I want to switch gears from my previous posts about dogs (Leashing your Dog) and talk a little bit about those other furry friends, cats. Cats are one of the most intriguing and misunderstood companions on the Earth (next to my husband!) and can present many complex issues when caring for them. So I hope the information below will help you with your cat care and bring you closer to your furry, feline friend!
One very common problem that we hear about from feline pet owners is that their cat is urinating or defecating outside of the litter box. It can be a frustrating and perplexing problem, especially when your kitty decides, quite suddenly, that he or she does not want to use the box anymore. Here are 10 points to take into consideration when trying to solve this problem:
#1. Physical Cause: First and foremost, it is important to rule out a physical problem. Schedule an exam with your veterinarian. If the issue is of a urinary nature, collect a urine sample to submit for urinalysis. Your veterinarian can furnish you with a plastic litter called No-Sorb to help with the collection process, or they may be able to obtain the sample during the exam. If your pet is defecating outside of the box, collect and submit a fecal sample for testing. Also note the consistency of your cat’s stools: are they runny or excessively hard? A urinary tract infection, diarrhea and constipation can all make it very stressful for your cat to use the litter box and your cat may be moving to different locations in distress.
#2. Litter Box Location: Where is the litter box located? Perhaps the area where the litter box is located is off-putting to the cat. Bathrooms and laundry rooms can create a very humid environment that is uncomfortable for your cat. In addition, it can be scary to go to the bathroom next to a loud dryer. You may also want to consider moving the boxes to different floors of the house. Many cats find a damp basement to be unappealing.
#3. Number of Litter Boxes: The rule of thumb is to have one more litter box than the number of cats in the house. Yes, really. Even in a single cat household, your cat should have the option to choose from at least two boxes. Believe it or not, some cats prefer to urinate in one box and defecate in the other.
#4. Cleanliness of Boxes: How often are you scooping the litter boxes? Be honest. A common response to this question is every few days. How would you like to use a toilet that hasn’t been flushed? (Yuck!) So, why should your cat like it? It is important to scoop the litter boxes twice daily and to change the litter completely once weekly.
#5: Type and Amount of Litter: Just like you may prefer a certain type of toilet paper, your cat may prefer a certain type of litter. If your cat stops using the box, think about changing the type of litter that you are using: scented vs. unscented, clay vs. crystal, etc. You can even try a “litter buffet” to see which type of litter your cat prefers by offering them a few different types in different boxes at the same time. Also, take into consideration the amount of litter you are putting into the box. Your cat should have enough litter to comfortably cover their creations but not so deep that they have to wade through it.
#6. Type of Litter Box: Does your cat’s litter box have a cover on it? This may be a nice feature for you but it can be a negative feature for your cat. Covered litter boxes trap the ammonia smell created by cat urine. So, as much as you like keeping the odor in, your cat does not.
#7: Size of Litter Box: Look at the size of the litter box in relation to the size of your cat. You want the box to be large enough that your cat can comfortably turn around as they get into position. They should never have to do their business hanging partially out of the box.
#8: Multi-Cat Household: More than one cat in the same household can pose litter box problems if one or more of the cats are not willing to share. You would be surprised what goes on behind your back! Even though the cats may seem to get along, it does not mean that they are good at sharing their resources. One cat may chase another cat away from a litter box if the first cat considers it to be his or her personal resource. It is important to supply multiple cats with multiple boxes in multiple locations.
#9: Geriatric Cats: Older cats can develop arthritis, which can make climbing into a deep litter box a struggle. Be kind to your older cats by giving them the lowest litter box you can find. Depending on the degree of your cat’s arthritis or other conditions, you may have to use more untraditional resources: sometimes even the lowest litter box may be too high for your little old man or lady. Think about using the lid to a plastic storage bin or cutting the side of an existing litter box so that it has just a small lip for the cat to step over. Also, don’t make your old cat climb the stairs to get to the litter box if you can avoid it.
#10: Changes to Household Environment: A new home, a new baby, a new dog, construction, etc., any changes to your household environment may be a source of stress for your cat. Some cats communicate this stress through inappropriate urination or defecation. Try to alleviate stress by using a pheromone neutralizing spray or plug-in (Feliway is a brand that I like to use), preferably prior to and during the environmental change. Make sure that your cat still has his/her own private space. If all else fails, talk to your veterinarian about anti-anxiety drugs.
Cat care can be tricky and litter box issues are common and frustrating, but try to look at it from your cat’s point of view. Pet owners tend to have greater empathy so stepping into their “shoes” will always help solve yours – and their – problems. See if you can fix the problem through some of these suggestions before you end up resenting your fuzzy little family member.
If you have any other ideas, please share them in the comments section or feel free to ask me any questions you may have on the Forum page of our website.
Thanks for reading!