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Litter Box 101

September 18, 2014

Ensuring your kitty has perfect litter box manners

Many cat owners will have a feline friend decide that the litter box is actually not the best place to do business. All too often a cat will decide that it’s actually far better to use a discreet corner in your house, or perhaps your favorite shoe, the clean laundry, or even the bathroom sink. It might seem like this is a random and meaningless change in behavior, but generally, you’ll probably be able to figure out the cause and get your cat back on track in no time.

Why is my cat not using his or her box?

Here’s the big question: why do cats, who usually like to be neat and clean about their elimination habits, decide to change?

First things first: make sure it’s not medical. There are a number of medical issues that can cause your otherwise well-mannered kitty to boycott his/her litter box. The first thing you should do is see your veterinarian. At Peterborough West Animal Hospital we will want to run some tests (urine, blood) to ensure that there is nothing wrong with your cat’s kidneys, bladder and digestive system. For more information on maintaining your cat’s overall health, which can help prevent litter box issues, check out our article on Keeping Your Cat Healthy.

Marking and Spraying

A common cause is the instinct to spray or mark. This is most common among unneutered males, although it is also something that can happen in females and neutered males. Cats usually mark to lay claim to their territory — especially if there is a female in heat in the area — or as a reaction to stress.

In the case of marking, if your cat isn’t neutered, be sure to have him neutered. Dr. Sargent, Dr. Giffen or any member of the team at Peterborough West Animal Hospital would be happy to discuss this with you! It will often quickly stop inappropriate urination, but also it leads to a healthier and longer-lived cat. Neutered cats have lower risk of cancer, are less likely to stray, and are often just calmer and easy to live with.

If your cat is neutered or spayed and starts to mark, look around and see if there might be something causing your cat to feel stressed or uncomfortable:

You can use non-toxic anti-cat sprays to discourage marking or even use essential oils like peppermint, citrus, and eucalyptus to repel your cat and discourage marking in a particular area.

There are also a synthetic pheromone spray or diffuser product called Feliway® that you can use that will help reduce your kitty’s stress. Relieving your kitty’s stress can potentially eliminate some types of inappropriate elimination occasionally medications are required. Again, the doctors and staff at Peterborough West Animal Hospital will discuss this with you. If your cat’s stress-related behaviors persist, consider our Veterinary Behavior Counseling service for personalized advice and treatment options to address these issues.

Random Inappropriate Urination and Defecation

Cats will choose to stop using a litter box for a variety of other reasons, some obvious and some not. Some of the most common causes include:

Cleaning Up Messes

Cats have incredibly strong powers of smell (not as strong as a dog, but many times more powerful than humans). Normal household cleaners will not remove the smell of urine or feces. You will need to use special enzymatic cleaners to get the (awful) odour out of carpet, upholstery, wood floors, and anything else that your cat’s waste might touch. The odour from the urine of an unneutered male is particularly difficult to get out of many materials (another reason to get your kitty neutered!). Talk to us at Peterborough West Animal Hospital for our recommendations.

Stay Calm and Patient and Show Lots of Love

While it’s easy to let a problem like this get you really frustrated with your kitty, don’t let it get to you. If you get stressed or angry, it will cause your cat to feel the same way. Cats don’t do this to be bad, they just react to something that makes them break rules that they are normally happy to follow.

Contact us, your local animal hospital in Cavan Monaghan, ON!