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FELINE

Thinking Outside the (Litter) Box While litter box issues are one of the main reasons owners give up on their cats, they can also be one of the easiest problems to solve, says Marilyn Krieger

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Cats usually prefer a clean litter box

itter box avoidance is one of the most common reason cats are surrendered to shelters and euthanized. It is so sad and so unnecessary. Although the problem is hard to live with, it is also one of the easiest to solve. Some of the solutions are simple — others are more involved. Male and female cats of all ages can develop litter box challenges. There is always a legitimate reason for cats to avoid using their litter boxes. They are not bad cats, nor are they misbehaving. They are responding instinctually to stressful situations or something in the environment. If that’s not the case, then there could be medical problems causing the behavior. Cats who eliminate outside their litter boxes need to be examined immediately by a veterinarian. Painful and 42

BARKS from the Guild/April 2014

often serious medical problems can cause litter box avoidance challenges. Only after veterinarians give cats a clean bill of health can the problem be approached as behavioral. The next step is determining the causes of the behavior. After identifying the triggers, implement a behavior plan that includes litter box management, environmental changes and force-free behavior modification. Although there are many reasons for this unpleasant behavior, below we examine seven of the most common causes, along with actions you can take to convince cats to always favor their litter boxes. Intact cats are more prone to spraying and eliminating outside their litter boxes then those who have been spayed and neutered. This is not just an intact male issue. Whole females will also mark by spraying and eliminating outside litter boxes. The answer is to spay and neuter cats. It is easy to become lazy and forget to scoop litter boxes. Unfortunately, this oversight often results in cats finding places that are cleaner than their litter boxes to do their business. Scoop litter boxes at least once a day. Additionally, completely empty, wash and then refill litter boxes with fresh litter on a regular basis. Often cat parents do not provide enough litter boxes for their cats. If a litter box is dirty or does not feel safe,

BARKS from the Guild Spring 2014  
BARKS from the Guild Spring 2014  

Published quarterly and edited by Susan Nilson, "BARKS from the Guild" presents a collection of valuable business and technical articles as...