Happy, Healthy, Hypoallergenic Siberian Kittens 

Blog Siberian Cat Breeder

Solving Litter Box Problems

Posted on May 6, 2012 at 6:45 AM

The most common behavioral problem for which cat owners seek Veterinary assistance is house-soiling. In fact, house-soiling is also a leading cause of cats’ relinquishment to shelters.

There are reasons for this behavior, and your kitty is limited in the ways he can communicate with you when something is wrong. If you can view his behavior as a form of communication and not an act of defiance, you and kitty will have a better chance for finding a solution to the problem, instead of entering into a battle of wills, which will only make a behavior problem worse.

Today's detective work will focus on the Litterbox itself.  By getting the latest scoop onlitter, you will be better prepared to prevent and resolve litter- andlitter-box-related toileting problems. Every cat has unique preferences, and the best way to identify an individual cat’s set of toileting preferences is to experiment with a variety of litter choices and box styles.

5 Factors to Consider:

1. Litter or box fragrance

2. Litter cleansliness (or, "how often do you scoop, and how often do you dump your litter boxes?")

3. Litter texture (are you using clumping, sand, clay, recycled newspaper, corn cob, wheat, pine, or other organic pellet material ?)

4. Litter box location and number (how many boxes per cat are appropriate?). 

5. Litter box style (size, height of sides, is there a top? )

Fragrence Problems

Many cats find deodorized or scented litter highly objectionable.The worst culprits are litters such as Tidy Cat's new product "for small spaces." We tried this one time and were choking! It smelled like a bomb of scented candles went off - any cat that used the box smelled like the fragrance for hours afterwards. Needless to say we threw the rest away. We found in the few days it was out that it was the last box of choice for our Siberians...

Also be sure not to use plastic box liners since kitties  get their claws stuck in the plastic when digging, leading to urine seeping under the liner and creating an unpleasant scent for you and your cat.

Humans can add to that problem by using strongly scented cleaners when disinfecting and cleaning the litter box. Use plain hot water and low scneted Dawn Dishwashing detergent to clean boxes and scoops. Then spray with white vinegar and leave to dry (this dinsinfects the box and scoops. When fully dry rinse well with hot water to remove as much vinegar scent as possible. Many cleaning products leave a lingering smell, which cats find distasteful.

Scooping problems

How often do you scoop? We are horrified when we hear people saying "every few days" or even "once a week - it's a large box." No, no, and no! Boxes should be scooped a minimum of once a day for one cat and twice a day for two or more cats. The more you scoop the happier your cat (and your nose!) is. Using a "Litter Locker" next to the litter box will encourage you to scoop since it is easy to dump the clumps and seal in yuck and smell with a twist of the handle...

How often do you dump? Dump the entire litter box - and clean and disinfect - no less than once a week. Dump prior to that if more than 1/2 the litter granules now look darker than the original litter. This is from broken off peices of the used clumps - even if you can not smell the old litter left behind, you Siberian can!



Litter Texture Aversion

Cats have lived in the desert for thousands of years, using fine sand for their toileting.

Even though commercial cat litter is generally a pretty fair substitute for desert sand, sometimes cats develop a litter aversion—not liking the odor or feel of the litter -- resulting in urinating or defecating in in appropriate places. Cats especially hate any litter that is sharp (crystal litters being one horrible example of this style); or soggy (think reused newspapers); or sticky (think many of the natural litters like corn pellets or pine). Using one of these litters is begging for a litter box problem.

Other times a  kitty has  learned to associate the litter with something unpleasant, such as lack of privacy, pain, being cornered by another cat, or being caught there in order to administer medications.

Common signs of litter aversion include:

  • House-soiling (going outside the litterbox)
  • Scratching at the sides of the box,
  • Scatching on the floor, or scratching other nearby objects instead of in the litter
  • Using the litter but shaking his paws a lot during and after use
  • Not digging in the litter before eliminating
  • Straddling the box to avoid touching the litter
  • Jumping out of the box quickly after finishing
  • Meowing at the litter box

Litter box location and number of boxes out.

Litter boxes should be located in  private areas with at least two sides protected by a wall to give you cat the privacy she or he needs to feel safe. This is especially true in multiple pet households or ones with small children or lots of activity. 

The rule of thumb for number of litter boxes out at a time is one box per cat plus one. This is two boxes for one cat, three for two cats, four for three cats and so on.

It is well to remember if you have several cats or a large home, to have the boxes in several locations both for ease of access and so that a bully cat can not block a milder cat from using the box.

Litter Box style and size

Siberians are large cats. The box that fit your Siberian kitten so nicely may be much too small for your Siberian adult. At ForestWind Siberians we use the largest sized litter boxes we can find - the ones with the tallest sides and broadest widths and longest lengths. We never use a top. Siberians are large cats and all cats couch (almost sit up) to use a litter box. A cat can not use a litter box in the proper position if the top is on most boxes - there simply is not enough head room...  Although some of our kitten families find that the automated litterboxes work well, we worry about how to adequately clean them as well as any sudden movement the mechanics make scaring off the cat. Finally, the new litter robot is fully enclosed and by measurement is not technically large enough for an adult Siberian. Unless you have medical reasons for avoiding litter, manage with the old fashion scoop it yourself box to keep kitty happiest.

Now that you have considered the various reasons your cat may simply not like the litter box you have made available, perhaps you'd like to offer your cat a “litter buffet” for a week or two, complete with separate boxes and litter types to see which products your cat prefers. Some cats even prefer to have one box for urine and one for stool. Above all... Make any changes very gradually - always maintain at least one box in "the old way" to be sure that you are indeed dealing with a dislike issue and not a health or emotional issue in your cat.

So, whenever changing type of litter, or anything about a litter box, first use an additional box with the new litter, and gradually take away the old litter once your cat is happy with the new one. The same strategy applies to changing to a new type of box or a new box location.

Our next post will address marking and spraying issues.


Categories: Litter box, Problem Solving, Care Practices