litter box

High Sided Litter Boxes Keep the Mess Inside

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When I adopted Ruby seven years ago, I didn’t realize that I would be embarking on the search for the perfect litter box. Ruby is a vertical pee-er. She doesn’t spray. Spraying is usually done by male cats. When a cat sprays, he stands up, typically makes a treading motion with his back feet, quivers his tail and sprays urine onto a vertical surface such as a wall. Spraying is a marking behavior.Continue Reading

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How to Choose a Cat Litter Box (6 Easy Tips!)

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The average cat uses the litter box three to five times a day. It would make sense that something that is used so frequently on a daily basis requires that we humans put a lot of thought into it. Unfortunately, cat guardians often select a litter box for all the wrong reasons – or at least for the wrong reasons from the cat’s perspective. Choosing the wrong litter box can have dire consequences for cats: litter box avoidance is one of the main reasons why many cats are surrendered to shelters.

Keep the following in mind when choosing a litter box:Continue Reading

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Review: Litter Genie Cat Litter Disposal System

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This post is sponsored by Litter Genie and contains affiliate links

When it comes to litter boxes, cleanliness truly is next to godliness. Cats are fastidious creatures. Using a dirty litter box is, at best, uncomfortable for them, and at worst, will cause them to eliminate outside the box. A dirty litter box, to a cat, is the same as a public restroom with unflushed toilets and toilet paper all over the floor is to us. How many times have you walked out of a restroom like that without using it, no matter how badly you needed to go?Continue Reading

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Review: Almost Invisible Speed Scoop

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When it comes to litter boxes, cleanliness truly is next to godliness. Cats are fastidious creatures, and being forced to use a dirty litter box is, at best, uncomfortable for them, and at worst, will cause them to eliminate outside the box. At a minimum, boxes should be scooped twice a day, and even more frequently if you’re home.

I’m a big believer in “the right tool for the right job,” especially when it comes to something you do multiple times a day.Continue Reading

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Review: ökocat Natural Wood Clumping Litter

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I’ll be honest right from the start: I use clay litter. Even though there’s an ever growing array of more eco-friendly, alternative litters on the market, I have yet to find one that Allegra and Ruby will actually use – and when it comes to cat litter, ultimately, it’s your cats’ call of what goes in the box, right?

I’m always interested to learn about new products, and when we had a chance to test the new ökocat Natural Wood Clumping Litter from Healthy Pet, I was intrigued. Continue Reading

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The Optimal Litter Box for Your Cat

cat_in_litter_box

The average cat uses the litter box three to five times a day. It would make sense that something that is used so frequently on a daily basis requires that we humans put a lot of thought into it. Unfortunately, cat guardians often select a litter box for all the wrong reasons – or at least for the wrong reasons from the cat’s perspective.

I was delighted to see that the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) devoted an entire section of its new Feline House-Soiling Guidelines to designing the optimal litter box. Their recommendations closely mirror what I’ve been telling my readers and clients for many years.Continue Reading

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Your Cat’s Litter Box: What Does Your Cat Really Prefer?

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Guest post by Lorie Huston, DVM

When cat’s begin to urinate and/or defecate outside the litter box, there are a number of different suggestions that are made to help convince the cat to return to the litter box. As a veterinarian, I’ve had this discussion and made these same recommendations over and over again to my cat-owning clients. I’ve also spoken about them here: Cat Litter Box Problems: What to do When Your Cat Decides Not to Use the Litter Box.

To be blunt, we make many of these recommendations based on experience. However, there is very little scientific evidence that supports them. This article by Dr. Jacqueline Neilson in Veterinary Medicine examines some of the literature available pertaining to cats, cat litter, and cat litter boxes. These are Dr. Neilson’s recommendations based on her review of that literature:Continue Reading

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Pet Stain and Odor Removers That Get the Job Done

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When you share your home with cats, accidents happen. Whether it’s the occasional hairball, or litter box issues, most cat guardians are on the quest for the purr-fect stain and odor remover. I thought I’d make things easier for you by recommending a few products that I have tested and use myself, and they really get the job done.

