As cat parents, we’re used to finding something less-than-pleasant, like a hairball or a present from their latest mouse hunt, in unexpected places. Still, discovering that your cat is relieving themselves outside of the litter box and in a closet, on the floor, or anywhere else that’s not their litter box is less than ideal.
There are lots of reasons as to why your cat might be shy around the litter box or unwilling to relieve themselves there.
If this becomes a habit, here are a few things you can do to help your cat start using the litter box again and stop having accidents.
Make Sure It’s Not A Medical Issue
It’s important to make sure that the reason why your cat refuses to use the litter box isn’t a health-related one.
Here are the main medical conditions that may be causing your cat to be litter box-shy:
- Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
- Urinary crystals or bladder stones
- External infections like urethritis or vaginitis
- Pain from an unrelated problem, like arthritis, which can especially cause a difficult time using a tall litter box
If you suspect the reason your cat isn’t using their litter box is a medical issue, contact your veterinarian and schedule an appointment. This is especially true for male cats who are presenting UTI symptoms, as an infection can quickly become severe.
Other serious conditions, like kidney failure, cancer, or diabetes, can also be the reason your cat isn’t using the litter box. Again, it’s important to first have your vet examine your cat to eliminate any medical reasons for inappropriate elimination.
See If Your Cat Is Stressed Out
Has your cat’s litter box shyness coincided with any other big changes in your life?
Anything from a move, to a new member in the household, to a change in litter box location can be enough stress to have your cat relieving themselves in unwanted areas.
In order to curb this issue, make sure your cat has a safe, quiet space that they can retreat to and call their own.
Playing and scratching are also huge stress relievers, so it might be worth investing in a cat tree or fun new toys to help your cat chill out.
Find Out If There’s Tension With Another Pet In The House
Cats are territorial creatures. If you just introduced another cat — or any other animal — into the home, your cat could be eliminating outside of the litter box to mark their territory.
This can be literal, as in marking their favorite spot to nap on the couch, or it could be around the house near their human.
If you have more than one cat in the house, it’s crucial to have multiple litter boxes. This will help with the territorial issue, as each cat would have their “own” place to relieve themselves.
Also be sure to have multiple hangout spots for your cats, so they aren’t in conflict over the top of the cat tree with the great view of the bird feeder.
Remember That Some Cats Are Just Plain Picky
If there’s one thing cats enthusiasts already know, it’s that cats can be straight-up divas.
There are a host of reasons as to why your cat may not deem the litter box worthy of their perfect paws, some of which include:
- The litter smells off to them
- Their litter box isn’t the right size
- The litter box hasn’t been cleaned in a while
- They don’t like the litter box location
If your cat suddenly became litter box-shy, ask yourself if you’ve made any of these changes to the litter box situation. Be sure to monitor their activity and see if any revisions you made — like going back to the old litter brand — work or not.
Has your cat ever been shy about using the litter box? What did you do to help them start using the box again? Let us know in the comments below!