Cats And The Litter Box

Cats And The Litter Box:

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In the best of all possible worlds, a cat would be happiest having access to both the indoors and outdoors. Cats love the security and warmth of being inside. They also love the sights, smells, and excitement of the outside. Today's outside world, however, can be dangerous for a cat.

Kittens and the Litter box

Each newborn kitten has the instinctual knowledge that bowel and bladder elimination must be deposited in a hole dug in the earth and then covered up. All that one needs to do to train a kitten is to provide the land and show the kitten where it is. The kitten will take care of the rest!

Start with a litter box large enough to accommodate your cat as an adult. This eliminates the need to change boxes which can sometimes be a factor in future disuse. Pour in an absorbent cat-box filler about three to four inches deep. I like a scented fill that does not have a lot of fine powder. The new powdered clay fillers are excellent. The advantage of powdered clay is that you remove only the balls of the matter daily and occasionally replace the lost litter. If you use regular filler, clean it every day and completely change it every three or four days.

It is essential to place the litter box in a semi-private location, such as under a table or inside a closet with the door partially open. Cats like their privacy.

As soon as you bring your kitten home, show her the litter box's location by placing her in it. She will probably jump out immediately. That's okay. Several times those first few days, put her in the litter box. She will soon find out that that is the only place where she will be able to dig a hole for elimination purposes. Every time she gets into the litter box, praise her for the first several days with "Good Kitty!"

If your kitten does not use the litter box after this procedure, have her thoroughly checked by a veterinarian. If she is healthy but still insists on going in places other than the litter box, clean these areas with soap and water and then overspray them with a solution of 25 percent white vinegar mixed with 75 percent water. This will remove the ammonia smell, which might encourage her to return to these same spots. If she returns to the same area, place the litter box there. If this does not work, confine her to one room, such as a bathroom, for a week. Place her food, water, and bed at one end of the room and her litter box in the other. Once she has started using it again, you can let her roam freely.

Adult Cats and the Litter box

If you have just adopted an adult cat and want to train her to use the litter box, start from the beginning, following the instructions in the previous chapter. If you are the guardian of an adult cat who has stopped using the litter box, look for medical or behavioral causes. Fortunately, most behavioral litter box problems are self-correcting. It usually requires confining the cat to a single room with her bed, food, and water at one end and the litter box at the other. The cat will begin using the litter box within a few days. Before trying this extreme measure, however, consider the many conditions which will cause a cat to quit using the box. These conditions must be altered if a permanent change is desired.

The first problem to consider is the medical one. If your cat defecates from the litter box, consider having her checked for blocked anal glands. See a veterinarian if she is constantly licking in the anal area, scooting along the floor, or crying. A cat may also have diarrhea, causing feces to stick to her fur and drop off later outside of the box. Diarrhea may be caused by an improper diet, hairballs, parasites, eating spoiled food, or an illness. If you suspect any of these as the problem, see a veterinarian.

Indiscriminate urination can be caused by a bladder infection, diabetes, old age incontinence, or arthritis. Some of the symptoms to look for besides urination outside of the box are: increased frequency of urination, decreased volume of urine, increased thirst, crying, obvious distress during urination, enlarged abdomen, and blood in the litter box. Of course, any change of personality is a possible sign of illness. See a veterinarian immediately if you suspect a bladder blockage. This is a life-threatening situation!

There are many factors to consider if your cat's discontinued use of the litter box is a behavioral problem. Changing the brand of litter or the size, shape, and depth of the litter box can cause some cats to refuse its use. If you have just adopted an adult cat, this could be her problem until she becomes accustomed to the new litter and box. Experiment first with litter box filler. Then try a different litter box.

The stress is tremendous to a new adoptee going from her old familiar territory, then to a shelter, and now to your home. It takes a cat from three to eight weeks to fully adjust to a new environment, including consistent use of the litter box. Be patient, and do not punish your cat by hitting her, rubbing her nose in feces or urine, or scolding her. Cats are very clean by nature, and the last thing a cat wants is to soil her territory outside her toilet. A cat knows what a litter box is for, and she knows how to hit that tiny little target hole she just created!

The anxiety of being given up for adoption can cause some cats to release stress by defecating or urinating wherever they feel secure, and it may not be in that brand-new litter box.

Cats will discontinue using a full litter box. With more than one cat, having a litter box for each is a good idea. It is best to clean it daily.

A new adoptee might be accustomed to going in a box with shredded paper, sand, sawdust, powdered clay, or some other substrate. Experiment with different substrates. The depth of the substrate can be a critical factor for some cats. Some like it deep, some shallow. If your cat urinates on a particular rug, cut out a piece of rug, place it in the litter box along with some litter, and gradually reduce the size of the portion of the rug while at the same time increasing the amount of litter. See a veterinarian if your cat is urinating on a cold surface like the stove top or sink. This could be a medical problem.

If you have just moved into a new home, and your cat started urinating outside the box, you might suspect the mastic used on some tiles and carpets. Some have an ammonia smell, which is the urine odor, encouraging some cats to urinate on these surfaces. You might also suspect the previous owners had a cat who missed the litter box.

If your cat has an accident, say nothing, clean it up, and spray over it with a 25 percent white vinegar and 75 percent water solution. This will mask the ammonia odor and discourage the kitty from returning to the same spot again.

Some cats can be stressed enough to temporarily discontinue using the litter box if a new baby, pet, or significant other moves into the home. Losing a significant other, including a companion pet, can temporarily break a cat's litter box routine. These problems are usually self-correcting.

Cats like their litter boxes placed in a semi-private location. A closet with the door slightly open or under a table away from the main traffic pattern are a good place. I know one person who keeps it in the shower stall. Experiment with locations. Put the box in an area that seems comfortable to your cat.

Any disturbance in a cat's routine or change in her territory, such as remodeling or painting, may cause her to temporarily discontinue using the litter box.

It is essential not to feed table scraps to a cat. Feed her a quality food. If irregular eating habits create house soiling problems, feed her twice a day and put the food away to eliminate in-between snacking. This would also benefit an overweight cat.

Remember, do not punish a cat for any behavior problems. A cat views chasing, kicking, hitting, and screaming as punishment. Physical punishment creates stress which can result in litter box problems.

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