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Get the Scoop on Resolving Litter Box Issues with 5 Easy Steps
The main reason cats are re-homed or end up in shelters is because of litter box issues. About 10% of all cats have litter box problems and up to 75% have behavioral problems that center on litter box issues. It’s the #1 problem I encounter in cat consults. That’s a lot of unhappy cats and unhappy pet owners, but many potentially unhappy endings can be avoided with simple education.
Using a cat litter box is the most natural thing in the world for cats – until it isn’t. Cats are naturally clean and particular about how and where they do their business. For thousands of years cats have instinctively scratched and dug the ground to urinate and defecate. Their survival originally depended on it. Kittens would watch their mothers do it and follow naturally. Depending on the type of substrate (sand, earth, leaves, pine needles etc.) and the size of their territory, they would cover their deposits or not. Modern day cats are still instinctual and closely follow in their ancestors’ footsteps when dealing with their litter box habits.
Nothing is more frustrating for pet parents than when their cat refuses to use their litter box. All cats want a safe, quiet, clean litter box space. No cat deliberately or spitefully decides, “Oh I think I’ll poo on the rug and spray the curtains today.” If a cat is going outside the box, there is a reason. Yelling at a cat or punishing it will not help and likely reinforce the unwanted behavior. You should never rub a cat’s nose in their urine or feces.
#1: The first step is to rule out an underlying medical cause.
Solving your cat’s litter box problem may require a trip to the vet. Explain in detail, what the cat is doing or not doing. One of the most surprising things I still encounter are pervasive old myths like: Cats don’t need to see a vet unless they’re sick or my cat looks okay so she must not be sick. Cats are hardwired to hide any symptoms of illness. Their survival as a species over thousands of years depended on it. One year in a cat’s life is about seven human years. Imagine how much your health can change in seven years. It makes medical and fiscal sense to provide cats with regular check-ups at least once a year. By finding and treating conditions early on, pet owners not only help prolong their beloved pet’s life but save money down the road.
The most common medical reasons for not using the litter box are constipation and urinary tract infection or crystals, but there can be many other causes from parasites, kidney stones, IBS, polyps, kidney disease, diabetes, arthritis, impacted anal glands and stress. Long-haired cats cat get painful mats stuck with excrement. Keep their fur trimmed in their private area.
If a medical cause is ruled out, then the issue is likely behavioral. Stress can be a huge contributing factor. Cats are creatures of habit. They hate change and thrive on regular schedules and routine. Needless to say they don’t welcome moving, new family members or other changes easily. Using synthetic “feel good” pheromone products like Feliway (plug-in or spray) are helpful to reduce stress in the home. Creating an enriched environment with places to perch and cozy places to hide help as do simply interacting with them by petting and calmly talking to them. Providing interactive play sessions once or twice a day are great stress alleviators and can drain excess aggressive energy while strengthening the human-animal bond.
The views and opinions expressed in this blog post are solely those of our guest blogger and do not represent the position or opinion of
World’s Best Cat Litter™.