Cats are naturally pretty clean "people", so when they don't do their business where they're supposed to, you know something's up. Why might your cat suddenly be "refusing" to use the litter box to do their business? We'll be taking at look at that in this answer. Because the subject matter is a bit out of my remit, though I do have two cats, I asked a vet friend what he thought. The list of possible answers is longer than you may think, and the reasons a cat goes outside the litter box has less to do with "refusal" than you may think.
- Your cat might be suffering from a medical problem. It may be something that makes getting into the litter box physically painful, or something that causes incontinence. Your cat may also be feeling so weak that making it to the litter box is a problem. This is why my vet friend advises anyone whose cat isn't doing their business in their litter tray anymore to have their furry friend checked out.
- Your cat might be in the midst of some kind of territorial identity crisis. Maybe you've got other cats who make the cat in question feel insecure around the litter box. Even if you don't, though, cats sometimes avoid litter boxes near windows where other cats are being territorial. (On a separate issue, note that "spraying", done for territorial reasons, is not the same as peeing! We're talking about cats not using their litter box here, but spraying also happens as the result of similar issues.) Territorial issues do not have to involve other cats — cats who pee on your bed after your boyfriend moves in or you've moved house are another example of an underlying identity crisis.
- Your cat may not like their litter box. Cats especially tend to dislike litter boxes with lids on them, as these make them feel they don't have an easy way to escape during a vulnerable time. A litter box that is too high-rimmed can be difficult to use for older and weaker cats, meanwhile. The placement of the litter box can also be a problem; cats tend to prefer to have some space to run in all directions around their boxes, while people tend to prefer to tuck litter boxes away into a corner. Some cats do refuse to use particular types of litter as well.
- On a similar note, the litter box may not be clean enough for your cat. Try cleaning it more often, and right after something is deposited into it if you can.
What Should I Do Now?
Take your cat to the vet to rule physical problems out first. If there aren't any, try adding a bunch of litter boxes to your home to give your cat more options — and especially in places where your cat has already peed, if possible. You may discover that the placement of the litter box simply wasn't right for your cat.
Also work on increasing the cat's self esteem by giving them plenty of space to roam; think vertically! Strategically placed bookshelves that allow your cat to get high up will do wonders for many felines. If you have a new baby or someone new moved into the house, also make especially sure that you spend quality time snuggling and playing with your cat.
Above all, don't get angry with your cat for peeing or even pooping in the "wrong" place — see their behavior as a sign that they have an issue they need help with, rather than something your cat is doing to spite you.
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