Cat Anxiety and the Litter Box

Cats can experience anxiety and get stressed out just like us. Unlike people, however, cats don’t have a lot of ways to express these feelings.

Because cats are very intelligent creatures, they sometimes express their stress and/or anxiety in… creative ways.

One really common way to know something is wrong with your kitty is if he or she stops using the litter box correctly. This might mean urinating right outside the box or even urinating somewhere else completely (like on your bed).

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Since we can’t speak meow (yet!), and cats don’t talk, it can be challenging to figure why your cat isn’t feeling right.

The first step you should take is to pay a visit to your veterinarian’s office. They can rule out any serious medical issues (like urinary stones) that might be causing your kitty to urinate outside of his or her litter box.

Stress and Anxiety in Cats

If you’ve ruled out medical issues, it’s quite likely that your cat is acting out because of stress and anxiety.

cat anxiety and the litter box

But what exactly do cats get anxious about, anyways? It’s not like they have jobs or anything!

Often the triggers of stress and anxiety in a cat are environmental. This includes things like:

  • Moving to a new home
  • Getting a new household member (either animal or human!)
  • Owner starting a job with a new schedule
  • Missing someone who has recently moved out of your home
  • Construction and/or remodeling of your home
  • Change in type of cat litter and/or location of cat litter box

This list is by no means complete.

Felines are complicated creatures and, as you probably know, can be super finicky. Almost anything can set them off.

This means it can be a tough to figure out the exact cause. But keep in mind, if you noticed that your cat’s behaviour changed after a particular event, it’s probably not a coincidence.

Problem Solving

Once you’ve figured out the cause, you can start developing solutions!

If the stress-inducing situation is temporary (such as the last two items on my list), they can be dealt with easily. Time heals all wounds, after all! (Even if the “wound” is just your kitty being upset at you for moving her litter box).

Once your cat gets used to the change, she’ll calm down and start to use her litter box again.

During this adjustment period, it may be helpful to confine her to one room with all of her food, water, litter box, bedding, and toys. This will minimize the amount of damage done to your home and, as kitty realizes the Big Scary Changes mean her no harm, she’ll get back to her good cat litter box habits.

On the other hand, if the problem appears to be more permanent (like one of the first four items), you’ll need a different strategy to help your cat start feeling better.

You can help kitty calm down by purchasing her a synthetic feline pheromone diffuser. The pheromones released by these mimic cat’s facial pheromones, which cats deposit when they rub their cheeks against surfaces to mark the areas as being safe. (You have likely noticed your cat “booping” you like this before, because you make him feel safe!)

We recommend diffusers from either Feliway or Comfort Zone (click here to find out the difference) as they have been proven to be the most effective. Both of these are likely available at your veterinarian’s office because, despite being a “natural” product, they are veterinarian recommended. However, they tend to be much cheaper on Amazon.

cat anxiety feliway diffuser

Some cat owners will get an anti-anxiety prescription (like Prozac or Zoloft, the same as humans take) from their veterinarian. But if your cat freaks out over being pilled, this will increase his stress. Not to mention, these can end up being fairly expensive. For this reason, we recommend trying a synthetic pheromone diffuser first.


If your cat suddenly stops using the litter box out of the blue, eliminate any medical causes first. If kitty gets a clean bill of health, examine the list above, and think about any recent changes you’ve made to your home.

For temporary problems, consider confining your cat to one room until he realizes that everything is still okay.

And for permanent issues, consider investing in a synthetic pheromone diffuser and seeing if it helps his stress and anxiety.

Sometimes, the diffuser is not enough, unfortunately. In this case, consult with your vet on the best course of action to help your kitty quickly get over her stress and anxiety.

Reassure your cat with lots of extra attention and love, and this too shall pass!


​FTC Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. If you use them, we might be rewarded credit or a commission of the sale (at no extra cost to you). For example, as an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. We only recommend products that we have personally used and we always have your kitty’s best interests at heart.

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