For many people, the idea of setting up a cat’s litter box is pretty basic. After all, isn’t it just a plastic box that you fill with whatever litter is the least expensive and then place the box in some corner where it won’t be seen? The cat should start using the box any minute, right? Oh, if only it could be that simple! In reality, your cat’s relationship with that little plastic box and the litter that’s in it is more complex than you realize.
There are numerous reasons why a cat may not use a litter box. We have several articles on our website here devoted just to that subject. The crucial part of solving the problem is to uncover the true underlying cause. The first place to start? Have your cat checked by the veterinarian to rule out any potential medical cause. Surprisingly, there are many conditions that can result in litter box aversion.
Is it Really Clean?
When trying to figure out why your cat is peeing on the carpet instead of in his box, you also need to take a long hard look at the litter box set-up itself. Your idea of clean and appealing conditions may not be up to your cat’s standards. That brings me to the subject of today’s article: scooping the litter box.
Time to be very honest here. Are you really keeping up your end when it comes to scooping the box? Ideally, the box should be scooped twice a day. I know you’re probably shaking your head at the thought. Some of you may not even sneak a peek at the litter box more than a couple of times a week. Well, if your cat isn’t already exhibiting a litter box aversion problem then it’s just a matter of time. A dirty litter box is a ticking time bomb.
You’d be surprised how many times I visit a client’s home and discover that the cause of the cat’s inappropriate elimination is inadequate scooping of the box by the cat parent. Cats are very clean and it isn’t comfortable to step over mounds of urine-soaked litter or dried up old feces in order to find a clean square inch for elimination. Scoop the box at least twice a day to ensure that your cat will be able to find enough clean, dry space.
If you’ve been stocking up on room fresheners, covered boxes, litter additives or have located the box in the most remote part of the house in order to avoid the odor, then you’re missing the most important tool in odor control: the litter shovel. The best way to control odor is to get rid of soiled litter as often as you can. Some cat parents wait untl the odor in the box wafts its way throughout the room and at that point they toss the entire contents into the trash. The result is a very clean box that remains appealing to the cat for about one day — if he even wants to venture in there again based on any negative association he may now have, due to its usual stench.
Scooping = Health Monitoring
Scooping serves another extremely important but often overlooked function. It’s a valuable diagnostic tool. When you scoop you are alerted to any potential problem in its earliest stages. Even though scooping the box isn’t the high point of your day, it will afford you the opportunity to see signs of diarrhea, constipation, blood in the urine, or an unusually large or small urine clump. Scoop regularly and you’ll become more familiar with the normal size and amount that your cat eliminates. Should the size of urine clumps change, it could indicate a urinary problem or other medical condition. Catching this early can make a big difference in terms of treatment success. If you don’t scoop regularly you don’t have that advantage of early detection.
It’s a Small Task that can Make a Huge Difference
Litter box scooping may not be something you look forward to but it’s a valuable way to control odor, monitor your cat’s health, and keep kitty happy with the conditions of the litter box. If you don’t think it makes a difference, try not flushing your toilet for a day or two.
Need More Information?
For more specific information on litter box maintenance or how to address litter box problems, refer to any of Pam’s books, including Think Like a Cat.
Pam Johnson-Bennett is the star of Psycho Kitty airing on Discovery UK. She is author of seven best-selling books on cat behavior including Think Like a Cat: how to raise a well-adjusted cat – not a sour puss. Think Like a Cat has become known as the cat bible. Pam is considered a pioneer in the field of cat behavior consulting. In addition to her television series and public speaking engagements, Pam owns Cat Behavior Associates, a private veterinarian-referred behavior company in Nashville, TN. Cat Behavior Associates offers private cat behavior appointments on a limited basis. Pam Johnson-Bennett is a Certified Cat Behavior Consultant.