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  • Writer's pictureKnollwood Hospital for Pets

Is your cat a P-nut?

Cats who don’t use their litter boxes are sending you a message. What could they be trying to tell you?

This stinks: Think about how often you’d like to use your toilet without flushing it. Think about going a whole week with a toilet full of unflushed crud. Then get off your butt and go scoop and clean that litter pan, and do it every day at least once. Oh - and those heavily scented litters? They are most definitely not ‘cat-approved”. Never buy them again.

NOW. I need the box now: If your cat loves creature comforts, a single litter pan in the basement behind the furnace is going to appeal about as much as you having one toilet at home, located in a dingy basement root cellar. And, if you have more than one cat, you SO need more than one box. Ever seen the Mean Girl movie? Cats behave this way, too. Some cats are capable of denying access to the litter pan to another feline family member in need, while smiling a sly feline smile. Even cats who appear to like each other in your presence can do this when you’re gone. How to avoid it? Cat behavior experts recommend one box per cast, plus a spare box. So....add up your cats, add the number 1, and that’s how many boxes you should have. Please, clean every single one every single day.

I hurt: Your cat could have a painful bladder infection or an infection inside the lining of the bladder, or bladder stones, or kidney stones, or a bladder tumor. A senior can have painful arthritis making it hard to get into and out of the litter pan, or spinal inflammation and pain that makes if hard for them to feel when they are finished eliminating. Talk to your vet if you think that pain or a spinal issue could be part of your cat’s problem. There are many ways to diagnose pain, but getting your cat in for an appointment is a good first step. Lots of effective treatments exist, from antibiotics (plus a probiotic, please!) to herbal therapy to select homeopathics, herbs, homotoxicologic medicines, and even acupuncture, chirporactic, or laser treatment.

Go away, dog! NO one likes being disturbed when they’re settled on the throne. Sniffing dogs, the utility room door banging against a litterbox, a curious child determined to watch the event, can all inhibit a cat enough to decide that your nice quiet and clean bed is a better pee spot than the litter pan.

Mine, mine, MINE! Cat expert Dr. Sophia Yin used to say that cats are famous for “spray-painting invisible but pungent messages such as “I was here” or “This is MINE!” on your walls” (and furniture). Think about why this could happen: insecurity, stress inside or outside the home, an event that happened when the cat used the box that now makes the cat fear going back, fewer or more people in the home, a recent move...the list goes on and on. Often, feline pheromone sprays and wipes that sooth and calm can be a cat’s best friend. Completely clean and deodorize soiled areas, and try use of a pheromone product around the soiled area. Treat room entrances and exits, too. Homeopathic products can work, too. If all else fails, consider consulting a cat behavior specialist.

Whaaa? How do I use this thing?? Consider that your cat may not be as fascinated with that uber-fancy, multiple-chambered litter box or that mechanical one as you were, when you bought it. Unless (and even if) you keep such a box pristine-clean, many cats are not comfortable with devices that whir or move when they have the urge to eliminate, or that try to clean their feet afterwards. Really, a plain box works just fine.

I’m SO bored... Think about the fact that your cat lives in your house 24/7, while you get to leave and have fun whenever you decide to do so. Environmental enrichment can be key! This means thinking about how you could make your cat’s home a more exciting and fun place. Even a tiny room becomes much bigger to a cat when there are things to climb in and out of, high places to get to, and something to watch. Here are some great ideas from Best Friends Animal Sanctuary.

‘Tis the season: No one knows exactly why, but litter box problems in cats often increase in spring and fall, when the seasons change. There could be many reasons for this, from the immune system changes that often accompany fluctuating weather patterns, to changes in day length that can affect when pets are fed. Even changing human interest in interacting with our cats plays a role. When it’s nice enough for us to play outside, many cats experience relative neglect - until it becomes “hang with me, kitty, it’s cold outside!” time again.

Remember: Cats dislike sudden change, dirty toilets, bad smells, and they definitely need their down time. At Knollwood Hospital for Pets, we know that cats thrive best in a warm, welcoming and comfortable home environment. Make some “hello, kitty” time every day for your feline friend, and watch your cat bloom!

Until next time,

Dr. Mitchell

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