Why Do Cats Go Outside The Litter Box?

Cats are wonderful pets, but they can be quite particular about their litter box habits. If you’ve ever owned a cat, you’ve probably experienced the frustration of finding little surprises outside of the litter box. While it may seem like a simple problem, there are actually a variety of reasons why cats go outside the litter box. In this article, we’ll explore some of the most common causes and provide tips for how to address them to keep your cat happy and healthy.

From medical issues to behavioral problems, there are numerous factors that can contribute to a cat’s decision to avoid the litter box. Understanding these issues is key to finding a solution that works for both you and your furry friend. So, let’s dive in and explore the reasons why cats go outside the litter box and what you can do to help.

Cats may go outside the litter box due to several reasons, including medical issues, anxiety, or a dirty litter box. It’s crucial to identify the cause and address it accordingly. Provide a clean litter box, enough space, and playtime to keep your cat happy and healthy. Consult with a veterinarian if the problem persists.

Why Do Cats Go Outside the Litter Box?

Cats are known for their cleanliness and are often considered low-maintenance pets. However, one of the most common issues cat owners face is when their furry friends refuse to use the litter box. Not only can this be frustrating for owners, but it can also cause health problems for the cat and damage to the home. In this article, we’ll explore the reasons why cats go outside the litter box and what you can do about it.

1. Medical Issues

Sometimes, a cat that is not using the litter box may be experiencing a medical problem. Urinary tract infections, bladder stones, and other conditions can cause discomfort when urinating, making the litter box unappealing. Additionally, older cats may have arthritis or other mobility issues that make it difficult for them to enter and exit the litter box.

If you suspect that your cat’s litter box issue may be related to a medical condition, it’s important to take them to the vet for a checkup. Once the issue is resolved, the litter box issue may be resolved as well.

2. Litter Box Type and Location

Cats can be picky about their litter box preferences. The type of litter, the size of the box, and the location can all play a role in whether or not a cat is willing to use it. Some cats prefer open litter boxes while others prefer ones with lids. Some cats prefer clumping litter while others prefer non-clumping.

The location of the litter box is also important. If the box is in a noisy or high-traffic area, the cat may be hesitant to use it. Additionally, if the litter box is too close to their food or water, the cat may refuse to use it.

3. Dirty Litter Box

Cats are known for their cleanliness, and a dirty litter box can be a huge turnoff for them. If the box is not cleaned regularly, the cat may refuse to use it and find other places to go. It’s important to scoop the litter box at least once a day and completely change the litter every week.

4. Stress and Anxiety

Cats can be sensitive creatures and may experience stress and anxiety for a variety of reasons. Changes in the household such as a move, new pets, or new family members can all cause stress for the cat. Additionally, cats may become stressed if their environment is not enriched enough, causing them to act out by going outside the litter box.

If you suspect that stress or anxiety may be contributing to your cat’s litter box issues, try to identify the source of the stress and work to alleviate it. Providing plenty of toys, scratching posts, and cat trees can also help to enrich their environment and reduce stress.

5. Territorial Marking

Cats are territorial creatures and may use urine to mark their territory. If a cat feels threatened or is trying to establish dominance over another cat, they may go outside the litter box to mark their territory. Additionally, if a cat is not spayed or neutered, they may mark their territory by spraying urine.

If you suspect that your cat is marking their territory, it’s important to have them spayed or neutered. Additionally, providing plenty of vertical space and hiding places can help to reduce territorial disputes between cats.

6. Old Age

As cats age, they may experience a decline in their physical and cognitive abilities. This can make it difficult for them to use the litter box, causing accidents around the house. Additionally, older cats may become less able to control their bladder and bowels, making accidents more frequent.

If your older cat is having litter box issues, consider providing them with an extra litter box in a convenient location. Additionally, providing them with soft bedding and easy access to food and water can help to make their golden years more comfortable.

7. Behavioral Issues

In some cases, litter box issues may be related to behavioral issues. Cats may be reluctant to use the litter box if they have had a negative experience in the past, such as being startled while using the box. Additionally, if a cat has a history of being punished for going outside the litter box, they may avoid using it altogether.

To help your cat overcome behavioral issues related to the litter box, try providing positive reinforcement when they use the box correctly. Additionally, providing a quiet and comfortable environment around the litter box can help to reduce anxiety and encourage use.

8. Vs. Using the Outdoors

Some cats may prefer to go outside rather than using the litter box. This may be due to their natural instincts to eliminate outside or to their dislike of being confined indoors. However, allowing your cat to go outside unsupervised can be dangerous for them and for the wildlife in your area.

