Litter box issues are one of the primary concerns of cat owners, and elimination issues can be frustrating. When trying to pinpoint the source of your kitty’s elimination issues, keep in mind that cats do not eliminate outside of the litter box out of anger or spite. Giving your cat special privileges or trying to “discipline” them for elimination problems will only make the situation worse. The following tips will help you determine the cause of your cat’s litter box issues and find solutions.
Go To the Vet First
It is important to have your cat examined by a veterinarian to rule out medical reasons for elimination problems. Your cat may have an undiagnosed medical problem which is causing them to avoid their litter box. Cats can often hide the symptoms of health issues, so even if they seem healthy, schedule an examination first. Cats act unpredictably when they are in pain or uncomfortable. If they are suffering from a urinary tract infection, or are constipated, they may associate the pain with the litter box and try to avoid it. Or, they may have an ingrown claw that makes digging in litter painful. Likewise, if your pet is older and has arthritis, your laundry pile might seem more soft and appealing than trying to climb into a box when their joints hurt.
At Cat Hospital of Houston, we care about your felines If your cat is experiencing litter issues, please contact us before it becomes a serious problem.
Litter Box Basics
Cats don’t typically look for privacy when they’re outdoors. They actually value space more than privacy. Because humans like privacy, and don’t like looking at litter boxes, they often tend to purchase hooded boxes, or place them in areas where they are out of sight. Your cat needs plenty of room to turn around, dig, and cover what they’ve eliminated. If their whiskers or fur touch the sides of an enclosed box they’ll avoid it. If your cat spends time clawing the box sides to cover their deposits, they need a bigger box.
Additionally, if you have a multi-cat household, there may be inter-cat issues that can come into play. If there is a lot of hierarchical feline conflicts in the home they can often center around hooded boxes, since it’s easy to ambush when there’s no sightline or escape route. A general rule is one litter box per cat, plus one. For example, if you have three cats, you need four litter boxes. Don’t make the mistake of crowding all the boxes into one small area. While you may not want litter boxes in different rooms or areas, the payoff of having happy cats and not having to clean up messes is worth it.
Liners or Not?
Pan liners may be a luxury for the owner, but not appreciated much by the cat. Liners make it easy to clean a soiled litter box, but they do have drawbacks. If your cat is digging and gets their claws snagged in the plastic at the sides or bottom, they may form a negative association with using the box. Liners also carry a small amount of static-electric charge, especially in dry regions. Coming into contact with the liner, especially with long-haired felines, can result in an unpleasant zap every time they attempt to use the box. It’s understandable that this could lead to non-use.
Litter Box Filler Preferences
There are many types of litter to choose from, including scoopable, clumping, clay, vegetable-based, crystals, and scented or non-scented varieties. Most cats prefer a soft litter, and if given hard substances underfoot, will instead choose the bath mat, clothing or bedding. Consider switching from clay litter, crystals or pellets to softer, or sandier varieties if kitty doesn’t seem to like other types.
While you prefer the smell of fake flowers over urine, cats don’t – strong perfumes will turn them away. They also don’t appreciate strong-smelling cleaners like Lysol, Pine-Sol or ammonia, and though you think they smell clean, your cat’s sense of smell is much more finely tuned and they’ll find it offensive. The best solution is to opt for the un-scented and just make sure you scoop it daily and clean it regularly. Many litter pickiness issues could be resolved if people just kept the litter boxes clean.