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I have a male, 5 month old kitten. I received him at 2 months old from a friend. When I brought him home he didn't use the litter box, but I realized that he didn't like the litter. Since then, I changed the litter, and he started using the box with no problem. Now, all of a sudden, he stopped using the litter box again. He now uses my dog's beds, blankets, pillows, clothing, anything fabric.

I clean out the box about twice a week, and change the litter about every 1-2 weeks. I use the Nature's Miracle pet cleaner and Arm and Hammer baking soda to try to remove the scent as best as possible.

I know that it's not like he can't make it to the box because I've seen him go up to the box, sniff it, then do his businesses a foot away. I do have a couple of ferrets who have yet to learn that they too need to use their own litter box, but the cat is not allowed around the ferrets, so I don't think he could have seen them.

I tried disciplining him, but this seems to do nothing. Also, every time he uses the litter box, whether on his own or with me having to correct him, I try to reward him. Would anyone know why he suddenly stopped using the litter box after three months of no problems? And what else should I do to try to correct this behavior?

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    I don't think you are cleaning the box frequently enough – Vahx May 1 '16 at 8:32
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If it's happening for more than a week, the first thing you should do is take him to a vet. There could be a myriad of problems that would cause inappropriate elimination (doing business in inappropriate places). If he gets a clean bill of health, that's another story.

First of all, disciplining a cat is a bit tricky because they usually don't associate punishment with what they did. For them it's not "I did a bad thing, so I git punished", it's "the human turned scary for no reason" which can sometimes morph into "when human sees me doing it, human gets scary", then the cat might stop doing it, but a lot more likely he'll find a way to do his thing where he thinks you won't see it.

There can be several non-health-related reasons a cat stops using a litter box. In a very generalised manner, he either (1) doesn't feel safe doing his business in the litter box, (2) doesn't feel safe in the house so he marks territory, (3) thinks his litter box stinks of something strange, (4) thinks his litter box is dirty, (5) he's going hormonal and is marking territory, or (6) doesn't like the feel of the litter under his feet.

Unless you changed your litter brand recently, we can disregard the last one, although keep it in mind if nothing else works.

  1. Does someone walk around him when he does his business? Is his litter box in a public place where someone often walks by? Do ferrets or the dog go anywhere near his litter box? Are there any loud sounds nearby? Can you remember a time when he was chased out of the box or heard a loud sound, got scared and ran away? Maybe something fell nearby? Just pay attention what happens when he goes to use the litter box, if he does at all.

  2. Same as the previous one, but about the whole house. Also, does he have his things around the house? Toys? Beds? A cat tree? How does he know it's his territory? Does he seem confident and at ease when he goes around the house or does he sneak in corners and hide a lot? Do the ferrets or the dog chase him, even playing?

  3. I'm not familiar with Nature's Miracle. Does it smell? Baking soda doesn't smell much, but if you don't wash it off properly, it might. Feline nose is a lot more sensitive than a human's, although not as much as a dog's.

  4. Twice a week seems a bit rare. Depends on the type of litter you're using, but you should clean out poop daily either way, and if you're using clumping litter, you should clean out the clumps at least daily, too, preferable twice a day.

  5. Is he neutered? If not, and if he's not in a breeding programme, you probably should do it. Aside from the inconvenience his hormonal behaviour will bring you (aggression, spraying and clawing things to mark territory, etc.), he'll be suffering himself if he doesn't get a female regularly. But consult your vet first. A kitten of this age is usually in the process of changing teeth, and it puts a bit of a strain on the body. If he's generally healthy and strong, it won't be a problem, but if there's anything wrong (or at least not completely right), you should wait a few months before he has all adult teeth.

Anyway, good luck! Post here when you have an update.

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  • Thank you very much for this. Although I'm still not 100% sure as too why he decided to stop using his litterbox in the first place, for some reason he began to use it again like nothing was wrong. I'm glad he is back to using the litterbox, but I am going to continue try to figure out what was wrong before to prevent this from happening again. – Aurora Beatrice Apr 19 '16 at 9:20
  • @AuroraBeatrice That's great! It happens sometimes. Just pay a bit more attention to what's happening around his litter box, but don't overstress yourself with it. – Kaworu Apr 19 '16 at 14:34
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First and foremost you should take him to the vet. Any change in elimination behavior could indicate an underlying medical problem.

Second, you might try keeping the box cleaner. I'm sure for a young kitten not much accumulates between changes, but cats are notoriously picky about the cleanliness of their litter. Some care, some don't. Your kitten is reaching an age when he will start to have stronger feelings about what he likes and doesn't like about his environment. You might also try buying an additional box or two and placing them throughout the house so he's never too far away from one.

Third, if he's still refusing to use the box, here's a method that I've used to train the more difficult of my cats: go buy one of those metal play pen gates

(like this one https://www.chewy.com/frisco-dog-exercise-pen-step-through/dp/125048?utm_source=google-product&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=hg&utm_content=Frisco&utm_term=&gclid=EAIaIQobChMImYargJDe2AIVg7bACh3R9wb_EAQYASABEgK0XvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds)

Make the pen small enough that only the litterbox and a SMALL cat bed fits, along with food and water bowls. You can also give your kitten some toys, etc. Basically, because he'll be forced to choose between soiling his living/eating area and the box, he'll use the box. You'll also need something to keep him from climbing out. In my experience, a 3 fold posterboard has worked well when weighed down by some books. He'll be furious but leave him in for a day or two. After that lock him in one room with his box but let him have the whole room. Then after a few days of that let him have the run of the house again. I hope this helps! ENU

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  • I like your idea about attempting to change a feline's behavior by restricting its environment. I've tried it myself, but it didn't seem to be working, and I fretted that this method might be considered unethical or abusive, so I stopped. It was refreshing to read that someone else has attempted the same thing (and still got 2 upvotes!). My only concern, for those who might attempt this method, is the proximity of food and water to the litter box. When possible, I like to keep a distance of a good 5-6 cat lengths away from litter box to food station. Just my 2 cents, FWIW. TY for your answer. – Kitten Rescuer in Training Jan 29 '18 at 0:46
  • Hi Kitten Rescuer In Training, I would agree that the proximity between the food/water and the litter box is less than ideal. However, this technique is supposed to be for a limited amount of time, two or three days preferably and certainly less than a week. Due to this and comparing this detriment to the detriment of having a cat who won't use the litter box, (financial concerns and possible relinquishment to a shelter etc) I would say that the less than ideal conditions are acceptable in these circumstances. – Emma Uttley Feb 19 '18 at 3:15
  • You sound like a responsible and knowledgeable pet owner, Emma. Hope my comment didn't make you feel otherwise. Sometimes, you've got to do what works (within reason, of course). – Kitten Rescuer in Training Mar 15 '18 at 1:36

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