ALWAYS START WITH A TRIP TO YOUR VETERINARIAN TO RULE OUT A MEDICAL ISSUE BEFORE BEGINNING TROUBLE SHOOTING!
We are frequently presented with cats of all ages that have mysteriously stopped using their litter box. When confronted with this troublesome issue, stop and ask yourself the following questions:
- How many pesky felines do I have?
- What is my ratio of felines to litter boxes?
- What has changed at my house? Routines? New pets? New furniture? New carpet? New litter? Did the litter box location change?
- How long has this beein going on?
- Where are your litter boxes located in your home?
- How does he/she feel about the other cats in the house? Does he/she get picked on by the other cats in the house?
- Do the other cats bother him him/her when in the litter box?
- How often is the litter box cleaned? (Honestly… we all know it’s the chore that no one in the house wants to do!!!)
When owning multiple cats, ideally the ratio of litter boxes to cats should be 2:1. For every cat, there should be 2 litter boxes. While we understand that this is not always possible, at least one litter box per cat should be provided. It is not unusal for a cat to have a favorite box and to guard that box from the other cats.
Cats are also creatures of habit. When ever something changes your house, it disrupts their normal routine. New furniture, new carpeting, rugs, and new pets all have new smells. Your cat may be displaying his/her dissatisfaction with your new décor and trying to mask the scent with his/her own. Cats can also develop a “substrate preference” for carpet or rugs. In this case, the best plan of action would be to pick up any throw rugs or bathmats until you can re-train the cat to use the litter box.
The best way to litter train your cat is to confine it to a single room or large crate with nothing but its litter box and food dishes. Also, while we look at the litter box and think more litter is better, the opposite is true. Cats prefer a smaller amount of litter in their litter box. Can you imagine standing in quicksand every time you use the restroom? Not a fun time for you and not a fun time for your cat. Try experimenting with the amount of litter that you are using and see if your cat has a preference. While you are working through all these issues with your cat, it goes without saying that the litter box needs to be scooped at least once a day. Keeping the litter clean and fresh increases the likelihood that your cat will want to use the litter box.
Two of the biggest issues that cause unwanted elimination are the location of the litter box and the stress from being bullied by the other cats in the house. Let’s start with the easiest issue to address first. LOCATION!!! LOCATION!!! LOCATION!!! Cat’s prefer a quiet area removed from the rest of the house to elimiate. A room with low traffic is preferable. No one enjoys being watched in those awkward moments.
Bullying can be a big issue with cats. If you have a cat that is stand-offish with the other cats and is eliminating outside of the litter box, it may be because it is fearful of the other cats in the house. Cats will pick what they perceive as the weakest one in the bunch and continually chase and attack the weaker one. This stresses the weaker one out to the point where they feel that they need to hide and will avoid the litter box to avoid the bully. There are many different ways to address this situation. From alienating the weaker one to a room to avoid the other cat, re-homing the weaker cat or the bully, Fel-Away cat hormone sprays and plug-ins, or working on the confidence of the other cat. These are just a few of the options. Do your research. There are many articles written on this. Evaluate your cats and see what you feel would be best for your particular situation.
Also, consult with your veterinarian. The veterinarian will be able to run important diagnostics to determine if this is a behavioral issue or a medical problem. Diagnostics help the doctor to make sure that there are no underlying issues such as a urinary tract infection, kidney infection/disease, or diabetes just to name a few. ALWAYS consult with your veterinarian first. By delaying the visit to the veterinarian, if there is a medical issue, it may be too late to treat.