Soiling is one of the issues for which feline behaviour consultants are most often called upon for help. Unfortunately, it’s also the main cause of surrender and euthanasia. Before opting for such drastic solutions, know that soiling problems, although complex, are easily resolved. You only need the right advice!
Your cat pees outside of its litterbox? Before applying the following recommendations, call your veterinary team and make an appointment. About 70% of soiling cases have a medical cause. Therefore, it’s necessary that Kitty be examined from the tip of its nose to the tip of its tail to ensure its health. If soiling is a symptom of a disease, you can treat the pathology properly and get your cat back on its legs.
Done? Now, some advice.
Soiling issues can involve urine, stool and urinary marking. The latter is the action of spraying urine on vertical surfaces. If your cat exhibits this type of soiling, follow up with a veterinary clinic. We then recommend that you contact the Cat Educator team for a consultation. Marking, if not due to fertility or a medical problem, is often caused by anxiety related to conflicts between cats. This problem necessarily requires a home visit by a consultant.
That said, many factors can affect your cat’s cleanliness and litterbox use. Let’s look at some of them.
The cleanliness of the box
What would you say if your toilet was smelly, soiled or tiny? Would you like to exchange tour usual facilities for a horrible full porta-potty on hot summer day? It goes without saying that we all want a clean toilet. Well, so does your cat! Actually, it seems that the main criterion for felines when it comes to choosing where to eliminate is cleanliness. Keep in mind that litterbox hygiene must always be adequate. That said, one’s idea of cleanliness can vary among feline individuals. After all, your cat is unique… like you!
Choosing the box
Most shops sell bins that are too small for Kitty’s comfort. In addition, these containers often have a lid and door. Together, these features can contribute to your cat’s litterbox misuse. Keep in mind that the bigger the box is, the risks of soiling decrease. Conventional litterboxes are not the only thing that can be used! Large clear plastic storage bins that can be found in hardware or home improvement stores are perfect! Of course, lose the lid! In short, your cat should be able to stand in the diagonal of the box, from the tip of its nose to the tip of its tail. If you have a kitten, take into account that it will grow!
As mentioned above, you can find different types of litterboxes: completely open or topped with a lid. The latter can be equiped with a door, or not. You must try to evaluate your cat’s preferences. Some cats prefer the privacy provided by the lid and door, while others appear to be stuck in a covered litterbox. Indeed, when several cats coexist, the lid can be a problem because it keeps Kitty from seeing what’s happening around it. The toilet then becomes a stressful place. Smells can also be retained inside the covered boxes and some cats can develop an aversion to them. Remember that the cleanliness of elimination sites is of utmost importance!
Although this is option is difficult for some to accept, we recommend large and open litterboxes.
Fun fact: In different parts of the world, including China, there are human toilets without doors in public places! To each their own!
The number of litterboxes
I remember very well when my family and I lived in a house with only one bathroom. You can imagine how sharing the room was difficult to us all! Now, try to transpose this image to your cats. Generally, they also prefer to have the choice of several bathrooms.
We usually advise that you have one more litter than the number of cats in the house. By increasing the number of litterboxes, cleanliness is easier to maintain. The bins must be distributed in different rooms of the house. In addition, by multiplying elimination spots, you reduce the risks of aversion and conflict. So if you have two cats, we avise that you use three litterboxes in three different rooms.
Even if you have only one cat, you should have two litterboxes because some cats refuse to urinate and defecate in the same place.
If your home is too small for you to apply this advice, I recommend that you opt for a large clear container of 60 liters or more (like the storage bins found in hardware stores).
The location of the litterbox
I remember the house of a childhood friend, when I was little. The bathroom was literally in the kitchen. It’s easy to imagine the discomfort of the people who had to use it! Your cat can also be inconvenienced if the litterbox is next to its food or water. It is therefore preferable to move the rest, feeding and elimination spaces away from each other.
It is also not advisable to put the litterboxes in confined or tight spaces such as closets. Ideally, also avoid putting them near a noisy machine that can start at any moment (like a central vacuum or washing machine). It’s never fun to be startled while you’re… you get it!
Also, you should avoid putting a litterbox next to another. Little space between the bins can lead to altercations. The cats involved could want to avoid the spot afterwards.
In conclusion, Kitty needs an easily accessible elimination spot in an open, attractive and quiet place. Make good compromises to find balance between Kitty’s needs and yours.
The type of subtrate or grain
How nice to walk barefoot on the fine sand of a beach, isn’t it? Well, cats also love fine sand!
In fact, cats usually choose a soft, clumping and unscented substrate. The ideal amount to pour at the bottom of the bin is 10 to 15 cm, so that Kitty can scratch and dig. There is no need to buy sandbags, because several brands of litter meet these criteria. The best known in Quebec and France is that of the Odourlock brand.
Here is the least interesting, but oh so relevant part when you want to avoid soiling problems!
Partial cleaning (scooping) of the litterbox must be done once a day. Substrate should then be added in the litterbox when a decrease of depth is noted.
Litterbox cleaning (changing the entire substrate and cleaning the bin) can be done once a month, depending on the number of cats and substrate used. For this type of cleaning, there is no need to hire a specialized team. It’s simple! Wash the walls of the bin with hot water and unscented soap. The strong smell of bleach, essential oils or enzyme-based products can be uncomfortable to some cats.
By applying these tips to the letter, most soiling problems are gradually resolved. However, some problems may be more persistent. For these recalcitrant cases, we strongly advise that you communicate with the Cat Educator team. We will have the pleasure of helping you further. Be aware that a home visit could be needed if the problem seems complex to the consultant.