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HomeDear VetBabbleWhy is My Senior Cat Suddenly Refusing to Use the Litter Box?

Why is My Senior Cat Suddenly Refusing to Use the Litter Box?


Dear VetBabble: Why is My 11-Year-Old Cat Suddenly Eliminating Outside the Litter Box?

My 11-year-old neutered male cat has been pooping and peeing outside the litter box for about three weeks. He’s only doing this in one specific room every other day. I’m worried about his sudden change in toileting behavior. Could this be a sign of a medical issue? Should I take him to the vet for a checkup? – Concerned Cat Owner

Understanding Your Cat’s Toileting Behavior

It’s natural for pet owners to be concerned when their furry companions start exhibiting unusual behaviors, and a sudden change in litter box usage can certainly be worrisome. You’re not alone – many cat owners face this issue at some point.

An important first step is to rule out any medical issues that could be causing your cat’s toileting problems. Cats with medical issues such as urinary tract infections (UTIs), kidney stones, or kidney disease may eliminate outside the litter box. Sometimes, cats may struggle to urinate at all. We highly recommend taking your cat to the vet for a health check, where they can perform routine blood tests and a urinalysis to determine if there’s a medical reason for his behavior.

If a medical issue like a UTI is causing your cat’s toileting troubles, your vet will prescribe the appropriate antibiotics for treatment. This should help resolve the problem and restore your cat’s normal litter box habits.

Addressing Non-medical Causes

If your cat gets a clean bill of health, don’t worry – there are still plenty of ways to address his new toileting behavior. Here are some common non-medical reasons why your cat might stop using the litter box, as well as some potential solutions:

  • Litter box cleanliness: Cats are fastidious creatures and may stop using the litter box if it’s not clean. Make sure you’re scooping waste daily and cleaning the entire box with soap and water every one to two weeks.
  • Litter box location: A change in household circumstances or rearrangement of furniture can affect your cat’s litter box habits. Ensure the box is easily accessible, not too close to noisy appliances or areas with high foot traffic, and in a location where your cat feels safe and secure.
  • Type of litter: Cats may develop preferences for certain types or scents of litter. Consider testing different varieties (unscented, clumping, non-clumping, etc.) to see if your cat likes one more than another.
  • Stress or anxiety: Cats, like humans, can experience stress that leads to changes in their behavior. If you’ve recently welcomed a new pet into your home or experienced other significant changes, give your cat time to adjust. Provide a comfortable and safe space for him, complete with his favorite toys and treats.
  • Behavioral issues: In some cases, cats may develop bad habits that persist even after their initial triggers have been addressed. In these cases, you may need the help of a professional animal behaviorist to remedy the problem.

It’s also worth noting that cats often need more than one litter box, especially if there are multiple cats in the household. As a general rule, provide at least one more litter box than the number of cats in your home, and place them in different locations.


In conclusion, if you’re concerned about your cat’s sudden change in toileting behavior, it’s a good idea to schedule a visit to your veterinarian to rule out any underlying medical issues. If no health problems are discovered, explore the possible non-medical causes discussed above and work on finding a solution that restores your cat’s normal litter box habits. Don’t wait to begin addressing your cat’s behavior – the sooner you tackle the problem, the better the outcome for both you and your furry friend. For additional insights on how to tackle litter box issues, read ‘Why Won’t My Cat Use the Litter Tray?

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