Toileting problems in cats
In the last post we talked about determining whether inappropriate urination was due to medical problems. If those have been ruled out and we are dealing with a toileting problem then we can treat it in a very specific ways.
We need to make sure that the litterbox is in an accessible location. We should avoid noisy appliances, rooms that are a dead end and other pets. Putting a litterbox right next to a furnace, water heater or washer or dryer could scare the cat when it turns on and the cat won’t want to go into the box again.
Litterboxes should be in different locations in the household especially in multicat households. If all the litterboxes are in one place it is kind of like a public restroom. Is it the same going to a public restroom with 3 stalls verses having 3 separate bathrooms in a house? Sometimes dominant cats will block access to resources for other cats, so making sure that the litterbox is in an area that the dominate cat doesn't frequent. Think about it for a second, If on your way to the bathroom you had to meet someone you didn’t get along with would you go very often or would you avoid going to that location and pick somewhere else. Making sure that there is a litterbox on each floor of the house, especially for older cats that are having a hard time using the stairs can help.
Litterboxes should be large enough for the cat to turn around, scratch and dig, and posture appropriately. Sometimes using a plastic storage container rather than something that is made as a litterbox will be necessary to get a box big enough.
Obviously too small for this cat
Making sure the litterbox is cleaned frequently. Most of the time this means scooping on a daily basis, changing litter on a weekly basis and cleaning the box on a monthly basis. Would you want to go to your bathroom if you didn’t flush the toilet every time you went to the bathroom?
Sometimes we need to do a trial to see what the cat’s litterbox/litter preference is. Some cats prefer a clumping litter to clay litter. Some cats have preferences for depth of litter, height of the sides of the box, size of the box and whether the box is covered or not. Making sure that we don’t have a box that is too tall for a kitten or older, arthritic cat to get into is important as well.
Occasionally if there has been a long standing problem or a severe problem getting a different kind of litterbox will help, since there is no adverse association with the new box.
Treatment for marking is significantly different than for toileting problems. Sometimes we are dealing with both issues so may have to combine treatments to be effective.
Drugs can be used to help with this but it can take several weeks to see any affect.
Environmental enrichment is an important part of treatment. Adding additional food and water dishes and resting locations as well as litterboxes can help significantly. Playing and interacting with your cat on a daily basis can help too.
Feliway diffusers are always helpful and if you have multiple cats in your house there is a new product just for you. Feliway Multicat diffusers.
If they are not already spayed or neutered getting this done can help significantly in their urge to mark.
Sometimes the problem is actually something outside of the home. Cats can react to things outside such as stray cats, so blocking access to them seeing those things can help. If outdoor cats are causing problems using motion activated sprinklers to keep them out of your yard can help. Not leaving food outside for outdoor cats can stop them from coming around. If the problem is between 2 cats in your house separation can help and then a gradual introduction if they are doing better.
Behavior modification/training depending on your specific situation can help significantly.
It can be tricky to find out the exactly reason your cat is going outside of their box. But together we can figure out the cause and decide on the appropriate course of action. The key is to be patient! This is a very frustrating situation ,but with a little time and patience we can resolve the problem and your feline friend will be good as new!
Of course if you need any help with determining the cause of your cats problem I am only a phone call away!
-- Harvey Animal Hospital