Why Does My Cat Use The Empty Litter Tray?

A Litter tray sometimes referred to as a litter box, sandbox, cat box and cat pan. We will call it a litter tray.

Cats can be fussy when it comes to toileting, unlike a dog a cat will purposely cover their toileting and conceal their goods. So this pretty much shows that cats are clean and that they like to take pride in where they go to the toilet. Every cat is different, and they all have their lovely little characters, right down to even how and where they go to the toilet. But what does it mean and why does a cat decide to use the litter tray when it’s empty? Let’s find out.

A cat will use an empty litter tray as your cat understands the purpose of the litter tray, be it with litter in or not. Your cat knows that the tray is where your cat needs to go to the toilet.

How To Stop A Cat Using An Empty Litter Tray?

It’s great when a cat knows where to go to the toilet. To stop a cat using an empty litter box, the best thing you can do is change it straight away for fresh litter, don’t leave it out bare. If you need to put it out of the way whilst dealing with the dirty litter waste, you should do so.

But what about if your cat only does it in the litter tray when it’s empty and avoids it when it has litter? Your cat is telling you, I know where to go to the toilet but I dont like the type of litter thats in it.

Did you know there are several litter types you can use? I would suggest going through them to figure out which litter your cat prefers. When I was growing up, we had nine cats and three separate litter boxes with three litter types. Some cats would use just one of them, while others tended to choose any. It comes down to the cat’s preference. The best way to figure out is to understand the individual cat. They can be fussy; after all, they take great pride in their toilet time.

Different Types Of Litter 

Clay Litter

Clay litter is one of the oldest types of litter, and it comes in two choices, clumping or non-clumping clay. The clay clumps the urine and faeces together. Clay litter also has the option to be scented and unscented. It’s relatively cheap out of all the litter types. A bonus with clay litter is that it has built-in attraction additives to entice a cat to use it. Clay Litter is non-flammable. Can seem a little dusty, especially when pouring it into the tray, you can see a dust cloud. 

Silica Gel Litter

Silica Gel Litter is less dusty, and It can be expensive; however, it lasts longer. Urine and faeces can hide for longer in the litter try whilst keeping the odour at a minimum. 

Wheat Litter

Wheat Litter is environmentally friendly and doesn’t clump together as some litters do; it turns into sawlike dust. Wheat Litter is even flushable, which can come in handy, especially if you live in a flat Wheat Litter would make the perfect choice of cat litter.

Grass Litter

Grass Litter isn’t as widely available as the other litters; however, if you can get your hands on some, it’s a great natural product to use. Grass Litter is biodegradable and doesn’t contain any harmful chemicals. 

Corn Litter

Corn litter comes in scented and unscented. It’s biodegradable and is a natural by-product. Its very lightweight, however, it does question the ability for absorbing the urine and faeces. With the less absorbing it does, the more the odour you would need to change this more regular than other litter types. Another good reason for the change the litter more is that is can develop fungus called aflatoxin if left out for a while and can cause aflatoxin poisoning in cats. So, it’s imperative to provide fresh litter often.

Walnut Shell Litter

Walnut shell is super absorbing and works a treat on lingering odours. However, Walnut Shell Litter is biodegradable and can be a little more expensive than the standard clay litter.

Paper Litter

Paper Litter is soft on paws and great for delicate cats and kittens. Perfect for any ill pets getting over an injury. Zero added fragrances and zero dust. However, it can be a little stinky as the absorption is pretty much non-existing. 

Pine Litter

Pine litter is the most effective against odours, and the absorption is outstanding, which traps in the smells. Pine Litter is also environmentally friendly and is not dusty like some litters.

Why your cat uses the empty litter tray

Other Reasons Your Cat May Not Use The Litter Tray

  • Doesn’t smell right, you can get scented and non scented litter, opt for a non-scented litter and see if that works. 
  • Perhaps the litter is different from what your cat is used to, especially if you have a new cat or kitten, try and find out which type of litter the previous owners used. This could resolve the problem without trialling several different litter types or wasting money. 
  • Ensuring it is clean is crucial; you must keep the litter box clean. Whenever your cat leaves a faeces, scoop it out straight away. The chances that a cat will use it again after a poop is very unlikely. Change it when your cat has had a max of three urines in it. 
  • Try a different amount of litter, try adding more if that doesn’t work you can reduce the amount—some cats like a deeper litter and some like a thinner layer of litter.


It’s sad that cats when they get out of using the litter tray or just not liking the tray sometimes result in owners looking for a new home for them. However, I hope that your cat or kitten can use the litter tray properly with the help above. It’s all trial and error, and a fussy cat can also take a little encouragement. If your cat or kitten has gone in the litter tray, you can treat them when they have finished. If all else fails, consider consulting a veterinarian.

Good luck and happy cat parenting

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By Teresa Mine

Teresa has studied canine behaviour and canine nutrition. She loves sharing her knowledge and educating through her articles. She loves binge-watching animal documentaries. Teresa has some pets; she adores two dogs, two cats, and one hamster.