What if the Problem Isn’t Medical?
Behavioral issues can be a bit more challenging to solve, but there are solutions! Start with your cat’s litter box. Is the litter box clean? Is is really clean? Scoop at least twice a day to make sure your cat has a clean place to do her business. Have you ever seen a bathroom you wouldn’t want to use? Cats don’t want to use a filthy bathroom either. Scooping more means you’ll actually spend less time cleaning. Remove the litter, (you don’t necessarily have to replace all of it, just take the litter out to get to the box), and clean the box thoroughly once a week. Replace litter completely once a month. If you keep the box clean, you can just top it off as needed, which will save you money on litter. If you hate scooping, you can try a self cleaning box, although they are pricey and can frighten some cats, or a sifting litter pan, which allows you lift the pan, clumps and other waste intact and dump it right in the trash. Sifting pans can also be used with liners, but if you ask us, liners are a waste and cats may dislike them creating further issues. Cats are much more likely to use a litter box that’s kept clean and sometimes inappropriate elimination can be solved simply by keeping a cleaner litter box. Your cat will thank you.
Speaking of litter…
Sometimes cats object to the type of litter being used. Did you recently switch brands? If you’re brand loyal to your toilet paper, think of it in the same way. Your cat may just like their usual litter. If you are switching types of litter, it’s usually best to slowly combine the new litter in with the old to make the transition go smoothly.
That said, let’s get into the different types of litter. Some scents may appeal to you, but could drive your cat away from her litter box. Strong florals or strong pine may just be a turn off for your cat. A cat’s sense of smell is exponentially better than yours and just like some strong perfumes are irritating to people, they can be to cats too.
The composition of your litter may also be driving your cat away. Some cats won’t touch pine litters, others will have nothing to do with clay litters. With clay litters, it’s important to note that silica dust can irritate the lungs of both cats and humans. Additionally, most types of clay litters won’t biodegrade once bonded with cat urine. Litters that are more natural can be more appealing to many cats and have the added benefit of being biodegradable. Most people know about standard clay litters. They are available at most supermarkets and discount stores. While readily available, they may not be the best option. Consider other types if your cat is not using the litter box regularly.
Wheat based litter tends not to be terribly dusty, clumps decently and does not hold lots of odor. It’s biodegradable and some brands can be flushed. If you are on a septic tank system or have old plumbing, err on the side of caution and stick to dumping waste in the trash.
Corn based litter is another option. It clumps a litter better than clay and also tends not to hold in odors. World’s Best Cat Litter is now widely available in their standard formulations and specialty pet stores carry their Advanced Natural line. Lindsay Barrett, manager of our rescue and pet boutique uses this litter exclusively because it clumps so well and doesn’t stick to the box. A medium sized bag lasts her about two months in a single cat household making it an economical and environmentally sound option.
Pine pellets are ecologically sound and now available at most discount stores, however, as mentioned earlier, cats may object to the scent and there is little clumping action with these litters. They can however, be a great option for cats with sensitive feet as they are generally soft.
Newspaper litters like Yesterday’s News are a great option for cats with injuries to their feet and many declawed cats prefer them.
Attractant litter can often help resolve issues where other litters have failed. Dr. Elsey’s Cat Attract or their litter box attractant can be mixed in with your regular litter or substituted to help bring cats back to the box.
If you’re considering a litter change and have the space, try a second litter box with a different litter substrate and see which your cat uses more, letting your cat choose can be easier than trial and error with new types of litter.
Is the type of litter box an issue?
Covered litter boxes are popular with people, but not always with cats. If you’re not scooping daily because you don’t have a visual reminder to clean the box, it may be unpleasant for your cat to use. If something has happened to startle your cat while they are in the box, they may feel threatened. Because cats can’t see out of many covered boxes, something as simple as a loud noise that occurred while they were inside may have spooked them and created a negative association with the box. Does your dog try to nose in while your cat is taking care of business? Because cats can’t see out of covered boxes they can feel cornered while inside. You can try taking the door off or better yet, remove the lid entirely and see if your cat returns to regular litter box use.
If your cat is older, high sided litter boxes may be difficult for her to enter. Try a box with lower sides or one that has a deep cut entry in front to allow for easy access.
If you cat is going near the litter box, consider it’s size. Does your cat fit comfortably inside the box? If you cat is just a bit outside, try a larger box, that may be all it takes.
Location, Location, Location
The laundry room is often an out of the way place to put a litter box, but the sounds the machines make could be upsetting your cat and preventing box use. Consider a quiet place where your can have privacy and can make a quick exit should they feel threatened. If need be, try a little used room. You can move the box if necessary if you’re concerned about visitors, however, a clean box won’t give off objectionable kitty odors.
Try to choose a location where you cat will be able to see the area around her and is unlikely to be bothered by other pets. Additionally, your cat’s food and water should not be kept next to the litter box. In fact, if you find your cat soiling a particular area of your home, placing food and water in that location may be a deterrent to inappropriate elimination.
Well lit areas can be a deterrent to litter box use as well. While the litter box area does not have to be entirely darkened, bright lighting may cause your cat to feel more vulnerable.
A Quick Word About Litter Mats
Litter mats are a great way to prevent the tracking of litter, but make sure it’s a comfortable surface for your cat. If you’ve recently placed a new mat, try removing it to see if your cat goes back to using the litter box. For cats with particularly sensitive feet, an old bath mat or towel may be the best option.