Avoiding the Litter Box!

Since Miss Tiger was nice enough to sit in for me when I had to go away with my parents and Mr. Yule, Gram and I thought it would be a nice gesture to write an article on cats and one of the problems they face being indoor animals.

According to Gram, one of the biggest problems people seem to have with cats, is elimination outside of the litter box. Since I really have no association with litter boxes and what they are used for, (seeing that I am an outside toilet girl myself,) I will let my Gram carry on with this topic.

Cats on the whole, seldom have a problem using the litter box and when they do, it requires a bit of searching to figure out what is happening to cause this problem.

First of all, the main consideration should be a medical problem. If your always faithful four-legged friend suddenly starts missing its box or starts eliminating elsewhere, the mystery should be solved and quickly.

Medical problems usually are the cause of most litter box problems. Pain associated with going to the bathroom will cause a cat to think the litter box is causing the pain. The pain can be caused either by a urinary tract infection or a GI tract infection, both of which can be treated by your vet.

Once in awhile an undetected infection or disease can cause the odor of the urine or feces to become “different and/or strong” and this new smell disturbs the cat.

If you cat is suffering from pain, such as arthritis or back pain, climbing into the box maybe extremely painful. If the litter box requires the cat to go up or down stairs, this too, may be too painful for the cat and thus finding a new place to urinate is up most on the cat’s mind.

The lack of flexibility caused by any pain may make it impossible for the cat to keep its back end inside the box thus causing elimination outside.

This is why a complete physical is really the best answer to a litter box problem. Cats, even when they are in extreme pain or are very ill will not show it, as it is in their genetic nature to hide any vulnerability from other critters and even their caregivers.

Once medical problems have been eliminated there are the situations within the household to be considered.

One that does not get too much attention is a very simple one. Is the litter box big enough for the cat? A kitten sized litter box is great for a kitten, but as the cat grows it needs a bigger box, especially if the cat is gaining weight. You would not fit in a child’s potty-chair, so do not expect your cat to use a small litter box.

Next has there been a change in the household. Think about it. Sometimes the simplest, almost not obvious change can trigger a response from the cat that may lead to a litter box problem. Cats love routine, changes are upsetting.

A perfect example would be a litter box placed in an area where in order to get to it the cat has to cross a room that a young child is playing. The child sees the cat and proceeds to chase it, after a few times the cat decides that using that litter box is not a good idea because of the child. The cat needs a quiet and safe place to eliminate.

This can happen also if you have a dog and the cat encounters the dog chasing it either when it is going to the litter box or leaving it.

There can also be a problem in a multi-cat household where one cat suddenly decides to become “top cat” and control the litter box. In multi-cat households it is best to have several litter boxes in different places, so that the matter of safety is available. Cats need to have a feeling of safety when using a litter box, there has to be a situation where they can enter the box and exit the box without being cornered.

Another thing to consider is this did something happened during the period of time that the cat was using the litter box that scared it? A loud noise or bang, someone coming near the cat and scaring it or any other disruption that could have caused the cat to panic.

Have you changed litter brands, this too can cause a problem, if a cat is used to a certain brand of litter? Last but not least, is the litter box CLEAN, cats hate dirty litter boxes? A box should be washed out weekly, but not with bleach or any type of ammonia. Cats a sensitive to smell and ammonia reminds them of urine. Just some plain dish detergent and hot water, rinsed completely out will do nicely, thank you! Fresh clean litter at least once a week along with a daily removal of the offending stuff and you will have one happy cat.

As Sadie’s Gram and the caregiver of 3 cats I hope this has answered your questions about some to the litter box problems you may face.

Remember cats are not bad, they just are a wee bit fussy and as I have said before I, Sadie, put them in the same class as squirrels fun to chase.

Until next time, I remain

Your Sadie