Blogue Cat

Litter Box Hygiene

One can describe the behaviour of a cat satisfied with its tray and litter box in the following way: he enters the crate with a decided step, carefully chooses a place, digs a small hole, turns and does his needs while holding his legs firmly.

When he is finished, he inspects his feces and covers them almost always with great care.

The behavior of an unsatisfied cat is very different: he approaches the box with hesitation, he sometimes looks for a more favorable and cleaner place, shaking his legs, as if to rid them of something unpleasant that would have attached to it. At the time of his needs, he shows an expression of discomfort, his ears low and his body tense.

Some balance themselves at the edge of the crate, to minimize any contact with the sand, and end up dropping the droppings out of the crate.

Once the operation is complete, the cat moves away quickly, without covering its feces; others pretend to cover them by scratching in the air and the walls around the crate, so as not to dirty their legs with the litter.

Various reasons can cause this behavior: the position of the crate (too visible or too hidden), a crate too small, its possible cover, dirt or excessive cleanliness (with a strong smell of chemicals), too little litter or poor quality. To restore the habit of using the litter box, it must be made as attractive as possible: its cleanliness and accessibility are essential in this sense.

Avoid Using Scented Products
Each day, the agglomerating sand must be filtered while the non agglomerating sand will be completely changed if the cat has problems to «evacuate». Do not stir the dirty sand, as you would spread the urine instead of confining it to one place.

It is advisable to clean the crate by using vinegar to neutralize any possible smell, which may be unpleasant for the cat as for its master.

On the other hand, it is better not to use products that contain ammonia, because they can accentuate the smell of urine, as well as scented products that can repulse the cat and encourage him not to use the litter box.

The material, as well as the smell, shape and color of the box can be decisive elements in the acceptance or refusal of the cat.

Some, for example, hate plastic, probably because they feel it when they touch it, so it would be a big mistake to put a sheet of plastic under the crate to prevent them from spreading sand all over the crate by covering their feces. If you have recently changed the type of litter, it is better to put the old one back on.

After several tests of appreciation, it appears that sand is undoubtedly the preferred litter of cats, probably because their ancestors lived in the desert and they would have transmitted this preference to them in the genes.

An aversion to a specific litter can be remedied by proposing other different types based on sand, earth, vegetable glitter, agglomerating clay or not, paper, etc.

A Multitude Of Litter Varieties
Many cats prefer fine sand grains and agglomerating, but there are also plant litters based on grass, cereals, recycled paper. For cats that previously had the ability to get out freely, it may be useful to mix the litter with soil. If a cat has started soiling a carpet, a small piece of carpet can be put in the box or on the edge, as some cats prefer to scrape other materials than plastic when covering their feces.

Remember that cats are routine animals: the less changes, the less confusion. If you have multiple cats, you need to increase your number of litter bins, to have at least one per subject. A cat may indeed find himself completely inhibited if he has to use the same crate as a congener.

Some owners have observed that their cats use one crate to urinate and another to defecate. Some cats prefer larger crates, others prefer to defecate on the edge of the crate; a kind of platform made all around can, in this case, improve the situation and encourage the cat to use it.

To solve the problem of not using the litter box, you can use litter boxes of different measures and of different kinds (covered or not) and distribute them to different places in the house. The cat can also become stressed if the litter is placed too close to where its food and water dishes are usually located: it does not like to eat and do its needs in the same place.

If you put the litter box in a busy kitchen or laundry room, this can be a practical solution for you, but a sensitive cat will look for a quieter and less stifling place...

If The Cat Does Not Use Its Litter
The tendency to urinate and defecate outside the box provided for this purpose is the main behavioural disorder of cats living in apartments. A recent study in the United States found that 24% of cats do not use litter.

Most of them are male, urinating in the house or in the wrong place; but this problem is also observed in unsterilized females, especially during heat.

The most commonly soiled objects and places are household appliances, radiators, storage rooms, laundry baskets, desks, stereo speakers, and all new items such as shopping bags, cardboard boxes and sometimes even the legs of the guests.

