PET CORNER: Patience needed when litter box problems arise

Behavioral issues are one of the most common reasons people surrender their cat to an animal shelter.

Sadly, one behavioral reason for an adult pet cat to be given up is an unresolved problem of “inappropriate” elimination. And even if you are a cat owner who would never consider relinquishing your beloved pet for any reason, a problem with “inappropriate” elimination can push you to the edge.

Solving litter box problems can be a challenge. It can be like solving a mystery. Medical urinary problems are very common in both male and female cats. So the first thing you should do is take your cat to the vet to rule out a medical problem. And be aware that if a medical problem is found, it does not mean that a behavioral problem isn’t occurring in conjunction with the medical issue. You will need to keep that in mind as you try to solve the challenge.

Once the medical issue, or lack of, has been addressed, it is time to start solving the mystery. Take a close look at what’s going on in your cat’s world. You should be able to uncover the source (or sources) of the trouble, and make the changes that will put the world to rights again. Let’s talk about the obvious first.

• The box — Is it clean enough? You need to scoop or clean daily. Thoroughly clean the box with baking soda or unscented soap once a week. Is the box the right one for your cat? Easy entry and exit, covered or uncovered, large or small, it all matters to your cat. Is it in the wrong setting? The box should be in a quiet location and away from food and water bowls. Try moving the litter box to a quiet place where your cat is able to see anyone approaching to eliminate being startled or “ambushed” while in it. Try adding another box in different location. If you have more than one cat, be sure to provide one box for each cat plus one more box, as recommended by experts. Also make sure there is a box on every level of your home. Most cats do not like litter box liners, so if you are using one, get rid of it.

• The litter — Have you recently introduced a new type of litter? Go back to the litter your cat liked. Cats are very sensitive to smell. Try unscented litter. Try using less or more litter in the box. Cats tend to like litter about 2 inches deep.

You may have to work systematically through the above suggestions. Only change one thing at a time to see if it makes a difference.

There are also other factors to consider. Has something in your cat’s environment or routine changed? Stressors such as moving, adding new animals or family members to the household, or a conflict with another cat in the household, can cause a problem.

Some of the suggestions above, such as adding more litter boxes or locating them in areas where your cat is able to see anyone approaching, can help. Using synthetic pheromone sprays or diffusers can reduce general social stress in a multi-cat household. A little extra attention to the stressed cat can also help. Anything you can do to help reduce the stress should help the problem.

Be sure to clean up your cat’s accidents with an enzymatic cleanser made especially for that purpose. Other types of cleaners will not completely eliminate the odor. If it is a soft surface such as carpet, cover the area with foil or double sided tape for a few weeks to discourage your cat from using that area again until the enzymes can work completely.

Getting your cat to use the litter box is about patience, not punishment. There’s always a reason they stop using their box and it’s not to make you mad or get revenge. Take a close look at what’s going on in your cat’s world. You should be able to uncover the source (or sources) of the trouble, and make the changes that will put your beloved friend’s world right again.

Manistee County Humane Society has two big fundraising events coming up this month. The first event is our seventh annual “Raining Cats And Dogs” Soup Supper. It is being held from 4:30-7 p.m. on April 19 at the Manistee’s First Congregational Church, located at 412 Fourth St. It is featuring 18 soups donated by local area restaurants along with homemade salads and desserts. There will be music provided by John Pomeroy. Hope to see you there!

Next is the third annual Crafting for Critters from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on April 21, also at the First Congregational Church. Spend a fun day crafting and making new friends. You can register for Crafting for Critters or see all the details about both these great fun events on our website — www.homewardboundmanistee.org.

Deb Green is the vice president of the Manistee County Humane Society. She can be reached at dgreen1004@gmail.com.

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