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Why won’t my cat use the litter tray?

Here we look at the reasons why your cat won’t use their litter tray and what you can do.

If your cat has started pooing and weeing around the home, you might be wondering why your cat won’t use the litter tray. Perhaps they’re no longer going outside or avoiding their tray altogether. Here we look at the reasons why your cat won’t use their litter tray and what you can do.

See your vet first

If you notice any changes in your cat’s behaviour or toileting patterns, arrange to see your vet so they can give a thorough check and make sure your cat is healthy.

Reasons why your cat may be avoiding their litter tray

If your cat is avoiding using their litter tray or only using it on occasion, here are a few things to check.

  • Is the litter tray clean? Make sure you regularly clean your cat’s litter tray between use. Many cats don’t like to use the same tray twice. If you have more than one cat, it’s best to provide one tray per cat and a spare. Place these in different areas of the home. This gives them greater choice of where to go to the toilet and a bit of privacy.
  • Where is the tray? The best place for your cat’s litter tray is in a quiet area of the home where your cat can easily get to it. Cats can be put off if they have to walk through high traffic areas of the house or past other pets.
  • Is the litter tray big enough? Make sure the litter tray is big enough for your cat to stand up, turn around and dig in.
  • Do you use scented litter? Avoid all types of scented litter or litter tray liners. Your cat is likely to avoid their tray as they can be put off by strong smells. Tray liners can disturb your cat while they’re using their litter tray because their claws can get caught on them.
  • Have you changed their litter recently? Cats prefer certain types of litter over others. A sudden change in litter might cause them to avoid using their tray. Sometimes it’s worth switching things up, but make sure you slowly wean them off their regular litter. Mix the new litter with their old type to begin with and then reduce the amount of the old litter.

Look out for certain behaviours

Sometimes cats will spray urine over vertical surfaces, known as ‘spraying’ or wee in several areas of the home known as squat marking. Other times, you might see your cat pooing in the middle of the garden and this is called middening.

These are all examples of scent marking behaviours. It’s a natural way for cats to protect their territory but they might also do this if they’re stressed or overwhelmed by changes in the home.  You might notice your cat marking their territory in doorways, windows, areas that smell strongly of their owner and high up spaces.

There are certain things that can trigger this behaviour so it’s important to identify the cause before helping your cat control their behaviour:

  • Not getting along with other pets in the home
  • Neighbouring pets
  • Children or a new arrival in the home
  • Building work in the home or sounds nearby
  • Changes in the home environment or owners’ routine
  • Recent home-vet visit
  • Guests in the home

Cats use their scent to help them feel content and relaxed as well as send messages to other animals. If they are feeling unsettled or threatened, they will do whatever they can to help themselves feel better.

Changing your environment

By making a few simple changes to your home will help your cat to feel more settled in their environment. Try a few of these tips below and see if it helps solve your cat’s toileting issues.

  • Provide more hiding places and perches in high up areas. This will allow your cat to relax away from visitors and other pets if they wish to.
  • By simply moving your coffee table to the centre of the room will create separate pathways for your pet to use. This will allow them to stay hidden and comfortable. You can do this in the garden by placing flower pots and garden furniture around. This will give your cat areas to perch and hide.
  • Strategically place scratching posts and mats in areas such as doorways. This will allow them to scent mark in a different way. Just make sure all posts are sturdy and not going to wobble. Here are some things you can do about your cat’s scratching.
  • Try using Feliway or Pet Remedy. Both products are designed to help make your cat feel more relaxed and familiar with their environment.

Haven’t found what you’re looking for?

If you need help and support with your cat, or want to know more about their behaviour, give us a call and arrange to speak to one of our dedicated behaviour and training specialists.

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