Medical issues, personality can play part in litter box woes
By Denise Baran-Unland For The Herald-News July 9, 2012 1:54PM
Meet Gabriel, a 3-year-old female Chihuahua-Chinese crested mix. Gabriel needs a little time to warm up to new people, but is a sweetheart when she does. Visit her at Joliet Township Animal Control, 815-725-0333.
Updated: August 11, 2012 6:10AM
Kitty won’t use the litter box? Brenda Fronek of Joliet understands your frustration.
At one time, Fronek had that problem with two cats. One was born with a brain virus and required puppy pads. The other was 19, blind and partially deaf.
Euthanizing either cat was not an option for Fronek, although Dr. Shelby Neely of “Ask the Cat Doctor” (www.askthecatdoctor.com) states on her site that litter box issues is the No. 1 reason owners put their feline friends to sleep. Instead, Fronek tolerated the stench and limited visitors.
“After the cats died, we ripped out all the carpet and replaced it with tile,” Fronek said. “It’s been two years and I can still smell the cat pee sometimes.”
If your kitty suddenly develops an unbreakable aversion to her litter box, don’t automatically assume naughty behavior. The first step, according to the VCA Animal Hospital website (www.vcahospitals.com), is a thorough medical exam. Your veterinarian can best assess if a health condition or behavior issue is causing the problem.
According to Web MD (www.pets.webmd.com), the following disorders can all increase urine output, raising the risk of accidents: kidney infection, kidney failure, diabetes, liver disease and hyperthyroidism.
A cat with cystitis, bladder stones or bladder tumor will strain and possibly cry out when urinating, yet produce little urine. Male cats are prone to urine crystal, which can cause severe pain while urinating. Such cats might associate the pain with litter boxes and use another location.
Vicki Thompson of Plainfield said her cat has only experienced a litter box mishap twice: when her son changed the litter and forgot to refill the pan. While an accident under these circumstances is understandable, other cats are simply finicky.
The College of Veterinary Medicine site at Cornell University in New York (www.vet.cornell.edu) states certain cats may develop aversions to litter boxes or prefer a certain textures, so some detective work might be necessary to discern the cause.
For instance, some cats don’t like the smell associated with harsh chemicals or scented litter or even the smell of ammonia in an unclean litter box. Dirty litter will bother certain cats more than others or they may express a preference for fine litter over coarse or clumping instead of non-clumping litter.
Other cats, particularly those with mobility issues, such as arthritis, will dislike litter boxes with high sides. Many cats prefer privacy over high-traffic areas.
In the case of homes with multiple cats, the other felines may claim the litter boxes and refuse entrance to the offending cat. Vets generally recommend that owners provide one litter box per cat plus one extra.
Finally, some cats may “spray” urine to mark their territory. Kristina Skaggs of Joliet said her cat urinated twice on her bed and once below a window after seeing another cat outside. She sprayed her cat with water and thoroughly cleaned the areas. The cat has since behaved.
“They say you’re supposed to get the pee smell out right away or the cat will more likely do it again because he has ‘claimed’ the spot,” Skaggs said. “I’ve since learned that cats learn by instinct. And they don’t learn anything from a punishment. We’ve given him a cat tree and more toys to play with and that seems to have caught his attention.”