Litter Box Upsets: Understanding Your Cat’s Toilet Issues
Jan 26 2023.
Cats and their litter box
Cats are creatures of habit and routine; they are not animals that enjoy inconsistency or change. Being territorial animals, this is particularly true of a cat’s living environment. Cats are particularly fastidious about their litter box and toilet habits. Disruption to a cat’s life or changes to their toilet area can be stressful for them and lead to accidents.
Below Cat in a Flat looks at some of the many reasons a kitty can end up having a litter box mishap. And some possible solutions and safeguards you can put in place to prevent accidents from happening.
Perhaps most important of all is to remember not to punish your cat when a problem occurs. A litter box accident isn’t a sign of protest or revenge from your kitty. It usually indicates something in their world isn’t working and that they need your help. Punishing your cat could scare them, and even make the problem worse.
Table of contents
Why is your cat going outside the litter box?
1. Provision and location of your cat’s litter box
It is essential to understand why your cat goes to the toilet outside of their box or has accidents around the house. The first thing to do if you notice a change of behavior in your furry friend is to consult a vet. If you can exclude medical issues, it is often litter box provision and location that are the problem. Households with more than one cat should make sure there is at least one box per kitty, plus one extra, to avoid clashes. Position litter boxes away from your cats’ food and water, busy rooms and corridors, and cat flaps. Each litter box should also be roomy enough for the cat to move around.
Any cat-lover knows that kitties are fastidious about cleanliness. Cats spend up to 50% of their time awake grooming, so it’s no surprise they take hygiene very seriously. Many cats will soil outside of the litter box if it isn’t cleaned regularly enough. Our furry friends don’t like strong smells so owners should keep litter boxes and toilet areas very clean. Litter boxes should be scooped at a minimum once a day, or more if heavily soiled.
Stress is another factor that can affect a cat’s toilet habits. Cats are at their most vulnerable when using the toilet, so they need to feel secure. The source of a cat’s stress can be subtle and not immediately apparent to an owner. It could be nearby building works causing vibrations, changes to the household, or a new cat in the neighborhood. All these things can contribute to litter box avoidance because of the sensory assaults these changes bring. Negative experiences that happen during toilet time can stay with a cat too. Loud noises or the application of medication while using the box can lead to the cat being nervous about using their usual box.
Stress is also one of the leading factors in cats developing urinary tract infections and cystitis. The association of stress with pain can make the situation worse, so keeping Mr Whiskers calm is essential for an accident-free household.
Why do litter box accidents happen when you go away?
Disruption to your cat’s routine is the main reason for accidents when you go away. The stress of an unknown visitor and changes to your cat’s litter box regime can trigger accidents. Your absence might also make your cat mark the house with urine to try and establish their territory and feel secure.
To avoid toilet problems, it’s a good idea to allow your cat to bond with your chosen cat minder. Booking the same cat-loving carer each time can also help Mr Whiskers feel secure. Cat in a Flat asks cat sitters to spend time with the cats they care for – to play and cuddle your fur baby. Feeling less alone should help keep kitties secure, happy and free from stress.
It is also a good idea to ask your pet sitter to bring a change of clothing if they have lots of cats of their own, or multiple cat-sitting bookings. The scent of other kitties can be distressing for your cat.
Tips and tricks for avoiding litter box accidents
There is a whole world of cat etiquette around litter boxes. Just making a few tweaks to your litter box regime will make your cats happier and help avoid upsets.
- Cats don’t like to share: It is essential to have one box per kitty in the home PLUS one extra
- Litter boxes should be big enough for your cat to move around
- Don’t change the type of litter you use, stick to the same brand
- Avoid scented liners as the smell can be off-putting to cats’ sensitive noses
- Hygiene is crucial: clean boxes once a day minimum. More so if the box is heavily soiled
- Never place your cat’s litter box near open windows, doors, cat flaps, in busy rooms or thoroughfares, as it doesn’t feel secure to your furry friend. It’s the equivalent of you doing your business with the door open!
- Keep food and water bowls completely separate from litter boxes
- Try not to relocate boxes suddenly; if you need to move them then do it gradually
- Consider getting a shallower box with lower sides for older cats with mobility issues
- Never administer medication to a cat while it is using the litter box
- If your cat has started toileting in a new area, try introducing a box to the spot and then gradually move it back to a more desired location. Keep the old box in its original place until you can swap it for the new one
Potty training your kitten
Kittens don’t have the same bladder and bowel control as older cats. To avoid accidents, they need easy access to a litter box at all times. For this reason, kittens should be kept in a single room in their new home until they are accustomed to using the litter box. Once they have the hang of it, you can release the kittens into different areas of the house.
If you are starting toilet training with your new kitten, try putting the litter box where their first accident occurred. Cats are creatures of habit, so your kitten will likely repeatedly return to that spot. When they find a litter box in the same place, chances are they will accept it as their new toilet. Once your kitten is used to using the box, you can try moving it gradually to a spot you’d prefer they use.
Before you go away, talk to your cat sitter about your kitty’s litter box routine. They should always keep the depth of the litter and location of the box the same. Hygiene is just as important; your sitter should regularly clean the litter box with cat-friendly products. For indoor cats this is crucial, so consider booking a pet sitter to check in on your kitty twice a day.
On occasion, soiling outside of the litter box is due to a medical complaint. Please always consult a vet if your cat’s behavior changes to rule out illness.
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