When you choose cleaning products, please don’t use any products that contain chemicals. Many household cleaners contain contain hazardous ingredients such as organic solvents and petroleum based chemicals which can release volatile organic compounds into your indoor air. Some ingredients in household cleaners are known to cause cancer in animals and are suspected human carcinogens. Lysol, Pine-sol and other products containing phenols are deadly to cats as they can cause serious liver damage. Chlorox bleach, especially when concentrated, can cause chemical burns when it comes in contact with sensitive cat paws. Use pet-friendly products instead.Continue Reading

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How to Prevent Litter Box Problems

cat using litter box

There is nothing as distressing for a cat owner as having a cat that eliminates outside the litter box. It’s also one of the most common reasons why cats are returned to shelters.

The reasons why cats eliminate outside the litter box vary, and include litter box aversion, urine marking, hormonal problems, and medical issues. When faced with inappropriate elimination (and this can be urine as well as feces), a thorough veterinary exam should always be the first step.

There are quite a few things owners can do to prevent litter box problems from happening in the first place, and the first step is to understand what cats want when it comes to their litter boxes. While some cats may be particularly fussy and need to have their bathroom preferences catered to in special ways, there are common errors that many cat owners, especially those new to cats and their needs, tend to make. These include:

Too few boxes

The rule of thumb is that you should have as many boxes as you have cats, plus one extra. This may mean that even if you only have one cat, you may need to have two litter boxes. This is especially important in multi-level homes.

The wrong location

Humans tend to want litter boxes out of sight, so they often end up in laundry or utility rooms or in dark corners of the basement. This may be fine for many cats, but it can cause problems if the area is not quiet. If the litter box is placed next to a noisy washer or dryer, or a furnace, and if the appliance starts up just as your cat is doing her business, she may never use that box again. Good spots for litter boxes are bathrooms, or a quiet room that isn’t used much.

The wrong type of litter

There have never been as many choices of cat litters as there are now. Unfortunately, many of the litters are designed more with the human in  mind than the cat. There is no perfect litter – each type has its advantages and its drawbacks. Most cats prefer a sandy substrate like clumping clay litter. While some cats readily accept some of the more environmentally friendly litters such as pine, wheat or corn, others will simply refuse to use a box containing those products.

Never use scented litters or scented litter deodorizers. Cats sense of smell is far more sensitive than ours, and the overpowering scent of these litters can be a big turn off for them.

Not enough litter

Keep at least 2-3 inches of litter in the box at all times – add fresh litter after you scoop out waste to maintain this level. Most cats like to scratch and bury what they produce, and they will get frustrated when there’s not enough litter to allow them to do that.

The box is too dirty

Scoop the box at least twice a day and remove all urine and feces waste. This is only possible with clumping litter. If you use a non-clumping litter, you should discard the entire content of the box whenever there is waste in it, and replace with fresh litter. If you use clumping litter, you should replace the entire litter about once a month.

The box is too clean

Don’t use harsh chemical cleaners to clean the litter box. All you really need to use is hot water and some mild, unscented dish soap. Let the box dry thoroughly before you replace litter. If you feel you must “sanitize” your box, use some bleach and hot water, but be sure to rinse thoroughly with hot water to eliminate any remnants of the scent of bleach.

Liners

Most cats don’t like liners. They don’t like the crinkly sound the plastic makes when they walk on it, nor do they like the way it feels under their paws.

Covered or hooded boxes

I don’t like covered or hooded boxes, and most cats don’t like them, either. They’re often too small for the cat to comfortably turn around in and do their business, and they trap odors inside, making it very unpleasant for the cat to use. Dust can also be much more of a problem in a covered box, as it becomes more concentrated. Cats will always breathe in dust when they dig in the litter box, but in a covered box, this becomes a bigger problem. If you must use a covered box, at the very least, remove the filters provided by some manufacturers. They’re designed to trap dust and odors, making it nice for you, but not so nice for kitty inside the box!

Litter mats

These mats are designed to trap litter that’s stuck to your cat’s paw and prevent it from being spread further throughout the house. The trouble with them is that they’re often made with nubs or deep grooves that don’t feel good on sensitive kitty paws, and this might stop a cat from going anywhere near the box.

