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Behaviour focus: Why is my cat not using the litter tray?

In this week’s behaviour focus post, Cats Protection Behaviour Manager Nicky Trevorrow explains why your cat may not use their litter tray and what you can do about it.

woman with blonde hair in Cats Protection t-shirt

Behaviour Manager Nicky Trevorrow


Why does my cat poo/wee on the furnishings in my house rather than in their litter tray?

This is the most common behaviour problem that causes owners to seek help. Understandably, it’s frustrating for the owners as it is not nice to clean up. Interestingly though, many owners put up with this behaviour for months or even years sometimes. The most important thing to know is that professional help is available and the sooner you seek advice from a qualified professional, the better!

Why has my cat stopped using the litter tray?

The first port of call is always to take the cat to the vets for a full health check. It’s important to mention all behaviour changes in the cat, even if you think it is not relevant to the toileting issue. For example, has your cat been slow to get up after a period of lying down, or not been jumping onto the windowsill recently? For all behavioural issues, it is vital to rule out medical problems that could be the underlying cause.

Once the vet has ruled out medical reasons, then there are a number of litter tray factors to look at. Check out the following check list:

Review the type of litter

Check the depth of the litter

Keep the litter tray clean

Review the type of litter trays you have

Ensure your cat has privacy

Consider the litter tray's location

Do you have enough litter trays?

Even if your cat has outside access, always provide litter trays inside. Some cats can feel safer using a tray in the house – there could be neighbourhood cats that intimidate your cat. Understandably, many cats don’t like to go out when it’s bad weather, or if the toileting site is frozen over in winter and it’s difficult to dig.

This video explains more about house soiling behaviour:

If you have all these measures in place and the problem persists, it is worth getting a referral to a qualified behaviourist such as a member of the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors to help identify the causes.

For more information, visit our cat toileting page.

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