The most common of all cat behavior problems is that of elimination outside the litter box. Besides the mess and damage, inappropriate elimination is unsanitary and creates an unpleasant (and often malodorous) atmosphere in the home.
Sometimes your kitty suddenly begins eliminating in inappropriate places which could be a sign that she doesn’t feel well. You’ll never make any progress on getting her to use the litter box consistently if there’s a physical cause for the unwanted behavior, so get her to the vet as soon as possible.
Apart from physical reasons, it could also be something psychological such as the location of the litter box. Maybe it’s too far out of the way (for example, down in a basement or up in an attic) or too hard to get into or out of for small kittens or elderly cats. Sometimes, air fresheners or other odors in the room will keep the cat away. Pine and citrus, for example, are pleasing smells to us but may be offensive to cats. Also, loud noises, such as a nearby stereo, may disturb your cat when she’s doing her business.
Before you try to treat inappropriate elimination as a behavior problem, take your cat to the vet for a thorough exam. If your vet rules out a physical cause, you know it’s probably a straight behavior problem. However, even if there is a physical problem and your vet treats it successfully, your cat still has developed the habit of eliminating someplace other than litter box; you’ll still need to follow the steps for correcting the behavior problem. Here are some helpful tips:
Give your kitty a lot of options: Litter boxes and litter should be bought simultaneously with the decision to get a cat. Set them up before the cat sets a single paw in your home. Make sure they are clean, easy to find, and numerous enough as many cats dislike using a box that another cat has recently used (even if that other cat is herself). A litter box in every room could help your cat feel more comfortable. A useful thumb rule to follow is: The number of litter boxes in the house should equal the number of cats in the house plus one. Thus, if you have two cats, you should have at least three litter boxes; even households with just one cat should have at least two boxes.
Keep it simple silly: These days a lot ofinteresting options are available in the form of Deodorizing litters, antibacterial litters, high-tech litters etc. There’s nothing wrong with using a litter that makes your job of tending to the litter box a little easier but it is likely that your cat may be put off by the additives, perfumes, and chemical deodorizers used in some of these products. And that means they’ll choose to do their business elsewhere. A plain cat box clumping litter (unscented) usually works fine.
Stop the behavior initially: Once a cat starts eliminating outside of the litter box, do not assume she’ll learn to use the box on her own. Cats habitually return to the same places to eliminate, a habit that’s re-enforced by the lingering odor of urine or feces. Since a cat’s sense of smell far superior to ours, cleaning up a litter box accident so that you can no longer detect the odor may not be enough to deter the cat from doing it again. Therefore it is necessary to stop your cat after her first accident itself. You can do some of the following things:
- Block the favorite spots: Deny your cat access to places where she’s eliminated outside the litter box. Physical barriers work well, but if that’s not possible, try covering the spots with tinfoil or double-sided tape. This provides a barrier to the odor and a texture the cat won’t want to walk on. If possible, consider placing a litter box directly on top of the inappropriate spot, and then gradually move the box an inch or so every few days, until it’s where you want it to be.
- Appropriate restraint and reward always works: When your cat first comes home, keep her in one room with a litter box. Once she’s using that box consistently, give her the run of more rooms. Usually, this is enough to lock in the habit. However, a cat that doesn’t completely get the hang of the litter box — or backslides and starts eliminating in other places — needs some additional training. The best method is to use a large portable dog kennel. Set the cat up in the kennel with litter and water and give her meals in there, too. When you see her use the litter box, let her out for a recess. Keep an eye on her, and return her to her private quarters after an hour or two. The next time you see her use the litter box, let her out again. The idea is she only gets free run of the house when she uses the litter box. This strategy can train (or retrain) a cat to use the litter box in as little as two or three weeks — but longer isn’t uncommon, either.
Always remember that Cats have an instinct to dig in loose materials and bury their urine and feces, and many of them adapt this instinct to the litter box with few problems. But it’s still something they have to learn, and they often need help to get the lesson right.
- How to Litter Box Train a Kitten (answers.com)
- To Each His Own Bathroom (allpetsallowed.com)
- Choosing the Best Cat Litter and Other Litter Box Considerations (untrainedhousewife.com)
- Queen of the Litter Box (msmousecleanshouse.wordpress.com)