One of the top reasons people surrender their cats to animal shelters is because the cats are having litter box issues. Even kittens one month old can be taught to use a litter box. It is much better to urinate on a soft, absorbent material that will not get your feet wet than a hard surface that will get your feet wet. And yet adult cats still have litter box problems due to health problems or ignorant owners.
Cats with bladder or urinary tract infections will not be able to get to the litter box in time. They will be overwhelmed with the need to urinate, even though they may only produce a couple of drops. They just can’t help it. They need to get to the vet. be sure to call the vet first to see if you need to collect a urine sample when you bring your cat in to be checked.
Cats with chronic kidney disease will not only urinate in places other than the litter box, but they will also begin drinking excessively. If they urinate on a hard surface, you can see the color of the urine. There may be blood or mucus in the urine. They may also vomit more frequently than usual and loose their appetite. Older cats and Persian cats (or cats with a lot of Persian in them) are most prone to feline chronic kidney disease.
Other medical reasons for cats missing the litter box include feline cognitive dysfunction (“kitty Alzheimer’s”), diabetes and birth defects of the urinary tract system. Be sure to note other strange symptoms such as loss of appetite or sudden increase in appetite to your vet.
Even if you have only one cat, that litter box needs to be cleaned at least twice a day. A cat will not use a dirty litter box. It’s akin to using a toilet that’s already filled to the brim. Disgusting!
If the food dish is placed next to the litter box, the cat will either stop eating (which is not likely) or use another part of the home as a litter box. Cats do not want to eat right next to the litter box. Would you like to eat sitting on the toilet?
Declawed cats or cats that had recent paw surgery will be more sensitive than usual. They need to use soft clumping litter because traditional clay litter or corncob-type litter will hurt their feet.
Make sure the cat has access to the litter box. If you have a dog that likes to tease the cat, chances are it’s the dog that may be blocking the cat’s access to the litter box. Also, cats with arthritis or other health issues may not be able to climb into a litter box with high sides. Cats that can’t get into a litter box have no choice but to go on the floor, in a potted plant or wherever they can.
“Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook.” Delbert G. Carlson, DVM, et al. Howell Book House; 1995.
“Psycho Kitty? Understanding Your Cats Crazy Behavior.” Pam Johnson-Bennet. Crossing Press, 1998.
Humane Society of the United States. “Solving Litter Box Problems.” http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/cats/tips/solving_litter_box_problems.html