By approaching the issue of litter boxes from the cat’s point of view, you can prevent many of the problems associated with inappropriate elimination.

Graphic: dreamstime.com

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The well adjusted cat: feline behavior advice from an expert

The well adjusted cat feline behavior advice

Last Friday, I attended a day long workshop hosted by Dr. Nicholas H. Dodman, BVMS, DACVB titled The Well Adjusted Cat: Secrets to Understanding Feline Behavior. Dr. Dodman founded the Animal Behavior Clinic at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine in 1986.

The workshop covered the gamut of feline behavior challenges from aggression to fears and anxiety, litter box behavior and furniture scratching, and medical problems that present as behavior issues.

I was particularly interested in the section on feline fear-based conditions, since Allegra is a bit of a fraidy-cat, who, even after more than a year of living with me, is still afraid of any loud and unusual noises outside the house.

I learned that fearfulness in cats is caused by a combination of nature and nurture. Genetics can play a part, with oriental breeds being more prone to fearful behavior. The most sensitive and critical learning period occurs between the age of 2 and 7 weeks, and much harm can be done during this period. According to Dr. Dodman, “kittens that are artificially separated from their mothers much earlier than normal develop a variety of behavioral, emotional and physical abnormalities. They become unusually fearful and aggressive towards other cats and people, show large amounts of random undirected locomotor activity, and learn less well.”

Dr. Dodman recommends treating fears with controlled exposure and counter-conditioning. For example, if a cat is afraid of strangers, try to habituate them to strangers by having the stranger give them treats. For inanimate fears such as thunderstorm anxiety or phobia, provide a safe environment where the cat can feel safe. He also recommends anxiolytic medications or an anxiolytic supplement such as Anxitane.

Feline litter box issues, not surprisingly, took up a large portion of the seminar. Inappropriate urination is the number one issue (along with intercat aggression) he sees at his behavior clinic. As with all other behavioral problems, Dr. Dodman first recommends that the cat owner get a thorough physical work up to rule out any medical issues. Barring any medical problems, the solution for many litter box problems is to provide an appropriate litter box for the cat. Common owner errors include having too few boxes, in the wrong location, with the wrong type of litter. Frequently, the box is too shallow or too deep. Many cats won’t like covered boxes, and liners or litter mats can cause additional problems. A box that is too dirty can be as much of a problem as a box that is too clean.

Then next section covered feline compulsive behavior such as wool sucking, pica, psychogenic alopecia (a displaced excessive grooming behavior) and feline hyperesthesia. Treatment for these conditions will vary for each problem, ranging from addressing the underlying stressors to behavioral and medical treatment. Environmental enrichment and counter-conditioning can help with some of these issues, while others may need medication. Dr. Dodman has had good results with fluoxetine (Prozac) or similar drugs in many of these cases.

The last section of the seminar covered behavioral problems that have medical causes. According to Dr. Dodman, medical underpinnings should always be suspected for a behavior problem, but especially when there is a sudden change in behavior, when the behavior is bizarre or extreme, or when an elderly cat is showing sudden behavior changes. Causes can range from hyperthyroidism to brain tumors and seizures.

One particularly dramatic example was the case of Noah, an adult, formerly normal cat, who began a low growl/moan when his owners were cleaning up their deck one evening. When the owners went into the house to check on Noah, he launched himself at the owner and ripped her clothes and flesh to shreds. The owner ended up leaving the house and leaving Noah alone that night. When she returned the next day, Noah had calmed down some, but was still riled. A month or so later, this happened again, and the owner took Noah to Dr. Dodman’s practice. He was put on anxiolytic medication. He did somewhat better, but weeks later, the owner still couldn’t get near him. Noah was hospitalized and treated with anticonvulsants, and has had no further incidents since. The conclusion was that his rage behavior was caused by a seizure.

Dr. Dodman also addressed feline cognitive dysfunction, a condition very similar to Alzheimer’s in humans. It is typically seen in cats 12 years and older, and is caused by physical changes in the brain. It can be treated with L-Deprenyl, a drug first used in dogs. Dr. Dodman has also had some success with supplements such as CO-Q10 and Acetyl L-Carnitine.

