Scooping the litter box on a daily basis (actually, twice daily is better) is not only important for keeping the box clean and your cat happy – it’s a valuable diagnostic tool. Too many cat parents are missing this valuable opportunity to catch potential medical problems in the early stages because they’re not keeping up with a regular scooping schedule or the schedule is far from adequate.
Time to be a Detective
What does or doesn’t happen in the litter box can be a red flag that indicates a potential health issue. If you’re on top of your scooping schedule you’ll be alerted to changes in your cat’s frequency of elimination, changes in appearance of the waste or change in quantity. When you take your cat to the veterinary clinic one of the first questions the veterinarian will ask is whether there has been a change in litter box habits. If you don’t scoop the box regularly then you won’t be able to provide that valuable information.
Cat Pee: What to Look for
Cats are creatures of habit so many will choose the same litter box (in a multicat home) and many will even eliminate in the same spot within the box. If you scoop regularly, you’ll start to become familiar with a particular cat’s routine. Even if you have multiple cats and can’t seem to tell who peed where, the fact that you may notice a change in quantity, color, odor or that somebody peed on the carpet, means there’s a problem that needs attention.
In general, a cat eats the same amount of food each day and drinks approximately the same amount of water each day. If you use scoopable litter you will become very familiar with the weight and size of your cat’s typical urine clump. If you start noticing that the urine clump has increased or decreased in size, it could indicate a potential health problem. An increase in size could indicate the possibility of a lower urinary tract issue such as FLUTD (Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease), diabetes, or renal failure, among other things. It could also just mean that kitty was especially active that day or the weather was hot but my point is that is you scoop daily you’ll at least be aware that something might need closer monitoring.
Regular scooping is an opportunity to look for other changes in the cat’s pee in terms of color, signs of blood or odor. Again, these are all potential red flags.
What DOESN’T happen in the litter box is also important information. If you are familiar with the typical amount of urine clumps that you remove from the box on a daily basis and you start noticing that you’re scooping fewer ones, then it could indicate that the cat might be peeing outside of the litter box. It’s time to get out your black light and go searching around the house.
Cat Poop: What to Look for
As with the above section on urine, look for changes in volume, frequency of elimination, appearance and odor. When you scoop regularly you will become familiar with how your cat’s stool typically looks. This familiarity will help you be alerted to early signs of constipation, diarrhea, blood in the stool, parasites, or even an excessive amount of hair in the cat’s feces.
It’s an Important Job
Investigating your cat’s litter box while scooping is certainly not one of your favorite things to do but it can make a huge difference in your cat’s health and quality of life. Don’t neglect this very valuable aspect of being a responsible cat parent. Your cat can’t speak up and tell you that something is wrong but you may get the message through his litter box habits. Don’t overlook the important of litter box monitoring.
Need More Information?
For more specific information on litter box issues refer to the book Think Like a Cat by Pam Johnson-Bennett. If you’ve noticed a change in your cat’s litter box habits or have questions about your cat’s health, talk to your veterinarian.
Note: This article is not intended as a medical diagnosis and is not meant to replace proper veterinary care. Please see your veterinarian if you have any questions about your cat’s health.
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.