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Litterbox Problem Solutions

What Every Cat Owner Should Know About the Solution of Litterbox Problems

  1. Have your cat examined by a veterinarian for a physical problem even if there are no obvious symptoms. (Some problems can only be diagnosed through testing). Be sure to mention Kitty's urination and defecation habits. If a cat's elimination is painful, it may associate the litterbox with pain and choose to eliminate elsewhere. When the cat is healthy again, a careful reintroduction to the box will be necessary.
  2. Carefully check the 10 steps for preventing litterbox problems mentioned previously. Perhaps the solution is as easy as adding more litterboxes, cleaning more frequently, or changing the brand of litter. Try to accommodate Kitty's preferences for litterbox location (by placing litterboxes where the "accidents" occurred) and litterbox substrate whenever possible. Special consideration should be given to declawed cats as paw sensitivity may be the cause for litterbox avoidance and kitty may require a box or tray without litter.
  3. Never punish the cat for eliminating outside of its litterbox. Housesoiling occurs when the litterbox, its contents, or its location is offensive to the cat or when the cat is stressed by the environment. Punishment only increases the cat's stress. HOUSESOILING IS NEVER DONE TO SPITE THE OWNER.
  4. If a health issue or aversion to the litterbox can be ruled out, consider that the problem could be anxiety-related. Has there been a change in the household? Any intrusion on the cat's territory, whether human, animal, or even a new piece of furniture, can cause a cat to feel threatened, insecure, and stressed. This may result in his need to mark his territory. This is usually accomplished by spraying urine on vertical surfaces, or less frequently, by squatting and urinating or defecating on horizontal surfaces. The more cats in the household, the more likely that one or more of them will spray.
  5. Try to relieve or eliminate the source of the cat's anxiety. (For example, pull the drapes so that Kitty cannot view the antics of the tom cat next door.) If the environmental cause that triggers the territorial behavior cannot be identified or eliminated, consult with an experienced feline behavior counselor.
  6. Whatever the cause for the inappropriate elimination, a brief confinement period may be necessary in order to clean the soiled areas, place deterrents in these spots, and to purchase more litterboxes or new litter. The confinement room should be comfortable and equipped with two litterboxes, fresh food and water(not near the litterboxes!) and a bed and toys. Visit Kitty regularly, but don't let him out until the home environment has been cleaned and the litterbox situation has been improved. (Please note that extended periods of confinement may be detrimental to the retraining process.)
  7. In order to thoroughly clean the urine-soaked areas, an ultraviolet light may be used to identify the problem spots and a strong enzymatic cleaner should be used to saturate and neutralize the affected areas. The Equalizer is highly effective and is available at many veterinary clinics. (It can also be ordered directly from Revival Animal Health via their web site or by calling them at 1-800-786-4751 -- Item # 29-210)
  8. To repel kitty from previously soiled areas, cover them with solid air fresheners (preferably a citrus scent) or a mini-motion detector (available from Radio Shack--Cat.No.49-425). When the carpet is dry, a vinyl carpet runner (spike side up!) can be placed over the problem areas. Cats are very location-oriented so deterrents should be left in place for at least six weeks after kitty has been using the litterbox regularly to make sure that old habits have been broken.

Solving housesoiling problems is possible--with patience, persistence, and a systematic plan for retraining. If you would like help determining the cause or treatment for an inappropriate elimination problem, call Cats International at 262-375-8852.

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