14 min

What To Do When Your New Kitten Isn't Using The Litter Box

If your new kitten is not using the litter box, you might be unsure of what you can do to help them. Read on to learn more about what to do in this instance.

Bridget Reed

Updated December 01, 2022 • Published October 27, 2021

Share to

What To Do When Your New Kitten Isn't Using The Litter Box

While having a new kitten is exciting in plenty of ways, the reality is that training them is quite the opposite. If you properly train your kitten when they are young, you can rest assured that they will have good habits throughout their life. The effort you invest in training them upfront will prove well worth it. 

One of the most important things your young kitten will learn how to do is successfully use the litter box. While it’s true that most kittens have an understanding of how to do this on their own, they could use a refresher on litter box training. You’ll want to be sure that you take steps to set them up for success.

Sometimes, that’s why your new kitten is not using their litter box. Making a few simple tweaks can make a sizable difference and allow your kitten to learn how to successfully use the litter box. 

Today, you will learn everything that you need to know about helping a new kitten that is struggling to use their litter box. The first thing that will be addressed is why your kitten is refusing to defecate and urinate in their litter box.

After that is discussed, you will learn more about how you can help your kitten use their litter box. Finally, you will get information about when you should take your cat to the vet for this reason

Why won’t my kitten use their litter box?

If your kitten will not use their litter box, the key to fixing the problem is getting to the bottom of why they are reluctant to use this. There could be a combination of reasons that are causing hesitancy, or there could be one main reason. 

It’s your job as your kitten’s owner to help your kitten become more comfortable with their litter box. Luckily, there are some simple steps you can do to help with your cat's litter box problems. 

Read on to learn more about some common reasons that kittens will not use litter boxes. 

It’s hard to access

Sometimes, the location is to blame for your cat’s reluctance to use their litter box. If the litter box is in a place that is tricky to access, this could be why there is some difficulty. To fix this, you can try to put their litter box in a more accessible place.  

You’ll want to select somewhere that doesn’t have too much foot traffic, as you want your pet to feel comfortable. However, if it is too far out of their way, this could also be an issue. Alternatively, you can give your cat several litter boxes so they can use the one they are closest to. 

It’s uncomfortable or unclean

Sometimes cats do not like using litter boxes that have been urinated or defecated in. Be sure to scoop your cat’s litter box often so that it is not dirty or messy. 

Alternatively, if you have a multi-cat household, another cat could possibly be using that litter box and dirtying it for the new kitten. You will also want to make sure this is not happening: clean litter boxes are key.

Cats also do not enjoy foul odors, so if there’s any scent of that in your cat’s litter box, they will likely stay away from it. This could lead to inappropriate elimination elsewhere. 

Take note that if you are pregnant or thinking of conceiving, there is a potential risk associated with Toxoplasma and cleaning litter boxes

You’re using new litter

Sometimes, cats have a preference about what type of litter goes in their litter box. If your cat is comfortable with one sort of brand of litter and you recently switched to a different one, they might have some discomfort with the new litter. 

Your kitten is stressed

Unfortunately, sometimes cats struggling with elimination in the wrong place is a sign that they are experiencing stress. Cats do not like it when their litter box is in a place where they can be startled when they are doing their business. 

Therefore, if your cat is not using their litter box, it could be because they had an experience similar to this and are stressed it is going to occur again. This is why you should select a location that offers your kitten privacy and quiet — but is not too far out of the way that it’s inaccessible. 

There’s conflict between your cats

Another reason why your kitten might not be using their litter box is because there is a conflict between them and another cat that is in your household. Maybe the other more senior cats attempt to terrorize your young kitten when they are using the litter box. This could lead your new kitten to be reluctant to use the litter box. 

Your kitten has a medical problem

Sometimes, the fact that your new kitten does not want to use their litter box can suggest that they actually have a medical problem that needs to be addressed.

Any type of condition that would impact your cat’s ability to urinate or defecate can impact their willingness to use their litter box. This includes a urinary tract infection, as well as kidney or thyroid diseases. Diabetes could also be to blame. 

