Litter Box Issue and Answers:
This is information that may save the life of any cat you know! Please
save this information should you need it or to pass along to anyone who's
at their "wits end" with litter box problems. Soiling "outside
the box" is the #1 reason cats are abandoned or put down so this
information could save a cat's life!
Last week I attended a lecture by Dr. Andrea Tasi of Kingstown Cat Clinic
on "Litter box Blues" and learned some very useful information.
You can print out more information about preventing Litter box Blues at:
RULE OUT MEDICAL CAUSES FIRST:
Dr. Tasi said that over the course of her practice she has found that
medical problems are the #1 reason cats stop using the box. So she encourages
cat people to always rule that out first. (I had urine withdrawn externally
with a needle from my 14-year-old cat last month. It really wasn't that
bad and was over in about 3 seconds; the cost was under $30 and was well-worth
doing.) Cats are "associative beings." That means that if they
associate the cat box, or type of litter, with painful urination or defecation,
even after curing the infection, they will "still associate"
pain with the litter box. Therefore, in order to break the "associative
disorder" it's advised to buy a NEW box and perhaps a new litter
type, and go from there. REMEMBER: Cats aren't trying to get back at you
by soiling, they are doing it for perfectly logical reasons -- you need
to think like a cat in order to change your cat's behavior. Never, ever
punish your cat as you will not change the behavior, but only make your
cat fear you.
USE SANDY TEXTURES:
As we all know, cats originated as desert animals and, as such, they truly
prefer SOFT, sandy textures. Dr. Tasi said AVOID the new crystal products,
and coarse litters, as they are painful to the tender pads of many cats,
and "just don't feel right." Dr. Tasi generally recommends clumping
litters, except for kittens under 4 weeks, who can inhale or ingest the
clumping substance and develop health problems, sometimes fatal. She especially
likes a product called "Dr. Elsey's (unscented) Precious Cat Litter."
Dr. Elsey also makes another product called "Cat Attract" that
attracts them to the box. You can take a look at his products at: http://www.preciouscat.com/,
or call toll free at: 877-311 CATS (2287). If you want a clay free litter
product, try "World's Best" which is made with corn. Dr. Tasia
recommends filling the box 2-3" with litter.
TAKE THE HOOD OFF & DUMP THE SCENTED LITTERS:
She said that cats NEVER go into dark, enclosed spaces to eliminate because
that puts them in a very vulnerable position. So if a cat is avoiding
a hooded box, take the hood off or don't use one in the first place! It
is another "turn off" to cats and will often make them go elsewhere.
Dr. Tasi said that our cats' noses are 1000% more sensitive than ours
and hoods trap the odors and dust. Also, "out of sight, out of mind,"
may make us forget to scoop the box as often as we should (at least twice
a day). Would you want to go to the bathroom in a dirty toilet? Your cat
doesn't either! Cats also find the smells of roses and cheap perfumes
in the litter repulsive, so always choose unscented litter. Try mixing
about 1/2 cup baking soda into the box if odor is a problem to your nostrils.
TRY A DIFFERENT SIZED BOX:
Especially for those overweight cats, or cats whose urine sprays outside
the box; go to Home Depot, Wal-Mart, etc. and buy a BIG Rubbermaid or
plastic storage box. If she or he is a sprayer, get one that's very high
and cut out an oval entrance in front. If she or he has arthritis, put
a little ramp up to the entrance. If they kick litter all over the place,
buy one of those large plastic washing machine liners and put your "box
or boxes" into it. It's much cheaper to buy these items at a department
store than from a pet store.
Best scoopers are flat metal utensils with little holes or slits -- I've
found the best ones at the dollar store!
LOCATION OF BOX:
Please put a box on EACH LEVEL of your house in a quiet, out of the way
location, that's not next to a heater, washing machine or appliance that
could suddenly start up and frighten your cat. Be mindful of older cats
that may suffer from arthritis and bladder problems and might find a long
trip to the basement painful and difficult (put a ramp or phone book in
front of the box entrance to help them step up). Though cats see better
than us in low light, CATS CAN'T SEE IN THE DARK, so please don't put
their box in a pitch dark basement. Also, the general rule of thumb is
to have one box for each cat and put each box in a different location
so they aren't competing for the box. And don't place them next to their
food or water. Would you want to eat next to your toilet?
CLEANING THE BOX DOESN'T JUST MEAN SCOOPING OUT THE POOP!:
Again, back to that 1000% nose, look at the box itself next time you clean
it. After scrubbing it with soap and water and perhaps a bit of bleach,
rinse it out thoroughly. You may want to place it in the sun to dry as
sunshine is a natural disinfectant. Then put your nose into the box and
take a deep sniff. If there's a lingering odor or it's covered in scratches
and discoloration, throw it out and buy a nice new one at Wal-Mart or
CLEANING STAINS & ODORS OUTSIDE THE BOX:
You've got to use an enzymatic cleaner to get rid of those stains and
odors. Remember your cat's 1000% nose will bring him back to previous
elimination spots and she or he will pee/poop there again. There are some
great products available, including "Simple Solution" Stain
& Odor Remover. Dr. Tasi's favorite product is "Anti-Icky-Poo"
in Veterinary Practice strength (she doesn't like it in "regular"
strength). Check your vet's office for it or order online at: http://www.antiickypoo.com/
Dr. Tasi said you must first SATURATE the spot with solution and KEEP
IT WET for 24 hours, covering it with plastic & spraying it several
times. Remember that the urine soaked in deeply and then spread horizontally
throughout the fibers, so you must get the product deeply into whatever
is stained or smells. DO NOT USE ANYTHING THAT IS AMMONIA-BASED, because
of its "urine-like" scent to a cat.
Dr. Tasi also recommends another product called "Feliway": http://www.feliway.com/
this smells like friendly pheromones to a cat and when sprayed in a cat's
environment, it creates a comforting, reassuring feeling that reduces
the impulse to urine mark or scratch. (A cat's pheromones are between
his eye and ear; when she or he rubs his head against you, they are putting
friendly pheromones on you.)
PLAY WITH YOUR CAT - STRESS CAN CAUSE ELIMINATION PROBLEMS:
Dr. Tasi says that many elimination problems stem from boredom. Cats are
designed to be hunters and become incredibly bored and frustrated when
they are denied the opportunity. She says to spend at least 15 minutes
each day playing with your cat. Toys like "da bird" are excellent
(ask for it at your local pet store); anything interactive that makes
your cat run and chase. Dr. Tasi says laser toys are OK -- NEVER shine
in your cat's eyes -- but can frustrate the cat as they are never able
to catch anything. Be sure your cat has plenty of toys to stalk and chase.
Here's a great site for toys: http://www.cattoys.com/
You might also want to consider acquiring another cat or two so your pet
has somebody to play with. CAUTION:
Do not leave string toys lying around as your cat can choke to death on
string or it can end up wrapped around his internal organs and
WONDERFUL FINAL TIP FOR ACQUIRING A NEW CAT:
Apart from "Introducing a Cat to a New Home" instructions which
are another topic in itself, I learned this simple new tip: While keeping
the cats separated in different rooms, try wiping each cat's fur with
a separate towel daily. Then place each cat's food dish on top of the
other cat's towel. They will associate each other's scent with the positive
experience of being fed, and grow tolerant of each other quickly!