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Problem cats and correct litter box training

Litter BoxA problem that cat owners often face, is that the cat goes to the “bathroom” outside of the litterbox. This can have several different reasons, but there is an easy way of figuring out what your cat is thinking.

Location of the litter box

Cats will instinctively understand how to use a litter box. The first thing you need to do is choosing a good location for the litterbox. This should be a place away from the cat’s foodbowl. The place should be quiet, not next to a door or next to a dishwasher. Make sure that for small kittens, you use a low litter box, so they can easily get in and out. To help them know the location of the litterbox, you can put the kitten on the (clean!) litterbox and digg a little with your hand. The kitten should have no problem understanding the new location and use of the litterbox.

The litter in the litter box

The best bet is to go with a scentless (odorless) litter. Ideally use a hygienic litter that forms clumps when used. This way you can easily scoop out used parts and keep the litterbox fresh. Remember that litterbox problems often have to do with a litterbox that isn’t cleaned often enough. Use a good brand, cheaper brands often don’t absorb urine as well. To save money, you could use wood pellets litter in combination with hygienic litter. The wood also absorbs urine, although not as good as hygienic litter. Fill the litter box with a thin layer of wood pellets and on top of this fill it with hygienic litter. This way you get the best result while not having to use massive amounts of the more expensive hygienic litter.

Training your cat to use the litter box

KittensThe advantage you have with kittens is that its pretty easy to get them to learn new things, like using the litterbox. The first few days, watch for signs that show that the kitten might use other spots to go to the bathroom. If you see this, pick up the kitten and place it on the litterbox and digg a little. If the kitten uses the litterbox, reward it with a snack or playtime or cuddling. If the kitten goes to the bathroom outside the litterbox, don’t punish it, punishment in general will not work on cats. You will only make them afraid of you, give them high stress levels and make the problem worse. Instead, just pick up the kitten and place it on the litterbox and reward him every time he uses it. If the kitten keeps ignoring the litterbox, you should first try and change the litter, the location and make sure that the litterbox is cleaned every day.

Older cats and litter box problems

If you have an older cat that has litter box problems, first you need to locate the problem. Did you adopt the cat and did the cat have the same problem with its previous owner? Or is the problem only occurring since you adopted the cat. It could be stress related and wear off after a few day or maybe you are using a different brand of litter that the cat hates, it could also be a wrong location for the litterbox. And last

but not least, number of litterboxes. Some cats use one litterbox for urine and the other one for feces. Make sure to place at least 2 litterboxes if your cat has a problem using the litterbox. All these are easy fixes and should be tried one at a time for a few days to see if it improves.

If your cat suddenly develops a litter box problem, make sure that nothing has changed, is the location, litter and environment still the same? Is the litter box being cleaned enough? Did something change in your home or family? A new baby, new person or neighbors with a new dog or cat might also cause stress. See if this is the case and if so, try some stress releasing solutions like vaporizers. If you are sure that nothing has changed, it might be a health problem. It could be that your cat is quite dehydrated (see this article on cat food  nutrition and hydration) and has developed a bladder problem. If you think that it might be a health related problem, contact your vet immediately.

Outside cats

Outside cat by aljabak(c)

If your cats gets outside a lot, it is used to using nature to go to the bathroom. In wintertimes or in a new home, this cat might be inside for longer periods of time. Make sure that you clean the litterbox more often in the winter time and if the cat is inside for longer periods of time place 2 litter boxes if a problem occurs.

Multiple cats

If you have 2, 3 or more cats, the problem might be that number of cats. You can clean the litter box ten times a day, and the problem will still exist. Sometimes cats don’t like to use the litter box that other cats use. This can be a dominance or hygienic problem. Even if the litterbox is clean. This is because cats smell the odor left by other cats, and you cannot clean this off. If you have multiple cats and there is a litterbox problem, you should place more litterboxes. The rule in general is one more litterbox than cats. E.g. if you have 2 cats, you should have 3 litterboxes. If you have 4 cats, you should have 5 litterboxes. This is a solution that often works but some people don’t like litterboxes and want to just use one. Don’t be stubborn, add a litterbox!

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