Cat Owner 101: Reasons Why Cats Avoid The Litter Box

As cat owners, we often do not put a ton of thought into our cats’ litter boxes. They poop, we scoop, end of story. But really, there’s so much more to it than that. It’s true that cleaning the litter box is a fact of life for anyone who has an exclusively indoor cat. But if your cat is going outside of the litter box, this quickly presents an issue—not to mention a smelly one, too.

Your cat choosing to go outside of their litter box can happen for a few reasons. Let’s break them down for you to help grant you powerful insight into the feline mind and to get them the help that they need sooner.

For starters, cats are not animals that hold grudges are do things out of spite. Sure, they’re opportunists, and if you leave a can of open tuna on the counter while you run to the restroom they’re likely going to jump on the counter to get it. But if your cat is choosing to go outside of the litter box know that this isn’t a choice that they want to make. They were forced to make this choice because it seemed like the only reasonable option to them at that time.

That aside, let’s dive in so your cat can get the help they need sooner and you don’t have to clean cat urine off the floor anymore.

Upset tummy

Cats are as intelligent as they are clean. They aren’t about to go make a mess on purpose, and if your cat is experiencing symptoms of upset stomach or diarrhea, this can equal bathroom mishaps. If you’ve recently switched foods or started them on a new medication this might be the reason for this. A little plain pureed pumpkin can do wonders for an upset tummy, but if diarrhea persists then it’s crucial that you take them in to see their vet so they do not become dehydrated.

I’m in pain

It is very well possible that your cat will intentionally avoid using the litter box if they begin to associate urinating with pain. Just as in humans, UTIs and kidney disease are quite painful. The difference is, your cat cannot speak to you in meow and tell you it’s burning when they pee. Listen carefully for cues from your poor kitty. A cat that avoids the litter box might cry out from pain and frustration.

Another thing you might notice is that your cat becomes increasingly thirsty due to painful medical conditions (such as those relating to the kidney, liver, or thyroid). Or they could even avoid drinking water as a way to prevent themselves from urinating as much as possible. Either way, this is an issue that requires immediate medical conditions. If caught early enough, this greatly reduces your cat’s risk of conditions advancing to something much worse.

According to, they assure cat owners that issues such as inflammatory bowel disease, constipation, diarrhea, or urinary tract infections will abate with medication or treatment. Therefore if your cat is experiencing any of these medical concerns, things should go back to normal once they start treatment and their discomfort eases.

I’m clean, so clean that darn thing

As we stated above, cats are notorious for being clean freaks. In fact, they often groom themselves to wipe your scent off after you pet them. Do not think for one second that you can skip a day on cleaning your cat’s litter box and they won’t take notice. I know that we said cats are not spiteful creatures but remember that cleanliness is very high on their list of priorities. Think about it like this: would you rather go in a clean and tidy restroom or a portable toilet covered in god knows what? We will just leave that one as a given.

I don’t like change

Cats are not fond of change. And when they have a say so, the change is on their terms. Have you recently switched litter on them? What above a move? Perhaps you’ve acquired a new kitty to add to your home. Whatever the change may be, remember this was not on your feline’s terms. It is a proven fact that cats will go outside of the litter box to protest the change. And this is not of spite, remember? This is simply because they are scared, confused, or nervous. This can be especially true if your rescue/adopted kitty had a rough start in life. They don’t know that the change might be a good thing, and they react driven by their own fears. Assure your cat that you love them and make an extra effort to make them feel special. And above all, practice patience.

It’s a fact of life for any cat owner and a chore that we aren’t exactly thrilled with. But your cat’s litter box, and what happens in or outside of it, is a direct window into their health. If you are having issues with your cat going outside of the litter box, then it’s important to pinpoint the issue so that your cat doesn’t have to suffer in silence. Please share this with other cat owners to help spread awareness!


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