To help your cat adjust to using the litter box, try providing them with a designated outdoor space such as a catio or enclosed porch. Additionally, providing plenty of playtime and exercise indoors can help to reduce their desire to go outside.

9. Benefits of Using the Litter Box

There are many benefits to ensuring that your cat uses the litter box consistently. Not only does it help to keep your home clean and odor-free, but it can also help to prevent health problems for your cat. Additionally, using the litter box consistently can help to reduce stress and anxiety for your cat by providing them with a consistent and safe place to eliminate.

10. Conclusion

In conclusion, cats may go outside the litter box for a variety of reasons. By identifying the underlying cause, you can take steps to help your cat overcome their litter box issues and ensure that they are happy and healthy. Remember to provide a clean and comfortable litter box, enrich your cat’s environment, and seek medical attention if necessary. With patience and persistence, you can help your cat become a litter box pro.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the reasons why cats go outside the litter box?

Cats may go outside the litter box for various reasons. One possible reason is that the litter box may not be clean enough for them. Cats are known to be clean animals, and they may refuse to use a dirty litter box. Another possible reason is that the litter box may be too small for the cat. If the cat feels cramped inside the box, they may choose to go outside of it instead.

Another reason why cats may go outside the litter box is that they may have a medical condition. For instance, cats with urinary tract infections may experience discomfort when using the litter box, and they may associate the pain with the box itself. In this case, it is important to take the cat to the vet to get treated as soon as possible.

How can I prevent my cat from going outside the litter box?

To prevent your cat from going outside the litter box, you should ensure that the box is clean and accessible at all times. This means scooping out the waste regularly and refilling the litter box with fresh litter. You should also make sure that the litter box is large enough for your cat to move around in comfortably.

If your cat is still going outside the litter box despite your best efforts, you may want to consider changing the type of litter you use. Some cats may prefer a certain texture or scent, so experimenting with different types of litter may help. Additionally, you may want to try moving the litter box to a different location, as cats may avoid using a box that is in a noisy or high-traffic area.

Is it normal for cats to go outside the litter box?

No, it is not normal for cats to go outside the litter box. Cats are naturally clean animals that prefer to use a designated area for elimination. If your cat is consistently going outside the litter box, it may be a sign of an underlying issue, such as a medical problem or behavioral issue.

You should observe your cat’s behavior and take note of any changes in their routine or habits. If you notice anything unusual, you should consult with your vet to rule out any medical issues. If the issue is behavioral, your vet may refer you to a cat behaviorist who can help you address the problem.

What should I do if my cat goes outside the litter box?

If your cat goes outside the litter box, the first thing you should do is clean up the mess as soon as possible. This will help prevent any odors or stains from setting in and will discourage your cat from returning to the same spot.

Next, you should observe your cat’s behavior and try to identify the reason behind their behavior. If the issue is due to a dirty litter box or a small box, you can make the necessary adjustments to the litter box. If the issue is due to a medical problem, you should take your cat to the vet for treatment.

Finally, you should be patient and persistent in your efforts to address the problem. It may take some time and effort to fix the issue, but with the right approach, you can help your cat return to using the litter box regularly.

Can stress cause cats to go outside the litter box?

Yes, stress can be a factor in causing cats to go outside the litter box. Cats are sensitive animals that can be easily stressed by changes in their environment or routine. For instance, moving to a new home, the addition of a new pet or family member, or changes in their feeding schedule can all cause stress in cats.

If you suspect that stress is causing your cat to go outside the litter box, you should try to identify the source of the stress and make changes to reduce it. This may involve offering your cat more attention and affection, providing them with a comfortable and secure space to retreat to, or using calming pheromone sprays or diffusers. You may also want to consult with your vet or a cat behaviorist for additional guidance.

Why Does My Cat Go Outside The Litter Box? (7 Possible Reasons)


In conclusion, there are several reasons why cats may go outside the litter box. It could be due to medical issues, behavioral problems, or even an unclean litter box. As a responsible pet owner, it’s important to identify the underlying cause and take appropriate measures to address it.

Regular visits to the vet can help detect any medical issues that may be causing your cat to avoid the litter box. On the other hand, addressing behavioral issues may require a bit more effort. You may need to train your cat to use the litter box properly or provide them with a more suitable environment.

Maintaining a clean litter box is also crucial in preventing your cat from going outside the box. Make sure to scoop out the litter daily and replace the litter weekly to keep it fresh and clean.

In short, understanding why cats go outside the litter box and taking steps to address the issue can go a long way in ensuring a happy and healthy feline friend. So, keep an eye out for any signs of trouble and take action if necessary.