One big takeaway from the workshop for me was that many feline behaviors that we may consider problems are really just normal cat behaviors, and they only become a problem when we ask these creatures, that, as Jean Burden said, are still “only a whisker away from the wilds,” to share our living space. I believe that it’s up to us as cat owners to provide an environment that honors cats’ natural behaviors and still allows them to be cats. By respecting their unique needs, we only enhance the bond between cat and human.

Photo: morguefile.com

You may also enjoy reading:

Feline behavior modification tips

Keeping your single indoor cat happy

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What to Do When Your Cat Is Not Using the Litter Box

Guest Post by Daniela Caride

Your cat may not be using the litter box for many reasons. If you have ruled out diseases by taking your cat to the vet, you should go over this list I came up with. Your cat might be unhappy with one or some of those issues.


Too few boxes

The ideal number of litter boxes in a home is at least the number of cats + 1. If you have two cats, you should have at least 3 litter boxes.

With four cats at home, I keep five litter boxes in the house. I have one in each floor, and two in the basement, the biggest room. It works well for us, even though I would like to have one more. I just can’t seem to find the right place for it (handy for the cats and hidden from visitors).

Box is in the wrong place

The litter box should be in a quiet place — away from the furnace and any other machines that emit noises. Cats don’t like to be surprised while in the bathroom. The box should also be in a place easily accessible for your cat. If it’s too difficult to reach the box, he may not make it there on time, especially if your cat is older and arthritic.

If you have several cats, a lower-ranking cat may have trouble accessing the litter boxes. If he’s trapped by other cats on his way to the loo, he may choose to pee somewhere else, given the circumstances.

Box is hooded

Most cats don’t enjoy hooded litter boxes. They trap the pee and poop odor inside, make it darker and much more difficult or even impossible to escape if another cat blocks the door.

Photo by Daniela Caride

My litter boxes are tall, clear plastic storage containers without the lid. I bought them at Target and drilled a hole in the side of each box (This one might do the trick). This way, my cats can easily access it from a door, see if any other cat approaches and escape from the top if necessary. Since the walls are clear, my cats can see better inside (more light). The fact I don’t cover them help ventilate any scents from a previous visit to the bathroom, so the cats don’t get overwhelmed.

Box is too dirty

If you buy clumping litter, scoop the litter box at least once a day and change the whole content every couple of months. Some people rotate litter boxes every six months so one box can “breathe” (they let the pee scents dissipate) while the cat uses the other one.

If the litter you use does not clump, change to clumping litter. If you can’t, scoop at least once a day and change the litter at least every week.

Box is too clean

If you clean your cat box with harsh-smelling chemicals such as bleach, your cat may avoid the place. Cats are very sensitive to smells.

Unwanted liners

Some cats hate the feel or the crackling sounds of plastic liners — or both.

Wrong litter

Cats can be fussy about litter. Some types of pine litter don’t absorb the smell of pee, which may disgust your cat and make him look for another bathroom. Some clay litters have a strong perfume smell to please humans. But they might displease your cat. I use World’s Best Extra Strength made out of corn, and we’re all very happy (cats and humans).

Litter is not deep enough or too deep

Figure out how much litter your cat wants in the litter box. My cats hate it when I don’t pour enough litter, and they find themselves scratching the bottom of the box to cover their poop. They leave the thing uncovered and vanish. I have to put up with the perfume.

Animosity between cats in the house

If you have cats who don’t like each other, increase the number of litter boxes in your house. Again, make sure they are uncovered and made of clear plastic, so they can see when another cat approaches and can escape safely and quickly. If your cat feels unsafe in the box, he will look for another place to relieve himself.

Daniela Caride is the publisher of The Daily Tail (www.TheDailyTail.com), a participatory blog about pets with stories, tips, and reviews. She lives with three cats, Crosby, Gaijin and Phoenix, three dogs, Frieda, Geppetto and Lola, and her husband, Martin, in Cambridge, MA

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