Monday 8 July 2024

Cat faeces 'logs' in litter tray block another cat's toileting routine

This is a cross-post as I think it is an interesting topic for cat caregivers.

As a cat caregiver you must have heard about the need to keep the litter tray clean. This applies particularly in homes where there are several cats. And in those homes if cats are sharing a litter tray or there are less litter trays than cats and one cat has used the litter tray, the next cat will be put off by the sight of faeces logs in the litter substrate but not by the smell of the logs.

This image summarises the study findings. Image: MikeB. Words: the study.

And in being put off by the sight of the faeces they may not use the litter tray and may even defecate outside the litter tray (inappropriate elimination).

The interesting aspect of the study which discovered this (see citation below) is that the problem for cats sharing litter trays is the physical presence of the faeces in the substrate not the odour of the other cat's faeces. 

This surprised me as cats have very effective noses and they scent mark with urine and faeces. Because scent marking is so big in their lives you'd have thought that the odour of another cat's faeces would be the off-putting issue but no.

This is about VISUALLY offending the cat about to embark on a toilet session and not in terms of odour.

The study worked with cats that got along. It might be a different story if they did not. They discovered this phenomenon by depositing false cat faeces in the litter tray that were odourless. The cats were put off by them. 

They also put in 'faux-urine' and they were put off by that as well, even more so.

Citation for the study: Does previous use affect litter box appeal in multi-cat households? Researchers: J.J. Ellis, R.T.S. McGowan, F. Martin. Link:

P.S. It is best not to super-clean litter trays and remove all the natural feline scent from it as cats are attracted to the scent of their poop and pee and use the area as a toilet.

P.S. 2 - The best practice in multi-cat homes is to have one tray per cat. This would avoid the above mentioned issue. I suspect that not many owners of several cats do this however. The issue mentioned on this page may be a big factor in trying to control cat toileting in multi-cat homes.


P.S. please forgive the occasional typo. These articles are written at breakneck speed using Dragon Dictate. I have to prepare them in around 20 mins.

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