Indoor/Outdoor Cat stopped using litter box

Shannon C

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We adopted a male cat last year. He had been a stray and is roughly 3 years old. We had him neutered/chipped/licensed/ vaccinated all the good stuff. He took to the indoor life perfectly. Used his litter box without fail right from the get go. When the nice weather started, he expressed interest in going into the backyard with us. He does not/can not get out of the yard. So here is the problem, now he will not use his litter box, he will only pee and poop in the yard. It's not a huge deal but he wakes the entire house up in the middle of the night to be let outside. I worry about raccoons and skunks at night. I'm not sure if there is anything I can do to change this behaviour now. Any advice or shared experiences will be appreciated! Thanks.
 

datranch37

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I would actually suggest locking him indoors for a few days (even if it means you will have to endure his screams for a bit).
The ultimate question is this: did he develop a preference for peeing/pooping outside? Or does he actively hate his litter box because of some other reasons? Many cats stop using their litter boxes for many reasons (medical, stress, changes in the house, changes in his litter, box isn't clean enough etc...).
If you lock him in the house for a couple of days, and he pees/poops on the floor, then either he is sick and trying to show you or there is something wrong with the box. If he goes back to using his box, then it's just a preference issue and you can remediate that by possibly moving his litter box closer to the yard door? Slowly start moving his box closer and closer to the yard door, and limit his access to the yard, he might go back to his routine of using the box.

It's also a good idea to "catch him in the act" in the yard and moving him to his box and then giving him a treat. And you can also move the poop in the yard into his litter box and then showing it to him, that might make him realize he's pooping in the wrong place.
 
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Shannon C

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I would actually suggest locking him indoors for a few days (even if it means you will have to endure his screams for a bit).
The ultimate question is this: did he develop a preference for peeing/pooping outside? Or does he actively hate his litter box because of some other reasons? Many cats stop using their litter boxes for many reasons (medical, stress, changes in the house, changes in his litter, box isn't clean enough etc...).
If you lock him in the house for a couple of days, and he pees/poops on the floor, then either he is sick and trying to show you or there is something wrong with the box. If he goes back to using his box, then it's just a preference issue and you can remediate that by possibly moving his litter box closer to the yard door? Slowly start moving his box closer and closer to the yard door, and limit his access to the yard, he might go back to his routine of using the box.

It's also a good idea to "catch him in the act" in the yard and moving him to his box and then giving him a treat. And you can also move the poop in the yard into his litter box and then showing it to him, that might make him realize he's pooping in the wrong place.
Thanks for the advice. These are great ideas. I had been wondering if he is too big for the box that we have for him. I will try keeping him indoors and see what happens
 
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Shannon C

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Hello again. :wave2: Are you absolutely sure that he cries to go out to use the bathroom, and not just to go outside. Have you tried putting him in the litter box when he wakes you. What if you ignore him?

Here's a TCS article that might be helpful: How To Stop My Cat From Waking Me Up At Night (step-by-step Plan)
Thanks for the article! I'm not 100% sure that it's always to use the bathroom. I started to wonder Bec sometimes he goes out for like 2 minutes and wants right back in. We have tried ignoring him but he is so persistent. He meows so loud and will go to each bedroom yelling and chirping until he's got everyone up. It's always at like 3:30 or 4am without fail.
 

Furballsmom

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Hi! Let us know how things go as you try different things (bigger box, different litter etc) :vibes: :crossfingers:
 

ArtNJ

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There are at least two kinds of entry related problems with indoor/outdoor cats if you don't have a cat door. One, they don't come home for a long time and you are very worried and afraid to go out and have that be when they come back. In the warm weather, they can suddenly decide they want to stay out for 18 hours or even much longer, for no particular reason. Presumably this mostly happens when they catch something to eat, or if there is a neighbor putting food out (or letting them in).

Two, they regard you as their personal door opening *&^%! and like going inside and outside at will. This is not normally so terrible. We have a sliding glass door in the kitchen, and when we noticed them there, we opened it, no problems even if it was very frequent. However, I would never ever let a cat outside at 3 am because that is going to make the door opening demands so much worse! Either put them out for the night, or keep them in, but you can't ever give in to "the doorbell" (whining) during the night or its just going to get worse and worse. The only time we let the cats in at 3 am was when we heard scary noises indicating a possible cat fight or predator. Or if we hadn't realized it was going to rain, because you know, we aren't heartless lol!

