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Litter Box 101

Ensuring your kitty has perfect litter box manners

Posted April 10, 2012 in Cat Behavior

Cat in the litter box

Eventually, every cat owner will have a feline friend decide that the litter box is actually not the best place to do business. All too often, a cat will decide that it’s actually far better to use a discreet corner in your house, or perhaps your favorite shoe, or even the bathroom sink. It might seem like this is a random and meaningless change in behavior; but generally, you’ll probably be able to figure out the cause and get your cat back on track in no time.

Why is my cat not using his or her box?

Here’s the big question: why do cats, who usually like to be neat and clean about their elimination habits, decide to change?

First things first: make sure it’s not medical. There are a number of medical issues that can cause your otherwise well-mannered kitty to boycott his litter box. The first thing you should do, particularly if this bad behavior is unusual for your cat, is see your veterinarian. He or she will likely want to run some simple tests (urine, blood) to ensure that there is nothing wrong with your cat’s kidneys, bladder, or digestive system.

Marking and Spraying
A common cause is the instinct to spray or mark, and this is most common among unneutered males, though it is also something that can happen in females and neutered males. Cats usually mark to lay claim to their territory-- especially if there is a female in heat in the area -- or as a reaction to stress.

In the case of marking, if your cat isn’t neutered, get him neutered. It will often quickly stop inappropriate urination, but also it leads to a healthier and longer-lived cat. Neutered males can’t develop certain kinds of cancer, are less likely to stray, and are often just calmer and easy to live with.

If your cat is neutered or spayed and marking anyway, look around and see if there might be something causing your cat to feel stressed or uncomfortable:

  • New furniture or other large objects introduced into their environment
  • Cats coming into your yard or “visiting” your cat at windows in your house
  • Frequent or long-term guests or visitors in your house (human or otherwise)

You can use non-toxic anti-cat sprays to discourage marking or even use essential oils like peppermint, citrus, and eucalyptus to repel your cat and discourage marking in a particular area.

There are also some man-made and synthetic sprays and pheromones you can spray in areas your cat is eliminating that will help reduce stress. You veterinarian can recommend products of this nature.

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