12-week-old kittens should arrive fully trained to use the litter box. According to the Veterinary Practice News publication, at least 10-24% of cats experience elimination problems in their lifetime.
Elimination problems in 12-week-old kittens may occur due to dislike for the litter box design or the litter used. Your kitten may also be experiencing conflict with other cats in the household, causing it to avoid its litter box. Finally, your cat may be averse to the litter box placement.
This article will explore why your 12- week-old kitten won’t use a litter box and how to remedy this problem.
This Behavior Can Be Lifelong if Not Caught Early
The aforementioned elimination problems will eventually lead your kitten stopping to use the litter box altogether.
Alternatively, it may use the boxes for either urination or defecation but not both. Others will choose to eliminate both in and out of their litter boxes.
Elimination problems can become chronic if not managed appropriately and in good time.
This sometimes results in relinquished cats who are taken back to the shelter and often euthanized.
The best approach to deter your little feline friend from surface or location elimination is to apply preventive measures. By this, I mean making your litter box as cat-friendly as possible.
Pay close attention to your kitten’s elimination habits so that you can identify any wayward behavior and quickly resolve the problem before it develops into a severe elimination problem.
Litter box use problems in cats are diverse and complex, and treatment must be tailored to a cat’s specific situation.
Don’t give up. Behavioral treatments are often effective in the case of inappropriate elimination.
Reasons a Kitten Won’t Use Its Litter Box
1. The Litter Box Itself Is the Problem
Your kitten will avoid the litter box if it is uncomfortable with it or does not have easy access to the litter box. It is critical to ensure that your little one is comfortable with the litter box. Check for design elements like the hood on the litter box that may make your kitten uncomfortable.
Ensure that the litter box hygiene is not wanting. That means that the box is cleaned frequently and thoroughly.
Also, ensure that the size of the litter box is appropriate for your kitten. A small-sized litter box can easily discourage the cat from using it.
2. Your Kitten Prefers Other Surfaces
Some cats choose to eliminate on certain surfaces or textures like bedding, potting, soil, or carpets because they like the feel of these textures.
This comes down to a lack of appropriate training before the kitten came to you.
You need to re-train your little one to use the litter box. I would recommend using commercial pheromones to help deter your cat from revisiting these areas as a toilet.
3. It Prefers a Certain Type of Litter
Cats accustomed to a particular litter might dislike the feel or smell of a different litter. Being predators, their sensitive senses of smell and touch greatly influence their reaction to litter.
That may cause your kitten to avoid the litter box.
Sometimes you may have the preferred litter in the box but you are too generous with it. Do not heap too much litter in the litter box.
Cats dislike deep litter, preferring one to two inches of litter in the box.
4. Your Kitten Doesn’t Like the Location
Cats naturally avoid locations they don’t like, and if the litter box happens to be in an area deemed “unacceptable,” it will definitely be given a wide berth.
Just like people and dogs, cats have preferences for locations where they would prefer to eliminate.
Find a spot where your cat feels most comfortable and safe.
Maybe your kitten just needs a little privacy!
5. Negative Association With the Litter Box
Some cats have used litter boxes reliably in the past, then suddenly, they start eliminating outside the box. A common reason for this behavior is that something bad happened while the cat was in the process of eliminating in the litter box.
Your cat might associate the experience with the litter box. So kitty may enter the litter box but then exit quickly even before using the litter box.
Triggers for the negative association include painful elimination due to a medical condition, startling noise, an attack in the past, or any other trauma associated with using the litter box.
6. It May Be Feeling Stressed
Innocent events which humans might not consider traumatic can stress a cat. Changes that don’t affect the cat directly, like moving houses, adding pets or new family members to your household, or changes in daily routine, can stress your cat.
Sometimes one or more cats in a household may choose to hoard the litter boxes and deny the other cats access to them.
This can result in other cats choosing to eliminate outside the litter boxes. Conflict between household cats is sufficient to create stress leading to litter box problems.
Ensure that you have sufficient litter boxes to cater for multiple cats in the household. That means ensuring there are enough litter boxes for each cat plus one extra one.
Having to share a litter box can be stressful for your young kitten. At 12-weeks, a kitten is not strong enough to stand up to a fully grown tomcat or queen.
7. It May Be Having a Medical Issue
A medical problem may be causing your kitty to avoid the litter box because it associates it with pain. Or maybe it is completely unable to make it to the box for proper elimination.
Some medical conditions that could cause inappropriate elimination include:
- Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
Frequent visits to the litter box with only small amounts of urine to show for it is most likely a sign of feline urinary tract infection. When your kitten goes to pee and feels pain, it will begin to associate the litter box with pain in elimination.
