Cats in our Community
Solving Litterbox Problems
House soiling is one of the most common behavior problems in cats. It is normal for cats to have surface and location preferences for where and on what they like to eliminate. With careful analysis of the cat’s environment, specific factors can usually be identified which have contributed to the litterbox problem.
What to Do?
- Immediately take the cat to the vet.
- There may be a serious underlying problem such as Feline Urinary Syndrome (FUS), which can be fatal in male cats within 24 hrs if left untreated.
- Low quality cat food can cause urinary tract problems. The high mineral content causes “struvite” crystals to form in the urethra, which results in extremely painful urination. Some litterbox problems mean the cat is trying to “tell” his people that he is hurting. These struvite crystals can completely block the urethra making urination impossible. If this happens, a male cat can die within 24 hours of toxic uremia.
- If your cat is given a clean bill of health by your veterinarian, the next step is to determine whether your cat is spraying or urinating outside the box. Spraying is urine-marking behavior, and is a cat’s way of indicating ownership of her territory. Marking is triggered by the presence of other cats. It can occur because neighborhood cats are “hanging around” outside, or because of conflicts between cats in a multi-cat household. Unfamiliar objects, smells, or people in the house can also cause the behavior.
- Spraying has nothing to do with litterbox habits. When a cat sprays, she stands up, backs up against a vertical surface and deposits urine at “cat height” against curtains, doors, walls, furniture, etc. Her tail may quiver and she may alternatively lift her hind feet while she sprays. Male, female, spayed or neutered cats of any age may spray, although the behavior is more common in intact males.
- Spraying problems can be drastically reduced or even completely resolved by:
- Spaying or neutering any unaltered cats in the household.
- Discouraging the presence of neighborhood cats. Try blocking off windows where your cat can see neighborhood cats. Discourage their presence with offensive odors.
- Resolving conflicts between cats in the household. If family cats are fighting or upset with each other, you’ll need to help them get along better. Make sure good things happen to each of them in the presence of the other. Punishing the cats is likely to make the problem worse. You may need to separate them temporarily while working on the problem. Talk to your veterinarian about possible short-term anti-anxiety drug therapy.
- Make the sprayed areas less attractive using techniques described below.
- Elimination problems: If you are finding puddles or feces on the floor, then your cat is choosing not to eliminate in the litterbox. The most common reasons why cats stop using the litterbox are an aversion to the box, surface preferences, location preferences, or a combination of all three. You’ll need to do some detective work to determine the reason for your cat’s change in behavior.
- Problem:Your cat has decided that the litterbox is an unpleasant place to be. The box may not be clean enough for her, she may have experienced painful urination or defecation in the box, she may have been startled by a noise while using the box.Solution: May require you to completely replace the litterbox so it no longer reminds your cat of unpleasant experiences. You may need to buy a new box, put it in a new location and use a different type of litter. Remember to keep the box clean – scoop out stools and urine every day, and wash the box and completely change litter anywhere from every three days to once a week.
- Problem: Change in your cat’s preferences for where they like to eliminate. These preferences may be established early in life, but they may also change overnight for reasons that we don’t always understand. If your cat often reaches out and scratches the carpet after she uses the box, she may come to prefer to use carpet instead of the litterbox. Many cats seem to develop a preference for either soft surfaces such as piles of clothes or the bed, while others may prefer slick surfaces such as the bathtub or the kitchen sink. Cats with an outdoor history may prefer dirt or grass.Solution: The material in the litterbox needs to be made more like the textures your cat prefers for elimination, and the places she’s soiling need to be made less attractive. For example for a soft-surface preference, try the new fine- grained, clumping litters. If your cat has been using the bathtub, give her a slick surface in the litterbox by placing very little, if any, litter in the box. If your indoor-only cat has been an outside stray before adoption, try generic potting soil in the box.
- Problem: Change in your cat’s location for elimination: Maybe her preference is for a quiet, protected place such as under a desk, downstairs, or in the closet. She may like to go in a location where the litterbox was previously kept, or maybe where a particular odor is located.Solution: Move the box to the preferred location, leaving it there until your cat uses it consistently for several weeks, and then VERY GRADUALLY (one or two inches per day) moving it back to where you want it to be. If your cat does not use the box when you move it, then it is not a location preference problem.
- Clean soiled areas
- Feline Odor Neutralizer (F.O.N. is sold only through veterinarians).
- Nature’s Miracle and Simple Solutions (available at most good pet supply stores) also work well.
- Make the soiled surfaces less attractive by covering them with double-sided sticky tape, plastic, or a vinyl carpet runner with the point side up.
- Give the areas an unpleasant smell by placing cotton balls saturated with muscle rubs or strong perfumes.
- Give your cat something else to do in these areas (rather than eliminate) by placing toys or food dishes there.
Two Cats are Easier than One
Most people who adopt one cat eventually adopt a second cat to keep the cat company! That’s because two cats are definitely easier than one. Read on to find out why…
- Cats who have a playmate tend to be more socially well-adjusted and avoid behavior problems like shyness, biting, hissing, being frightened and hiding from people they don’t know.
- They are less likely to ruin furniture out of boredom.
- If you must work long hours or travel for a couple of days, two or more cats keep each other company and are more tranquil during your absence.
- It’s more likely that people bring back an adopted cat due to behavior problems when only one has been adopted rather than two.
- By having two or more cats, you are able to enjoy the true social nature of cats and their relationship with each other.
- Your cat will remain more playful and youthful into his/her later years with a companion.
- Cats are much less likely to gain weight due to lack of movement, and to suffer related illnesses.
- The workload to care for two cats remains relatively the same.
- You don’t need more space for a second cat!