My cats go out. I’ve wrestled with the debate over quality of life versus quantity, risk of disease and/or trauma, but ultimately I think that a cat’s quality of life is better if he or she is allowed access to the outside world. My cats roam 5 gorgeous acres. Therefore, usually my pets urinate and defecate outside the house. I do have litterboxes for a rainy day, but in the past, they were rarely used. Lately however, with the seemingly constant barrage of snow and cold weather, the cats have resorted to indoor plumbing. The snow has coated their digging spots and frankly, they just don’t want to go out when it’s this cold. I have four cats and two litterboxes. That particular ratio seemed to satisfy everybody, and I’ve never had a problem with anyone soiling in the house. Until recently.
When I first noticed urine outside the box, I thought that perhaps my old Maine Coon cat couldn’t step across the box’s high sides. So I bought him a lower sided box. The problem continued. There was an almost daily deposit of urine on the floor adjacent to the box. Now I do know that I should scoop the poops everyday and dump the entire box’s contents weekly. But I don’t. I also know that the general rule of thumb is one box per cat plus one. And I was woefully lacking. So I went out and bought a couple of more boxes, and placed them where the urine puddles were appearing. The culprit(s) had been accommodating enough to urinate only on linoleum, very close to the box. So clean up was easy. Not only did I mop the areas, but also used an odor neutralizer. That’s essential as it eliminates smells, decreasing the likelihood that a cat will return to that spot.
When a cat urinates outside yet close to his or her box, it’s called a litterbox aversion. He’s trying hard to do the right thing, but there’s something about the box that’s offensive to him. Perhaps it’s a lid, or the box isn’t clean enough (guilty as charged). Or a frisky dog is circling, waiting for a treat after the cat has a BM. Something is troubling enough to the cat to make him stop just short of entering the box. It can be a step by step process to find the offending cause. Naturally, start with a visit to your vet to be sure that it’s not a medical issue, like cystitis, which is causing the problem. If it’s not, then here are a few suggestions if your cat is behaving like mine.
Don’t use boxes with lids or hoods. They trap odors which renders the box distasteful to a cat’s very sensitive sense of smell. Clean the box regularly and well. Scoop the poops daily and dump the whole thing weekly. Don’t feed a cat near the box. (You don’t eat in the bathroom, do you?) The box should be in a private yet always accessible place. The location should also be relatively noise free so your cat won’t be frightened by loud sounds while he’s doing his thing. Give cats an option of different litter types; scoopable, conventional clay, crystals.
If you can’t figure out what’s bothering your cat, then call in the pros. We’re the voice of experience.
Celeste Conn, VMD
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