Many rescues prefer to go to the bathroom outside and sometimes its real problem. However, yours was using the litter box without problems and you have not reported any accidents to us. So my guess is that if you keep the cat in at night, the problem will go away. If you make the cat stay out all night, the behavior may get more dug in and might be an issue when bad weather hits and you want the cat in for the night.

Of course, you could give in and buy a cat door. I've never had one, but I understand they are not without problems of their own. And you could still have problems with accidents when bad weather hits and the cat refuses to go out but isn't willing to use the box either.
 
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Shannon C

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There are at least two kinds of entry related problems with indoor/outdoor cats if you don't have a cat door. One, they don't come home for a long time and you are very worried and afraid to go out and have that be when they come back. In the warm weather, they can suddenly decide they want to stay out for 18 hours or even much longer, for no particular reason. Presumably this mostly happens when they catch something to eat, or if there is a neighbor putting food out (or letting them in).

Two, they regard you as their personal door opening *&^%! and like going inside and outside at will. This is not normally so terrible. We have a sliding glass door in the kitchen, and when we noticed them there, we opened it, no problems even if it was very frequent. However, I would never ever let a cat outside at 3 am because that is going to make the door opening demands so much worse! Either put them out for the night, or keep them in, but you can't ever give in to "the doorbell" (whining) during the night or its just going to get worse and worse. The only time we let the cats in at 3 am was when we heard scary noises indicating a possible cat fight or predator. Or if we hadn't realized it was going to rain, because you know, we aren't heartless lol!

Many rescues prefer to go to the bathroom outside and sometimes its real problem. However, yours was using the litter box without problems and you have not reported any accidents to us. So my guess is that if you keep the cat in at night, the problem will go away. If you make the cat stay out all night, the behavior may get more dug in and might be an issue when bad weather hits and you want the cat in for the night.

Of course, you could give in and buy a cat door. I've never had one, but I understand they are not without problems of their own. And you could still have problems with accidents when bad weather hits and the cat refuses to go out but isn't willing to use the box either.
Thanks for your ideas! I'm going to try the not giving in at night idea..and another person mentioned it may be a good idea to keep him in a few days to see if he heads right back into his box or still refuses to use it. It's tough though, ignoring his meows in the early morning. If I don't give him what he wants he ends up waking up the kids!!!! But if we can get through it a few days maybe he'll take the hint.
 

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cataholic07

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Ignoring a cat is the only way to get them to stop. He might not like the type of litter you are using, some people have even put dirt in their litter boxes. You can try placing a large sized uncovered litter box at the door or as close to the door as possible. :)
 

Suru

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I have an indoor and outdoor cat too. I tried to make him an indoor cat, I really did, but after I saw how much he thrived outside, I gave in. Just like your cat, at first he used to love being outside *alll* the time, but as the novelty wore off, he's as much of an indoor cat as he is an outdoor cat.

He has a cat door which he is only allowed to use during the day. at night he's "locked in" and has the downstairs kitchen to himself, he's not allowed to roam the rest of the house. But he has his food, little box, toys and a big window and patio door to look out of.

He'll never use the little box when he has access to outside, but will use it if we let him out late (say 11am instead of 9am). He seems to know that his life revolves around our schedule and not the other way around ( I ignored him *alot* when he was younger - it was hard, he was so cute!).

He's probably not waking you up to go to the bathroom, but rather, since cats are pretty active in the night too, he just wants to go outside and play. I never entertained my cat at night (always locked him out of my bedroom/ in his own room) and he got used to it. I think it's important to set up a schedule, so he knows what to expect. if you ignore him all the other times he'll learn to stop pestering you eventually.

Goodluck!

Here he is on my car hood, lol.

Edit: oh, I don't know whether this is of concern, but it's bugs season. I have to brush and flea-comb my cat meticulously everyday when he comes back for the night, then I wipe him down completely. Right now is the season in the northeast for itty bitty hard to see ticks, and he occasionally brings those back in. I wish revolution got rid of ticks too, lol.
 

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