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Doc Sara
Doc Sara, Veterinarian
Category: Cat Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 952
Experience:  I am a dog and cat veterinarian with a lifetime of experience in our family veterinary hospital.
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Not always using litter box

Customer Question

Not always using litter box
Submitted: 10 months ago.
Category: Cat Veterinary
Expert:  Doc Sara replied 10 months ago.

Hi there, I'm Dr. Sara. I'm a licensed veterinarian who works exclusively with cats and dogs. I'm sorry to hear that Domino hasn't always been using the litter box. Are you referring to urinations or bowel movements (or both?). How long has this been going on? Has he been examined by the vet for this problem?

I'll include for you my general comments on behavioral litter box issues, and I'd be happy to elaborate on any one issue or discuss Domino's issue more in depth if you give me a little more background information and questions you're looking to have answered.

Cats are super fastidious, so some are very sensitive to a dirty litter box. Some cats absolutely will not pee or poop in a box that's not immaculate, so watching the boxes for cleanliness is important. Cats also tend not to like hoods on their boxes (especially bigger cats - they get too cramped) so I always recommend removing hoods from boxes. Cats also don't like to eat and potty in the same place, so food and water dishes shouldn't be near the litter box.

The ideal number of cat boxes is the number of cats in the home PLUS ONE. Each box should be in a separate spot - a cat will look at two boxes right next to each other as one box, so spread them out. Make sure there's at least one box on each floor of your home too, in case stairs are an issue, perhaps for an older arthritic cat. Boxes should be far from very noisy or unpredictable areas. A washer or dryer or furnace kicking on at just the wrong time can startle a cat and turn them off from the box entirely.

It's also a good idea to try a new type of litter. I usually recommend ADDING a new box rather than changing any of the existing boxes. If you're using clumpable litter, I'd rotate through trying pine litter (Feline Pine), recycled newspaper litter (Yesterday's News), crystal type litters, or corn cob litter. Sometimes you'll find that he will like one of these new litters better.

If these things aren't working and the situation is really desperate, I'll consider allowing them to become an indoor/outdoor cat with time outside. If they want to go outside and like to be out there, it often alleviates or eliminates completely the urinating in the home. Obviously, this approach comes with its own set of risks, but IF the choice is to rehome or euthanize them or to allow them to have some outdoor time, I'd choose the latter. I've actually done this with my own cat and it's solved our issue.

I've had some success with pheromone products like Feliway or Comfort Zone. They are geared more toward behavioral marking but sometimes can have an overall anti-anxiety effect and help with litterbox issues.

Lastly, if this is behavioral, I would consider a course of anti-anxiety medication like fluoxetine. In many of my patients this alleviates or eliminates the problem. Social stresses in a multicat household or other anxiety disorders in cats will commonly manifest as house soiling.

Please let me know what other questions I can answer for you.

~Dr. Sara

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Expert:  Doc Sara replied 10 months ago.
Hi,
I'm just following up on our conversation about your pet. How is everything going?
Doc Sara