If your cat isn’t using the litter box since you moved it, you’ll naturally wonder why. Is anything wrong? What can you do about it? Should you move the box back? What changes can you make to help your cat adjust? Well, here’s everything you’ll want to know about it.
So, why doesn’t my cat use the litter box after moving it? Cats may not use a litter box after it has been moved due to the sounds or smells in the new area or because it’s too close to your cat’s food and water bowls. Other pets kept in the area may also result in this hesitancy.
It now may be entirely obvious what the issue for you and your cat it.
Maybe it isn’t.
Or it’s a combination of several factors.
Nevertheless, let’s explore these causes further before turning to what you can, and perhaps should, do about it.
Reasons Why A Cat May Stop Using The Litter Box After It Has Been Moved
Your cat might not use the litter box if you’ve moved it to an area with more noise, different smells, other pets, or nearby food and water.
They Don’t Like the Smell of the New Area
Cats are highly sensitive to smells, so it could be something in the new area that is putting them off using the litter tray there.
The New Area is Too Noisy
Cats are also highly sensitive to noises.
If the litter box is now in an area with more noise than before (e.g., by a busy street window or near the children’s playroom), your cat might be put off by the sounds.
The New Area is Too Close to Your Cat’s Food and Water
Cats are fastidiously tidy, and they don’t like going to the bathroom near their food and water bowls.
Just imagine having to go to the toilet in the dining room – you’d probably avoid it, too!
The New Area is Too Close to Other Pets
Cats each need their own litter trays, food and water bowls, and toys.
Cats are territorial by nature, and you may have unknowingly moved your cat’s litter tray into another pet’s territory.
Should You Move Your Cat Litter Box Back?
It’s best to move the litter box back if you can. Cats are creatures of habit, so the fewer changes there are in your home, the happier and more relaxed your cat will be. However, there are times when it’s best not to move the litter box back (see below).
When You Can Move the Litter Box Back
Here’s when you can move the litter box back to where it was:
- If your cat liked the previous location. If your cat has previously been happy with the location of their litter box, you can move it back if you want to.
- If your cat is stressed or unhappy with the new location. If your cat is clearly stressed or unhappy with where the litter box is now, and you are happy to move it back, by all means, do so.
Note: Another alternative is to move the litter box to where your cat is currently soiling. If this is a location that’s practical for you (in a corner rather than the center of a room), this could help your cat adjust to a new location easily, even if it isn’t the one you’d chosen!
When Not To Move the Litter Box Back
There are some circumstances in which you won’t want to move the litter box back – and it could be detrimental to your cat’s well-being to do so.
If Your Cat Has Had a Bad Experience
If your cat has had a highly stressful or frightening experience in the area where the litter box used to be, don’t move it back there.
They may have experienced a very loud noise or been harassed by another pet.
Some signs that your cat has had a bad experience in or near their litter box are:
- Running quickly in and out of the litter box
- Using an area near the litter box
- Avoiding the area around the litter box (even sometimes avoiding the room)
If The Previous Spot Is Unsuitable
If the litter box used to be in an area that isn’t ideal for cats, don’t move it back there. Some examples are:
- Next to their food or water bowls
- In an area with lots of ‘traffic’ – lots of people or animals coming and going
- In a noisy area (near the window by a busy street, for instance)
- Somewhere that doesn’t have a handy ‘escape’ route
- Near another cat’s litter box (cats each need their own litter boxes)
- Somewhere that’s difficult for your cat to access (too high up or up a flight of stairs – cats need a litter box on each floor if possible)
How Long Will It Take to Get Your Cat to Start Using Their Litter Box Again?
There is no set rule for how long it will take your cat to use its litter box again. It takes time and patience and depends on your individual cat.
Some cats will adjust to a new litter box location instantly, while others may take weeks – there is no set rule that fits all cats.
It’s important to note that you never want to punish your pet for having accidents or using other spaces apart from their litter box. Punishments only make your cat more anxious and afraid!
By not using its litter box in its new location, your cat is telling you that it’s either confused, anxious, or frustrated. These emotional issues can take some time, gentleness, and patience.
In addition, cats naturally feel more vulnerable when going to the toilet because they can’t jump up and run away as fast as they normally would.
Help your cat adjust with kindness and care – the more frustrated or impatient you are, the more your cat will pick up on your unhappiness – meaning the whole process will take even longer.
Try some of the tips below to speed up your cat’s transition process.
How Do I Get My Cat to Use the Litter Box After Moving?
You can encourage your cat to use the litter box after moving by thoroughly cleaning the previous location, teaching your cat to enjoy the new location, and keeping the litter box extra clean.
Clean and Deodorize Where the Litter Box Used to Be
Make sure you clean and deodorize the old litter box location.
You’ll want to remove your cat’s scent markers, as cats like to do their business in the same spot because they’ve put their scent there.
You can use an enzymatic cleaner, which is designed for cat urine and feces (or a solution of 10% enzymatic washing powder in water).
Rinse afterward with cold water. Then once the water has dried, lightly spray the area with rubbing alcohol and let it air dry.
Teach Your Cat the New Location is Fun
You can try tempting your cat to the new area by playing with toys nearby. You won’t need (or want) to play in the litter box – but by giving your cat positive experiences in the area, you can help them create positive associations with it.
Be sure to only play with toys and not offer treats there.
Note: Don’t reward your cat for using the litter box – this can make them uncomfortable. Let your cat choose the litter box on its own once you’ve made any needed adjustments as described above.
Keep the Litter Box Extra Clean
Cats appreciate a clean litter box, so keep it extra clean for your kitty.
Before you even put the litter box in its new location, be sure you’ve cleaned and deodorized it thoroughly (using pet-safe materials).
Once your cat uses the litter box, remove clumps or wet spots and top up with fresh litter at least once a day, if not twice.
Always scoop out any poop asap, and rinse the litter box once weekly with unscented soap or baking soda.
Note: Never use scented products to clean the litter box – and scented litter is a no-no. Cats have highly sensitive noses, and smells that we like, such as citrus and pine, can repel cats. You want your cat to find the litter box to be clean and comfortable, not repelling!
Other Suggestions to Help Your Cat Use the Litter Box
To further help your cat use the litter box, you can try changing the type of kitty litter, using a different litter box, protecting soiled areas, and using your cat’s natural preferences to help them transition.
Change the Type of Kitty Litter
Cats have different preferences when it comes to kitty litter. Most cats like litter with a sandy texture, but some prefer a more granular feel on their paw pads.
If you have to change kitty litter from something your cat previously liked, do so gradually.
Mix a little bit of the new litter in with the old one (preferably the same type of litter, e.g., both being sandy).
Each time you change the litter, slowly add a higher proportion of the new litter.
If you can’t get the old kind of kitty litter anymore, try these tricks:
- Buy two or three types of litter. Put them side by side in different litter boxes to see which one your cat prefers. Make sure the litter boxes you use are identical so that you know your cat is choosing the litter and not the type of box.
- Play with the depth of the litter. Some cats prefer a shallow layer that’s less than 2 inches (5 cm) deep. Many long-haired cats prefer an extra-shallow layer so they can dig to the very bottom of the box. Other cats prefer a deeper layer of litter for digging, so see what your cat likes best.
This is the cat litter I recommend and use at home with great results with my cats.
Try a Different Litter Box
Here are different factors to consider when choosing a new litter box:
- Shallow vs. deep. Some cats like shallow litter boxes, while others prefer a deeper box that allows for more litter inside. Older cats may have difficulty with steeper litter boxes.
- Covered vs. open. Certain cats prefer covered litter boxes because they make them feel more secure – other cats find covered boxes make them feel trapped. If you have a covered litter box, try adding or removing the hood.
- Small vs. large. Generally speaking, all cats need a litter box that’s big enough to allow them to turn around while they dig. Some cats, though, prefer boxes that are even larger.
You may want to avoid the following:
- Plastic liners. Putting plastic liners in a litter box might seem like a good idea, but they can snag your cat’s claws and make it uncomfortable for them to dig. Some cats even like chewing on plastic bags, which in a litter box would definitely cause problems!
- Self-cleaning litter boxes. While some cats can learn to adjust to these litter boxes, any cat with the slightest level of anxiety can become frightened by the motor and then not use it at all. Cats are sensitive creatures, and while these may seem like a good idea for us, cats prefer quiet, including when it comes to their toilets!
- Clumping cat litter. Clumping cat litter might seem like another good idea for our convenience, but sadly this type of litter can cause health problems in cats because it’s more likely to stick to their paws. When your cat licks off the litter and swallows pieces of it, the clumping chemicals form a rock in your cat’s stomach which can cause a blockage with potentially fatal consequences!
Discourage Your Cat from Using Previously Soiled Areas
If your cat has gotten into a habit of going to the toilet where they shouldn’t, you can discourage this by either blocking access or using various methods to keep your cat away from these places:
- For a dark corner, set up a bright light (perhaps motion-activated)
- Use tin foil or double-sided tape around the edges of rugs or other areas where your cat likes to stand
- Pin curtains up high out of reach (once you’ve cleaned and deodorized them, see above)
- Leave a shallow layer of water in sinks and bathtubs when you aren’t using them
- Put your cat’s food bowl nearby (cats don’t like using the toilet where they eat)
Use Your Cat’s Natural Preferences to Help Them Transition
If your cat likes to urinate on the carpet, try this:
- Put a small piece of similar carpet in the litter box (without any litter on top)
- If your cat uses the litter box with the carpet piece inside, the next day add a small amount of litter on top
- Continue this process, gradually adding a bit more litter each time and replacing the dirty piece of carpet with a clean one
- Eventually, your cat should get used to using 100% litter without any carpet beneath
Note: If you have similar carpeting throughout your house, you may need to protect it (or roll it up) while your cat transitions. You can try this same process if your cat prefers other home surfaces, such as laminate flooring.
If you have an indoor/outdoor cat:
- Put garden soil or sand (whatever your cat is used to using outside) into the litter box
- The next day, add a bit of litter to the box, keeping the layer of soil or sand
- Gradually add more and more litter to the box (removing any soiled sand or soil each day)
- Over time, your cat will be able to use 100% litter without any soil or sand underneath
It’s a fairly common occurance for owners to move their cats litter box, only to find that it stops them from using it altogether.
My advice, move it back – if you can.
Otherwise you may need to make a few simple changes and adjustments to the area/litter box or litter itself.
In doing so, you may find that they return. But hopefully not with a vengeance!
Other related guides you may want to read:
- Why Does My Cat Not Poop In The Litter Box?
- Why Does My Cat Not Pee In The Litter Box?
- Why Does My Cat Meow In The Litter Box?
- Why Is My Cat Peeing In The House All Of A Sudden?
- Why Is My Cat Peeing And Pooping On My Clothes?
- Why Does My Cat Pee On The Kitchen Counter?
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.