Today, a friend I have not seen in awhile, called me with a “cat question.” Her husband works as an animal control officer and 4 kittens came in, so he separated them 2 in one cage and 2 in another. For some reason, 2 of them in one cage were as cats are suppo9sed to be: clean and tidy and using their litter box. Yet the 2 in the other cage were quite the opposite: avoiding the litter box and going all over the cage and, hence, themselves.
This is an unusual situation, as cats are by nature clean animals who try to avoid “dirtying” themselves. She stated that her husband took the advice of a friend and put some of the kittens’ waste into the litter box and put the kitten in there to “give him the idea,” but it didn’t work.
I suggested the reason it didn’t work was probably because the 2 that were being messy more than likely already know how to use the litter box and might be experiencing some sort of separation anxiety that for some reason the other 2 are not. One of the kittens (a clean one) was adopted, so I told her to put them all back together again and see what happens. Hopefully it’s not too late.
The subject of cats and litter boxes is a big one in cat ownership. Though cats do naturally like to be clean and bury their waste, they will also veer away from the litter box if a physical or psychological issue should arise, particularly an issue that involves the litter box itself. Changes in environment can also upset a cat to the point where their only communication resource is to avoid the litter box.
- One of the most common reasons for cats to stop using the box is the controversial issue of declawing. Removal of the bones in the toes and the claws is painful and often the cat’s attempt at scratching the litter will cause pain that makes the cat associate the litter box to the pain, thus causing avoidance.
- Another common avoidance factor is cleanliness. As was said above, cats are naturally clean animals that usually don’t like to soil where there is too muchy soil! Keep the litter box clean.
- Changes to your cat’s routine can also contribute to psychological upset that can be presented as litter box avoidance.
- Too many cats and not enough litter boxes can be a big issue unless you’re always on top of the boxes to keep them spotless.
- Keeping the litter box too far away can upset some cats, particularly old, handicapped or in any way frail or feeble cats. If it’s too hard to get to the box, why bother?
For the most part, cats will “tell” you their reason for avoiding the box. You just have to listen!