take a look at her and do a urinalysis on her. Then, depending on the results, you might have to do some behavior modification.

So the first step is an examination and then try out some other boxes.
Here are some web sites with some helpful tips as well:

Please let me know how her examination goes. Hopefully you will find a way to end this frustration for all of you!  

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Jana Connell RVT, CVT


PLEASE READ BEFORE SUBMITTING TO ME: I am NOT a vet and do NOT diagnose diseases. That is only for a licensed Veterinarian to do. I will give you suggestions and steer you toward calling your vet for help. You can call the vet's office and talk to the technician there or the vet at times. Don't be afraid to call them! If you have a serious issue with your pet please post it to one of the veterinarians in here- I will tell you the same thing in my answer. IF your pet is injured or in an emergency situation, CALL YOUR VET- Do not wait and post in here. Just call the vet's office and get them in to see the vet right away. Critical treatment time is lost if you seek answers here when you should have your precious pet at the vets!! Don't sit at home waiting for an answer when your pet is critically ill or injured!! I can answer most questions about small animal and wildlife care as well as small animal nutrition. I can also answer questions about all phases of dental care for small animals. I DO NOT answer questions about birds (unless it is wildlife or songbirds) or HAMSTERS/GERBILS/CHINS/GUINEA PIGS/REPTILES/FROGS/RABBITS/PET BIRDS OF ANY KIND so please submit these questions to the appropriate sections. I, as well as other experts in here, do NOT do homework questions- that is for YOU to do! Please respect these rules for all of us. Thanks!


I have over 42 years experience in the field of veterinary medicine. I specialized in small animals and did wildlife rehab for over 25 years, mostly raptors, squirrels and opossums. I am a Small Animal Nutritional Consultant with 6 certificates from Hills Pet Foods, CNM and Purina. I also specialized in Small Animal Dentistry which is a field I truly love. I also Teach Veterinary Technology to working technicians who are studying to take their California Tests to become Licensed Technicians. They have to take both the VTNE (Veterinary Technician National Exam) and the California boards.

Audubon,World Wildlife Federation, American Society of Veterinary Dental Technicians.


Licensed with California and Oregon, RVT and CVT. Certified Veterinary Dental Technician Have over 1500 logged hours of Continuing Education Credits(that means I keep up to date!).

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Nominated for Expert of the Month for the last 5 years.

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