Thursday 26 March 2009

Stopping the Inappropriate Elimination of Cats

cat litter box with heart shapped urineThe are an endless number of articles about stopping the inappropriate elimination of cats as it is most common reason for people to give up their cats to rescue centers. Firstly, I should like to differentiate between inappropriate elimination and territorial marking (spraying for hormonal reasons which can largely be stopped through neutering). The latter is not the subject of this post although it can be highly inappropriate for people.

Also, inappropriate elimination can be due to medical reasons (e.g. urinary tract infections such as cystitis), anxiety marking and/or not liking the litter box. If a neutered cat is spraying it is probably due to anxiety and the cause of that is probably something that we are involved in (e.g. letting stray cats wander in). If the cause of the anxiety cannot be identified vets sometimes prescribe Prozac incidentally, which has a high success rate (but which I find rather sad to be honest).

This post is about stopping the inappropriate elimination of cats for cat litter reasons.

Inappropriate elimination has been described as the use of places in the home that are not suitable (outside the litter box) rather than as a communication signal in territorial marking. In this form of going to the toilet, cats often deposit one of the two forms of excrement in the litter box and inappropriately use another place for the other form.

Some factors that cause inappropriate elimination that are litter box related:
  • unclean litter box
  • not enough litter boxes for the cats in the home
  • the litter box design
  • the type of litter (scented litters are sometimes dislikes by cats although we might like them)
  • Plastic liners to the box
  • chemical odors that linger in the box from cleaning it (e.g. chlorine)
These are called "initiating factors". This means that these are factors that start the problem (for us) of inappropriate elimination. These factors cause the cat to become averse to using the litter box and using another location. Lets remember that to us it is a litter box but for the cat it is just one area of the home to go to the toilet. Over time the cat becomes habituated to using the wrong area and the presence of the urine or feces makes the area acceptable and usual. This is a reinforcing process.

Once all medical, hormonal and anxiety related problems are resolved the way to break the cycle and to build a method for stopping the inappropriate elimination of cats is to:
  1. Make the litter box as pleasant as possible for the cat in question. This puts a stop to one of the initiating factors;
  2. Change the type of box to find a suitable one and;
  3. Alter the type of location may be varied and;
  4. Alter the type of litter;
  5. Clean the litter box frequently. The frequency of litter cleaning should be increased to one or twice daily. This tackles one reason for inappropriate elimination: an unclean litter tray;
  6. Make the area where inappropriate elimination is taking place as unpleasant for the cat. This can be achieved by covering area with smooth plastic or placing food in the area for example (changed significance);
  7. Use special odor eliminators in the area of inappropriate elimination. This is important too. Zero Odor is one example, there are others such as Nature’s Miracle.
  8. Use positive reinforcement with food treats when going to the litter will help.
Some people take their cats to the vet for putting down because they are incapable of stopping the inappropriate elimination of cats, which as can be seen is really our problem. Following these techniques can save cats' lives as there is a success rate in the order of 72%.

From Stopping the Inappropriate Elimination of Cats to Home Page

Major source:
Stopping the Inappropriate Elimination of Cats - Photo: by lynx81(new window) published under a Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs creative commons License -- this site is for charitable purposes in funding cat rescue.

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