According to Dr. Laura Robinson, a Pawp veterinarian, “Usually you need bloodwork and a urinalysis to rule out a medical reason. If all is normal, it is likely behavioral. ‘Feliway’ can sometimes be used for behavioral problems in cats, which can be purchased over the counter.”

Your kitten is urine marking

Alternatively, your kitten might be attempting to mark their territory by urinating outside of their litter box. This is especially likely if your kitten is an unneutered male cat. Your cat might also be spraying because they detect a threat in their territory. 

How can I help my kitten use their litter box?

There are some steps that you can take to encourage your new kitten to use their litter box. Try these first, and if you find that they are unsuccessful, you should certainly reach out to a vet. Alternatively, you could reach out to a vet first and then make corrections that they suggest. 

Clean their litter box regularly

The first thing that you should do is ensure that your cat has a clean, tidy litter box. Cats dislike odors and prefer litter boxes that are clean. You should not only clean out your litter box when your cat urinates or defecates but also complete a deep cleaning occasionally. Unscented soap is best.

Or, you can always give your cat a litter box for urinating and a litter box for defecating. This might help solve the problem. 

Try new litter, new boxes, or new locations

If the current litter box isn’t working, you might have to make some changes. The first thing you could do is move the litter box to a different location that will give them privacy but is not accessible. It should be in a place that is not near loud, noisy appliances (like the washer and dryer) or too much foot traffic.

Your cat might also dislike the litter texture (or liner, if you have one), so you can try something different. There are many different types of options, including clumping litter, clay litter, and more. Cats tend to dig and bury their elimination, so the litter type is critical. 

 Sometimes, the box itself is why your cat is having a problem. If your cat is not defecating in the box, it could be because they feel the box is claustrophobic. Some cats have preferences for covered litter boxes, while others prefer the uncovered variety. 

Eliminate other sources of stress

You should also ensure that your cat is not stressed out. This could lead to trouble defecating and urinating in the right place. If you feel that your other cat is causing problems and leading to stress for your cat, you will need to address this. 

Help develop pleasant associations

If your cat goes in the litter box and does their business there, you can give them a treat and some praise. This could help them create a pleasant association with going to the bathroom in their litter box. Place their favorite toys nearby as well. 

Make other areas less appealing

Lastly, you could try to make the other places where they go to the bathroom seem less appealing. You can do this by making their litter box the ideal toilet. This means using substrates that they’ll be more comfortable with, an additional box, and a larger box, and creating positive associations with the box.

If your cat is using inappropriate places to release themselves, enzyme cleaners can help eliminate the smell of their urine or feces. This will help make this spot less enticing for the future.

When should I take my kitten to the vet?

It’s never a bad idea to explain to your vet what is going on and get their opinion on what you should do to help your cat. In addition, they will be able to tell you if the reason that your kitten is urinating outside of their litter box is connected to a medical cause. 

Your vet could also suggest what you could do to improve this behavior. The most important thing is ensuring that the reason your pet is behaving in such a way is not because there is something medically wrong with them that requires attention. 


When your new kitten is not using their litter box, it is certainly frustrating. However, there are plenty of steps that you can take to set your kitten on the right path. If you have questions about your cat’s elimination habits, you could certainly ask a Pawp vet.

Pawp’s vets are available wherever and whenever to answer questions about your pet. Pawp’s telehealth visits are accessible and will help you get to the bottom of what’s going on with your pet. 


Feline Behavior Problems: House Soiling | Cornell  

Litter Boxes | OSU

Litter Box Issues | Tufts Cummings Veterinary Medical Center 

Conflict and affiliative behavior frequency between cats in multi-cat households: a survey-based study | Sage Journals

Urinary tract infection and subclinical bacteriuria in cats | US National Library of Medicine

Toxoplasmosis - General Information - Pregnant Women |

Talk to a vet now — it's free!

Text, call, or video chat with a vet within minutes.

Talk To A Vet Now