But it still needs to go potty because a UTI causes frequent and urgent urination.
So, instead of going to the litter box, your kitty will eliminate elsewhere due to the fear of the litter box. A visit to the veterinarian will rule out or confirm this medical issue.
- Kidney Stones/Blockage
Frequent visits to the litter box accompanied by meowing or vocalization when trying to eliminate is a sign of blockage or kidney stones. One of the key symptoms of kidney stones is a tender abdomen to the touch.
This condition also causes pain when eliminating, and your kitten may wrongly associate the pain with the physical litter box.
- Feline Interstitial Cystitis
Feline Interstitial Cystitis is a neurological disease that inflames a cat’s bladder. Cat’s suffering from Cystitis pass urine frequently, and they strain a lot with little success.
Also, they tend to lick themselves in the genital area while urinating, and blood can be detected in their urine.
Due to the pain and increased urgency to urinate, Feline Interstitial Cystitis causes a cat to eliminate outside of the litter box.
Unfortunately, it is life-threatening and requires urgent intervention.
Determine if Your Kitten Is Marking or Peeing
A kitten that urine marks will choose when to eliminate in the litter box or in other locations. However, it is not afraid of its litter box. It just feels the need to urine mark on vertical surfaces to mark its territory.
Look out for when the kitten backs up to a vertical object with its tail extended in the air and body erect.
That means it is just about to spray urine as a territory marking. This is the go-to position before spraying urine on the surface while the tail twitches.
The main difference between these two is that urine marking is done in small amounts of urine compared to eliminating in the litter box.
How to Encourage Your Kitten to Use a Litter Box
- Cats prefer clean litter boxes. Scoop and change the litter at least daily. Wash the litter box thoroughly and rinse with baking soda or unscented soap weekly.
- Most cats prefer large boxes, which are roomier for easy access.
- Cats naturally prefer clumping and unscented litter.
- Cats prefer shallow bed of litter; two inches is perfect.
- Box liners or lids on litter boxes tend to discourage cats from using them.
- Cats tend to stick to the type of litter used as a kitten.
- Cats prefer their litter boxes to be located in a quiet, private but open location with multiple escape routes in case they have to exit hurriedly.
- Consider self-cleaning boxes because they are relatively cleaner compared to the traditional ones. In case your cat rejects the automatic one, revert to the traditional one.
- Provide sufficient litter boxes for your cats. In a household of multiple cats, always provide an extra litter box.
- Always ensure your cat’s food bowl and litter box aren’t placed nearby each other. Cats can be fussy about pooping at the same spot they eat. Wouldn’t you be?
Make Old Potty Locations Uncomfortable
Once you have trained your 12-week-old kitten to eliminate correctly, you have to take away the temptation to fall back to its former bad behavior.
If the cat is used to eliminate on certain locations or surfaces, you will have to make these areas uncomfortable for the cat.
Cats hate the feel of tin foil or sticky tape on their paws.
Place some tin foil or sticky tape in these areas to help discourage the cat from them.
If the preference is in dark areas, a bright or motion-activated light will do the trick.
If the location of the litter box was the problem, provide extra litter boxes in acceptable locations.
Also, give your cat the option to choose their preferred litter from several litter boxes with different types of litter placed adjacent to each other. Identify the one most preferred by your cat and stick to it.
Earlier, I mentioned using commercial pheromones to deter your cat from visiting its former stomping grounds. Cats typically do not pee in areas where they have facially marked.
When your kitten comes across the pheromone scent, it will believe it has already marked the area, so it will not pee there.
A highly recommended commercial pheromone for your cat is the Feliway Classic Cat Calming Diffuser.
When solving your cat’s elimination problems, please avoid:
- Rubbing your cat’s nose in urine or feces.
- Scolding your cat and forcing it to the litter box.
- Confining your cat in a tiny room with the litter box for ages to coax it to use the litter box.
- Cleaning accident spots with ammonia-based cleaners, which only make matters worse because urine contains ammonia which could then attract the cat to repeat the act.
Kittens Don’t Misbehave Out of Spite
Your kitten is innocent and is not trying to spite you by eliminating outside the litter box.
Punishing your cat for eliminating outside the litter box will make it fearful and increase stress levels, which will further exacerbate the problem.
Identify the reason for inappropriate urination and address it for the sake of the cat’s wellbeing and yours as well. As earlier mentioned, you can sort out behavioral elimination problems with training, and medical ones should receive your vet’s attention.
Your 12-week-old kitten is a fresh canvas full of energy and wanting to learn.
Teach it the proper elimination behaviors and it will gladly obey as long as it is healthy and content.
Writer: Mercy Nandika Amatieku