Litterbox Issues with Dr. Danya Linehan
An edited version will be posted Thursday am.
Cat Chat 24 Video Audio Dr. Danya Linehan, DVM on Litterbox Issues
Watch past episodes of Cat Chat Live here: https://bigcatrescue.org/catchat/
1) Noah asks, Plastic or stainless steel litter boxes?
There are pros and cons to each. Good things about stainless boxes are they are certainly more durable, will remain easier to clean & disinfect for longer and are way harder to scratch. The downside, and the reasons I don’t use them in my home are as follows: they are heavy! We have some at the shelter where I volunteer, and for that setting I think the pros outweigh the cons. BUT when I have to haul them around for cleaning, especially when they are filled w/ litter, they are quite heavy. A second possible disadvantage is that horrible nails on the chalkboard, or in this case nails on the stainless, noise the cats make as they dig and bury. Lastly, and I suppose most importantly, we have to consider which ones each individual cats prefer!
2) Don has 2 cats, the newest being a feral they have managed to befriend! They have to keep the cats separate at this point, and wonder how they can train them to get along?
First, if you haven’t already done so, make sure you get the new kitty in to your veterinarian for a complete physical exam and FELV/FIV testing. Of course, you will also want to make sure he or she is neutered & vaccinated. AS this is a former feral kitty, you may want to investigate having a house-call vet come to you instead of traumatizing everyone to get this new one in the carrier, in the car and to the clinic.
Having done all that, keeping them completely separate initially is exactly the right thing to do! I would get a couple of Feliway plug ins, at least one for the feral cat room, and at least one for the rest of your space.
Particularly if there is a generous gap underneath that door, start using favorite really yummy canned food, treats, or interactive toys. Give the feral this really great thing close to the door on his/her side, while giving your resident cat the really great thing close to the door on his or her side.
When that is going great, if you have the ability to separate them temporarily by stacking 2 baby gates on top of each other while leaving that door open, go through the same steps above. If you can do the really great thing at least a few times every day, things should get better faster.
Another thing a little tough to describe in just these written comments is to do some ‘scent swapping’. When Kitty A is relaxed, happy and purring, have a clean washcloth that you “pet” the kitty with around the head and face, getting all those good happy-cat pheromones all over the cloth. Do the same thing with Kitty B with another clean washcloth. After several sessions of this, start switching the cloths. Sometimes we can start convincing a cat that another feline is his or her friend if they start to have the same happy-cat scents!
WORST case scenario is you may end up with 2 totally separate cat territories. Once in a while 2 animals will simply never get along. It’s rare fortunately! If that happens, you can see some of our previous Cat Chat discussions on really maximizing the space you have for each with some creative enrichment.
Lastly, I applaud you for being patient and kind, and giving this cat a chance and a good home! Thank you!
3) Monica has a 15 year old cat who it sounds like is standing in his litter box when he urinates rather than squatting, thereby urinating on the wall OUTSIDE the box instead of in the litter. This is happening in spite of what sounds like a pretty good sized box.
Thoughts: First, since this baby is 15 years old which is quite geriatric for a cat, make sure you get a good physical exam done on him and explore anything that might need treatment. Sometimes cats are painful, and or a little weak, and it may be uncomfortable to squat like he used to.
As long as everything checks out ok medically, you might want to first consider what type of litter you use, and how clean it is – sometimes cats will go into their box to urinate, but might stand instead of squat, and/or might not dig or bury completely if they object to anything to do with the litter. Picky individuals, I know!
Finally, you can get a box with higher sides. One idea for you is to get a plastic storage container with really high sides, [24-30 inches], and cut a hole or an entrance in one of the short sides for your cat to still have easy access. Another is one of the commercial boxes with nice high sides – I’ll try to find a link or picture of one of the boxes we were discussing today. A last option is to consider a covered or hooded box. If you do that however, I would keep at least one uncovered box available, since often cats don’t love the covered kind. Keep up the good work! If you have a 15 year old you must be doing something right!
4) Carrie has a cat who generally is good about using the litter boxes, but will urinate on shoes, leashes and other items on the porch.
I can only speculate on this not knowing all the details but it doesn’t sound that strange. The items mentioned, leashes and shoes, are going to be some of the most . . . . “Smellingly Interesting” items around if you are a cat with incredibly strong olfactory ability! Leashes, shoes, back-backs, briefcases and handbags pick up hundreds and hundreds of different smells from all over the outside world every day. It’s not that unusual for an animal who is otherwise perfect about urinary habits to urinate on these types of items! So that’s my first thought. Another possibility is the porch itself, and the items could be innocent bystanders. Depending on how your place is set up, the porch might be the nearest spot to the outside cats and outside world in general. And/or, there might be tons of these outside smells in the entrance way just as there sometimes are on certain items. Hope that helps!
5) Carrie also has a cat who plays much too aggressively.
One thing I’d like to know is if this play is with another cat, or with human family members?
Cats do have really strong prey drive. This can lead to some very rough play, and if your body parts have become the “Prey” it’s not fun! Well, it might be a BLAST for the cat, but it’s no fun for the people. First, make sure you and everyone else knows to never use your own hands and feet as play things for the cat. If the cat starts grabbing your hands, feet, toes etc. for play, try not to say anything or jump around, but remove yourself as completely as possible so that s/he gets no satisfaction.
Do try cat dancer type toys – long durable felt ribbons, or fuzzy toys on thick tough string, and actively play with the cat as much as possible using these toys that leave a few feet between your skin and the cat’s mouth or claws. Also, there is a toy called The Cat’s Meow, and a very similar one called “Under Cover Mouse” which is pretty cool. Carole showed a couple of pictures of some of our cats playing with this thing. It’s a battery operated toy that goes back & forth under a yellow sheet that cats can chase.
If your cat is a natural fetcher, take advantage of that! It’s a great way to let cats burn up lots of energy safely, and it’s really cute!
Many times a day in our house, we do a “Treat toss”. Using a different dry cat food than our cats usually eat, one that they all love, we literally throw a few kibbles at a time skittering across the floors. The cat run like crazy chasing the pieces, and get a treat at the end of every burst of energy.
If you have a safe way for your cat to go outside – either on a leash & harness, or in a cat-proof fenced in area, that can also help tremendously.
There are other things I won’t bore you with right now! Try any of that stuff that you think sounds reasonable, and let us know how it goes.
Some of the products we talked about were: