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How to Retrain a Cat to Use a Litter Box: 10 Expert Tips

Written by: Jordyn Alger

Last Updated on February 6, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

Woman scooping cat litter

How to Retrain a Cat to Use a Litter Box: 10 Expert Tips

Few things are more frustrating (and smelly) than when your cat forgets his litter training. There are many reasons why a cat may seemingly forget all of his litter training, ranging from medical complications to an inability to access the litter box. Retraining your cat to use the litter box properly is no small feat, but it is possible. By following the 10 steps listed in this article, you can make the process even easier.

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The 10 Expert Tips on How to Retrain a Cat to Use a Litter Box

1. Find the Right Location for Your Cat’s Litter Box

When retraining your cat to use his litter box, consider the world from his perspective. While it may be convenient or appealing for you to hide his litter box or store it in a faraway corner, it may not be advantageous for your cat. Imagine if you had to travel exhausting, long distances just to use the bathroom.

The same can be said for our cats. Placing your cat’s litter box in a nearby, accessible location will make it easier for him to use, thus contributing to fewer potty accidents.

Siamese cat beside litter box
Image Credit: Axel Bueckert, Shutterstock

2. Make Sure that Your Cat’s Food Isn’t Too Close to the Litter Box

No one wants to eat their dinner in the bathroom. If your cat’s litter box is too close to his food and water bowls, he won’t want to go potty there. As a result, he may urinate or defecate in another area of the house. Therefore, providing ample space between your cat’s litter box and his food and water bowls is best.

If you have a smaller living space, putting enough distance between your cat’s litter box and feeding area may feel impossible. Thankfully, you don’t need much room between these items, but just enough so your cat doesn’t feel uncomfortable using his litter box.

3. Find the Right Sized Litter Box

The size of your cat’s litter box matters. If a large cat has a litter box that is too small, he may feel uncomfortable using it. He may not even be able to access it depending on how big he is!

On the other hand, small cats in a large litter box can also have issues. If the litter box is too big, your cat may view it as a place to play or even sleep rather than a place to go potty. Therefore, it is important that you find a litter box that suits your cat’s size.

cat on a litter box filled with sand
Image Credit: Zoran Photographer, Shutterstock

4. Use the Right Type of Litter Box

The size of the litter box matters, but so does the type. Many people mistakenly believe that litter boxes are all the same and that there is no variation. The are several styles of litter boxes that range from covered litter boxes to automatic models and everything in between. Each model has pros and cons, but with thorough research and an understanding of your cat’s needs, you can find the one that is right for you.

5. Keep the Litter Box Clean

Did you know cats have around 200 million olfactory cells that pick up odors? That means your cat’s nose is sensitive to nasty smells, especially those that accumulate in his litter box. If your cat’s litter box isn’t clean, he will avoid using it.

Cleaning your cat’s litter box should be done frequently and consistently. For one cat, you should remove the waste daily and clean the box at least once a week. However, if you have several felines that use one of the same litter boxes, you’ll have to clean it more often.

woman cleaning cat litter
Image Credit: catinsyrup, Shutterstock

6. Use the Right Type of Litter

We’ve already established that the size and type of litter box you use are crucial but equally important is the type of litter you fill it with. While humans may prefer scented or perfumed litter, cats tend to find artificial fragrances deterring. If the litter you use has a strong scent, chances are that your cat will avoid his litter box as a result. However, you can buy unscented litter if your cat dislikes scented brands.

7. Provide Enough Litter Boxes if You Have Multiple Pets

Do you have multiple cats in the home? If so, it’s in your best interest (and your cats’) to provide separate litter boxes for them. Not all cats enjoy sharing their litter space with one another, which may discourage them from using the litter box. While cleaning more than one litter box may be a hassle, multiple litter boxes can also minimize foul odors in your home, which is a worthwhile tradeoff. It will also help your cat feel comfortable using his litter box and simplify retraining him.

several litter boxes for many cats in a household
Image Credit: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock

8. Clean All Accidents Thoroughly

Potty accidents are common when retraining your cat to use his litter box. In the event of a bathroom accident, you need to clean the soiled area thoroughly. If you don’t, your cat may be able to pick up the scent of his urine or feces and go to the same spot again.

To properly clean a soiled area, use a sponge to soak up as much liquid as you can. Be sure to avoid rubbing it deeper into the surface. After, mix water and vinegar equally and pour it over the soiled spot. Let it dry. Once dried, sprinkle baking soda over it, mix hydrogen peroxide and dish soap together, and pour it over the area. With a brush, scrub the spot. Vacuum when dried. If the scent remains, repeat until it is gone. You can also purchase an enzymatic cleaner to remove the stain and odor; they cost more but work faster than the homemade formula.

9. Be Patient

If you are feeling frustrated with your cat for forgetting his training, remember that he is not the only cat in the world that experiences this, and you are not the only cat owner that has to deal with it. With research, patience, and dedication, you can figure out the root of your cat’s issue with his litter box and retrain him. If you scold or punish your cat, he may become frightened or distrustful of you, which will only make matters worse.

cat litter_Tanya Plotnikova_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Tanya Plotnikova, Shutterstock

10. Know When to Consult Your Vet

While retraining your cat is possible, sometimes it is best to know when to bypass the training and go straight to your vet. Often, when a cat breaks litter training rules, it can indicate that your cat is not feeling well.

Before assuming that your cat has forgotten his litter training, be sure to rule out the possibility of a medical issue. Some medical issues that disrupt your cat’s regular behavior can be alarming, so it is always better to be safe than sorry.



While retraining your cat to use his litter box can be frustrating, it is definitely possible. We hope these steps have helped you construct a plan to guide your cat to proper potty behavior. If you find that nothing seems to work to encourage your cat to use his litter box, reach out to your vet. There is a chance that he is suffering from a medical issue that is causing him to have potty accidents.

Featured Image Credit: sandyman, Shutterstock

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