How To Care For Your Cat

Litter Box Compliance Issues and Observations about Cat Behavior

1. If a cat becomes inconsistent about using the litter pan, there could be a medical reason. A veterinary exam will determine if kidney disease, bladder infection or even mouth pain could be the reason behind the problem.

2. Always keep the litter boxes clean: two times a day minimum for scooping them out. Think about how you feel when you go into a dirty rest room when on a road trip ….. you would probably opt out of the experience and find an alternative down the road, even a clump of bushes is better than a dirty public rest room!!! Your cat feels much the same way when confronted with a dirty litter pan.

3. Rule of thumb: # of litter pans = # of cats + one extra pan.

4. Keep the general home environment clean. Dirty laundry left on the floor and dirty dishes left about the house are distressing to the fastidious feline nature.

5. Place the litter pan(s) in a location that is accessible to the cat(s), but out of the way of human or dog traffic.

6. In a multi-cat household with a “dominant“ cat and shy, reserved cats, locate some of the pans in a place that the dominant cat does not have access to. At the very least, have pans in several locations so that the boss cat cannot keep everyone else away from using the litter box.

7. Experiment to determine the cats’ preference of a litter material.

Cat Behavior Trends often Linked to Non-usage of the Litter Box

Cats at the two ends of the personality spectrum, from shy to bold, are the ones most likely to not be consistent about using the litter box in a cat group situation.

The bold, dominant personality cat will urinate in other places besides the box as a means of asserting territorial ownership. This is a difficult behavior to “correct” completely. There are some actions to take to minimize the behavior:

1. Active, outgoing cats need adequate outdoor time to use pent up physical “cat” energy. The outdoor environment engages the cat’s intelligence, giving the cat something constructive to do other than dominating litter pans. We have had a minimum of litter box dominance problems in cats that are given time outside. Many places where people live are not safe to leave cats outside unattended. Please see the article on our website on how to construct safe outdoor habitat enclosures for cats. Safe outdoors is the best option.

2. Keep “bully” cats in a separate space from the shy ones. We segregate the sanctuary cats according to temperament and it works well to minimize conflict and the problems that come with the stress of conflict

3. Follow litter box rules 1-7! (see above)

The timid or shy cats in a group sometimes will not be confident enough to use the box if the more assertive members of the group are hanging around the area. The timid ones will find alternative places (under the bed, etc.) to poop or pee when they are too intimidated to confront the more dominant cats to get to the box.

At the Ark, we have had 100% success when we have given the shy cats their own space together with their own litter boxes. Quiet and “middle cats” do quite well together and the poop outside the box ends. “Middle Cats“ are cats who are fairly confident, but don’t need to be “Top Cat.” We have found these cats the least likely to not use the litter box for sociological reasons. Most cats are “Middle Cats.”

If your situation does not allow for physical separation of the two types of cats, increasing the number of boxes and intelligently locating them so that the “bully” cats can’t dominate all of the boxes all of the time, is the next best effective action.

Comments on Indoor/Outdoor, Indoor Only, Outdoor Only Cat Keeping

There are many reasons that people choose to keep their domestic companion cat indoors. Life expectancy for “indoor only” cats is far longer than for “indoor/outdoor” or “outdoor only” cats. There are myriad hazards facing a free roaming cat and, because of this, we strongly advocate the construction of outdoor habitat spaces for all domestic companion cats, both urban and rural. The specific reasons will become evident in this article.

To start with, it is never advisable to put a companion cat out alone at night. The hazard frequency from car accidents and wild animal encounters increases with the diminishing light of evening and darkness of the night hours. Some neighborhoods on busy streets are a danger at all hours due to high traffic volumes and speeds.

Some cats with medical conditions such as leukemia (FeLV +) or feline immunodeficiency syndrome (FIV +) need to be kept from contact with other cat populations due to the contagiousness and seriousness of these illnesses. A cat that has had seizures must be kept in for his or her own protection.

Sometimes indoor/outdoor cats are at risk of harm from neighborhood residents who don’t want other peoples’ cats using their yard as a litter box. Though the complaint is valid, some people are not kind about it. It is the owner’s responsibility to be a good neighbor about keeping their cat at home.

A cat that has been de-clawed is a poor candidate for a free roaming lifestyle, having been deprived of a vital part of the “manufacturer’s” equipment. The cat is unable to climb a tree to escape from danger or to stand and defend itself against an aggressor.

A majority of cats adapt fairly well to an indoor lifestyle, but keeping a cat indoors all of the time is occasionally problematic. In those cases where the cat has behavior problems due to confinement indoors, the solution lies in the construction of an outdoor habitat space.

For more information, please see the page on Cat Habitat construction.