A Behavior That Can Be Solved
This problem greatly afflicts teachers and pushes them to consider extreme solutions, such as abandonment or euthanasia. It is very frustrating to have to choose between living in the stench or getting rid of your dear companion. Under normal circumstances, cats are very clean in their domestic life, which means that this behaviour must have good reasons, closely related to the marking of the territory.

In 90% of cases, castration overcomes the problem; if it persists, it is linked to conditions of environmental stress and aggression towards other subjects. If for some reason a cat is anxious, then it lacks confidence and strongly feels the need to mark its territory.

If your cat still doesn’t want to urinate in his litter box and you live in a house, you can install a cat flap so that he can go and do his needs wherever he wants... Outside!

Cat Repellent
Do the neighbor’s cats regularly urinate on the terrace? Does your own cat like to let go on your green plants? It’s time to react...

There are some cat repellent products to try to keep away the too enterprising cats! Indeed, if you want to protect a place targeted by your cat, you can try to use the specific repellents sold on the market or natural home-made repellents!

First of all, always keep in mind that you should never bleach a place soiled by a cat. Bleach is an irremediable attraction for cats to mark their territory again.

As a natural cat repellent, a few drops of lavender essential oil deposited on a cotton pad are very effective. Then place the soaked cotton in your flower pots. A few drops of orange peel can also do the trick!

You can rub heavily scented soap on surfaces, for example on carpets.

You can also spray a lemon deodorant, or cover some surfaces with aluminum foil or heavy plastic foil.

However, these measures are not always enough to solve the problem. The cat then starts looking for another place just as inadequate and continues to avoid using his crate.

Stressed Cat Cleanliness Issue
It only takes a move to a new house, a change in the master’s schedule, the arrival of a new cat or a new person at home to trigger the stress in a cat.

If the master cannot always change this, he must always conduct a serious investigation to understand what events may have triggered the stress, because finding the source of the trouble can lead to a solution to mitigate the harm.

A move does not always cause physiological problems for the cat; the cat sometimes just «snub» its master. If, for example, an animal accustomed to roaming freely outside is transferred to an apartment in the city, he may ignore his master for weeks, however affectionate he may be.

It was also observed that if this cat is placed in boarding school for two weeks, he is generally very affectionate when he comes back to the apartment, probably because the stress caused by the stay in boarding school is more important than that of the move: a solution, yes, a bit draconian, but it can work.

Overpopulation, Lack of Attention...
Another typical case is that of the master who is absent from his home for two days: on his return, he finds the crate full of excrement, but also excrement from here and there in the house. The risk in this case is that the cat, after the first time, persists in soiling outside its crate; it is then necessary to clean and deodorize these places carefully to avoid that a new and bad habit is created.

Overpopulation and the presence of ungraded cats can cause unpleasant problems in controlling and marking the territory. When many cats live together in the same house, some may require more attention than others, and the master will have to devote a little more time to them while washing or letting them fall asleep near him.

These extra caresses can help subjects sensitive to competition with other cats in the house.

A more radical solution would be to reduce the density of the population by finding a new home for one or more of them or by allowing them access to larger rooms of the house that were previously forbidden to them.

Despite all these measures, some subjects may continue to refuse to use the litter box. You can then try to lock them in a small room, or in a cage, with a crate.

Cats hate to do what they need in cramped places because they can’t stand to mess up the place where they sleep. When the cat starts using his crate regularly again, you can then allow him to enter bigger and bigger rooms of the house. You can also install the crate at the exact spot where he likes to do his needs, then slowly move it to a more suitable place.

Another approach would be to train the cat the way you train the house dog: every morning, when you wake up, you take the cat to the litter box and encourage him to use it, to finally reward him if he uses it properly.

As mentioned above, the natural propensity of unsterilized stallions and cats to mark their territory can only be remedied by castration. If marking is dictated by stress, therapy should focus on eliminating the causes of the problem and improving the environment in which the cat lives.

If this is too complicated to do, you can use anxiolytics or progesterone; Buspiron has recently shown good results, but it is best to consult your veterinarian as these drugs have serious side effects.

As a last resort, and only for the most desperate cases, the veterinarian can suppress the cat’s sense of smell to save it from euthanasia.