Common Reasons Why a Cat Might Refuse to Use a Litter Tray

Common Reasons Why a Cat Might Refuse to Use a Litter Tray

Cats can be funny creatures, normally they like a routine and are pretty set in their ways. However, there are times when they might act a little oddly which could be a sign of stress, an illness or maybe they are just beginning to go down with something. A change in their behaviour always merits a trip to the vet to find out if something nasty is going on. The earlier a condition is caught, diagnosed and treated, the better chances your cat has of making a quick and full recovery.

One thing that cats often do which is out of the normal, is to refuse to use their litter trays and there could be a medical reason why this is so. Below are a few reasons why your cat might suddenly have started what could be an unwanted behavioural problem or medical reason:

Behavioural Problems

One reason why a cat will refuse to use a litter tray is because it is dirty. Cats are notoriously fastidious creatures and they like to keep things clean. As such they will refuse to use a litter tray that has not be cleaned out as regularly as it should have been.

Cats don't like to share litter trays. If you have more than one cat and they use an indoor litter tray, then make sure each cat has their own box – the rule of thumb is there should be a litter tray per cat. It is also a very good idea to have a spare one set up.

Regularly scooping out a litter tray and changing the litter as soon as it needs doing should help prevent this type of behaviour. But there are other reasons why a cat might decide they don't want to use a tray which are shown below:

  • Have you placed the litter tray where a cat feels comfortable using it? Cats like privacy so if their tray is placed in a room with lots of traffic and goings on, they might decide not use it. Some cats like enclosed litter trays so it could be worth investing in one. However, other cats hate being confined so you need to get to know your cat and purchase the right type of litter tray for them. If your budget allows, it is a good idea to have both and see how things go
  • It is never a good idea to place a cat's litter tray close to where they normally eat. Cats hate having to go use their trays where they have their food and water bowls
  • Your cat might not like the type or brand of litter you have put in their trays – which means you need to try out a few brands so you can see which suits your pet the best
  • One of the major reasons why cats refuse to use their trays and start weeing everywhere can be put down to stress. There are many factors that contribute to a cat being stressed out which includes having recently moved home, a new pet has been introduced to the household, a new baby, a neighbours cat spending time in your garden. You need to help your cat get over certain stresses and be very patient with them or you might just make matters worse. However, some cats after having been stressed out will continue to urinate and make messes around the house and not use their litter trays which can be a real problem. You might need to re-train your cat and get advice from your vet on how to go about it.
  • If you have recently trimmed your cats claws, it can lead to them refusing to use their litter trays. The reason being their claws are tender and when they scratch at the litter it hurts them causing some pain and discomfort. If this is the case with your cat, try changing the litter to a softer brand until their claws are less sore.

Medical Reasons Why a Cat Might Refuse to Use their Litter Trays

There are several medical reasons why cats might suddenly refuse to use their trays which include the following:

  • Cystitis which is a painful condition where the bladder becomes inflamed. The condition could be the start of a secondary illness called urolithiasis commonly known as stones. Another cause for the condition could be a bacterial infection
  • Urolithiasis is a condition where stones form in the cat's urinary tract and this causes a lot of irritation which then leads to a secondary infection. Your cat would need to see a vet to find out what is causing the stones or uroliths to form and then treat the cat accordingly
  • Megacolon is another painful condition where the colon is affected so it cannot contract as it should do. The condition is associated with constipation or another condition known as obstipation. Both conditions can be congenital or acquired. An incorrect diet is often the cause although your cat would need to see the vet for a correct diagnosis to be made followed by the right veterinary treatment.


Cats are creatures of habit and like to have a set routine so when they suddenly won't use a litter tray, you can be sure there is something wrong with them or their environment. If it is a behavioural problem you should be able to find out the cause and rectify it. However, if it is a medical condition, you would need to take your cat to the vet for them to diagnose what is wrong and then treat your cat accordingly.



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