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posted: 3/28/2013 11:06 AM

If your cat stops using the litter box, there is a reason

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  • Rascal is a very sweet, black and white female cat with hazel eyes. She loves attention and is waiting patiently for a loving owner to pet her for hours. Rascal is best friends with Sly and gets along well with other cats.

      Rascal is a very sweet, black and white female cat with hazel eyes. She loves attention and is waiting patiently for a loving owner to pet her for hours. Rascal is best friends with Sly and gets along well with other cats.
    Courtesy of The Buddy Foundation

  • Sly is a very sweet and handsome 6-year-old domestic shorthair gray tabby. He loves people and is a lap cat who loves to be petted. He is waiting for you to take him home. Sly is best friends with Rascal and plays well with other cats.

      Sly is a very sweet and handsome 6-year-old domestic shorthair gray tabby. He loves people and is a lap cat who loves to be petted. He is waiting for you to take him home. Sly is best friends with Rascal and plays well with other cats.
    Courtesy of The Buddy Foundation

 
By The Buddy Foundation

Does your cat sometimes have trouble finding the litter box? Actually, does he/she have trouble using the litter box?

Cats that stop using the litter box or start spraying after having been reliably using one always have a reason for the change.

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Determining the reason is the first step toward solving the issue. While the root of the problem may not always be easy to find, there may be one of several reasons: a litter box aversion, a surface or location preference, or to mark territory, to name a few.

Aversion to the box: Having had a frightening or painful experience while in or near the box can cause a cat to initiate a new location with no box.

Boxes too far from the cat's living area can be an issue for a new cat. A box located close to appliances that make noise can also be the source for nonuse. Dogs also can be the trigger because they often chase the feline as they exit the box.

Multi-cat households and housemates that exert dominance can also be a problem.

Locate the litter box in the cat's typical living space away from noisy appliances and feeding areas. Ease of entering and exiting the litter box is critical, so move it to an area where the cat can comfortably enter and exit.

If you have a covered box, remove the cover. Always have one more box than the number of cats in your house. Dominant cats sometimes guard the litter box.

Misuse of the box: Cats sometimes perch on the side of the box and urinate/defecate over the edge, eventually moving to a preferred texture or carpet. Cats are clean creatures and dirty litter boxes can create a problem.

Some cats also develop a surface or location preference. Cats that show a location preference will usually choose an area of the home that is quiet and protected, or a spot where a litter box was previously kept.

Typical surface preferences include soft materials such as beds, carpets or cool surfaces like tubs or sinks. Studies show that cats prefer a finely unscented, scoopable litter.

Urine marking behavior: Urine marking or spraying is normal feline communication and not well understood, undesirable, and controllable. The presence of outdoor cats near an indoor cat's favorite window or patio door is a common trigger. A new cat in the house and dominance behavior also is a sign. Spaying and neutering decreases the incidence of marking by 89 percent.

Placing opaque film on the window to impair visual sight or installing motion detectors outside the window to move cats away could control the situation. Cleaning all surfaces and neutralizing urine with Urine-Off also is important.

A darkened room and a black light will let you know where the urine is being sprayed as dried urine fluoresces under black light.

Separation anxiety: Cats feel the pressure of the life we live. If your cat begins to urinate on your bed, shoes or suitcases, you probably have separation anxiety issues. The same type of anxiety happens when you add a new cat.

Use ComfortZone diffuser with Feliway pheromone product to calm the cat's anxiety from our schedules or from other cats. Catnip and catnip toys are also helpful to calm the anxiety. Give them the toys when you leave and pick them up when you return.

Medical issues: Cats that urinate small amounts on flat surfaces are not marking. They often use sinks or bathtubs and likely have bladder infections. Some will have tinges of blood from straining and all will have bacteria. A urinalysis from the veterinarian will rule out this cause.

If your cat stops using the litter box. it is important to first determine the underlying cause and then change the unwanted behavior.

• Contact The Buddy Foundation at (847) 290-5806; visit the shelter at 65 W. Seegers Road, Arlington Heights; or find them online at thebuddyfoundation.org.

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