Creating Good Litterbox Habits For Your Cat

All too often beloved pet cats find themselves in shelters for inappropriate elimination, or not using the litterbox.  Urinating and defecating outside the litterbox can be due to a medical condition, but may be behavioral in nature as well.   Taking a trip to the vet to get help sorting out the difference between a behavioral or a medical problem is the first step!  Once a medical problem has been ruled out, there are quite a few measures you can take to help your feline establish good litterbox habits once again.

Cats are highly sensitive creatures that are in tune with their surroundings.  They thrive on routines.  Anything out of the ordinary can “stress out” felines very easily.  One way that stress may manifest is not using the litterbox.  Ask yourself questions such as:  What environmental changes may have occurred? (i.e. moving, construction, vacations, new pets, new babies, redecorating, construction,  etc.) This may give you some insight into the root of the problem.  New pets can upset the delicate balance in a home, especially if they do not get along well.

Perhaps you have identified a stressor, now what are some things you can do to help your kitty cope?  If you cannot remove you r cat from the stressful situation, you can try a couple of natural remedies.  There are pheromone collars, sprays, and plug-ins available at pet stores that are can help naturally keep your kitty calm.  Also, adding enrichment such as exercise and toys can add quality of life to your cat’s day.  Try a cat tree and a laser pointer; or maybe a window perch.  Some cats enjoy leash walks outside.  There are prescription medications that can aid in anxiety for pets (Prozac is a common one). 

Litterbox number and placement is also very important.  There should be a litterbox for each cat plus one extra.  Keep them clean at all times as some cats are VERY particular about using tidy litter boxes .   Studies show cats prefer unscented, fine grain, clumping litter.  Also, large litterboxes with no tops are preferred.  Older cats with arthritis may need to have low-walled plastic storage bins that are easy to get in and out of.   Make sure the boxes are in a quiet place that is also a low traffic area.  Kitties like their privacy!   Laundry rooms can be loud and hallways can be too busy.  If you have an animal that bullies another, you may have to separate them as they may be avoiding the litterbox to stay away from a grumpy housemate.

Inappropriate litterbox habits can be a frustrating part of cat ownership, but don’t give up!  Talk to your vet about medical problems that may be the cause and behavioral modification that may help as well!  

Categories: Pet Health Tips from the Helen Woodward Animal Center