By Kim Butler
Yes, the Tidy Cat Whisperer has returned, with the complete “scoop” on litterbox issues. In the first article we looked at some of the various “psychological” reasons a cat might not use the litterbox, i.e. new baby, new furniture, adding another pet.
There are some other reasons that are a bit more concrete and easier to grasp:
- A perfect reason to avoid the litterbox is when it’s not scooped and cleaned regularly. Put yourself in your cat’s shoes: would you use a toilet that hadn’t been flushed for a day or two? Ummm, probably not.
- Daily scooping is required, as well as a wipe-down of the edges and sides, especially where there may have been urine. Do not use cleaners with an ammonia base, i.e. window cleaner; that will just intensify the urine smell to your cat.
- Use cleaners like Simple Solution or Nature’s Miracle as they contain enzymes which will help break down the urine odor.
The Look of the Litterbox
Nowadays there are as many choices in litterbox styles, sizes, and shapes as Michelle Obama has in sleeveless dresses. There are litterboxes that look like litterboxes…and then there are litterboxes disguised to look like something else entirely. A litterbox that looks like a spaceship? What I want to know is: how easy is it to clean, and will it beam Fluffy into the carrier for that trip to the vet?
Keep in mind: most of these “cutesy” litterboxes have one thing in common—they have a hood or lid. Yet again, someone forgot to consult the cat. Put yourself in your cat’s shoes: just how much do you enjoy using a PortaPotty that’s been used 50,000 at that outdoor rock concert you’re attending? Especially one that hasn’t been washed down in a month? That, my friends, is what it’s like for your cat when they are sitting inside a hooded litterbox. The hood traps the odor of urine (“hmmmm, yeah I really wanna be inside this thing, maybe I’ll go pee on the couch.”) Hooded litterboxes were invented by people for the convenience of…. People (the cat is not at all surprised by this news). Hooded boxes are designed to reduce the amount of litter flying out of the box onto the floor but I believe there is another reason people like them: out of sight, out of mind. Put a lid on it and all of a sudden we can’t actually see what Fluffy has done in there. See, we people think that if we can’t SEE the clumps in the litter, oh then maybe it’s really not there—and maybe we won’t have to clean it as much. But—if your family members insist on a hooded box, remember to always wipe down the inside of the hood as well as the edges and inside of the box after scooping so you can eliminate the leftover urine smell. Fluffy will thank you by not urinating elsewhere.
Fixing the Furniture
If Fluffy has decided that your furniture looks like a good substitute for a bidet, you can possibly salvage your furniture if it has not had a ton of damage. For spot soiling, Nature’s Miracle or Simple Solutions make cleaning products that will help get the odor and stain out. Oreck (yes the vacuum cleaner people) also makes a very good spot cleaner for pet stains. In most cases however, you are better off having the furniture professionally cleaned, especially if there are several areas to be cleaned. Most all of the major rug and furniture cleaning companies have special solutions that tackle pet stains & odors.
Falling in Love with the Litterbox—Again
Now, onto the BIG issue: how to make Fluffy fall in love with the litterbox again. We can do the soft, easy way, or we can go “hard core.” First, let’s look at the easy way out:
We need to somehow make Fluffy feel better about her environment so that she will feel more at ease and naturally gravitate towards using the litterbox—all without the use of Valium (sigh). This presumes that whatever it is that Fluffy is stressed about has been resolved: renovations, change of litter, new members of the household. (And no, I am not suggesting that you give the baby away….by now your cat is probably used to the idea of the baby being in the house).
There are two products which I suggest we invest in: Comfort Zone with Feliway and the Sergeant’s Sentry “Good Behavior” collar. Comfort Zone is a plug-in, similar to the air freshener plugins like Glade, only there is no smell or detectable odor to this special plug-in. The Comfort Zone plug-in uses Feliway, which is a synthetic copy of the feline pheromone used by cats to mark their “territory” as safe and secure. Neither you or I can detect Feliway—but your cat can, and it gives them a very calming sense of security and helps reduce their level of stress when faced with a challenging issue. It’s sort of like “kitty Prozac” without the after-effects. Usually I suggest having one or more of these plug-ins, especially in areas where your cat frequents the most.
The Sergeant’s “Good Behavior” collar is very similar to Feliway in that it has a very calming effect on the cat due to the pheromones contained in the collar. The difference is that the cat is wearing the collar 24/7 so the effects stay with the cat as long as they wear the collar. The combination of both Comfort Zone/Feliway and the collar may be just enough to get Fluffy back into good litterbox habits…..
…but if we still aren’t quite there, then we have to go “hard core:” 30 Days In The Crate.
It’s not as bad as it sounds, truly. Fluffy will be given her own separate room, and she will be crated in a standard cat/dog crate with her litterbox, food, water, and whatever toys and bedding she might need. Her litterbox will be filled with a special litter called “Dr. Elsey’s Cat Attract.” She will not stay in the crate 24/7, you can let her out for supervised exercise, love, and attention, and of course when you clean her litterbox. The point here is that by being confined, she will have no choice but to use the litterbox—and the special litter that was designed by people…for cats. Cat Attract is a clumping litter like regular litter, but blended with a natural herb attractant. The scent, texture, and particle size seem to be just what many cats are looking for and they happily start using their litterboxes and stay that way.
Along with the crating, I also recommend use of the Comfort Zone/Feliway plug-ins, placing one nearby the crate, as well as wearing the Good Behavior collar. It is very important that this plan be followed for 30 days. Once we have passed the 30 day mark, we can then start giving Fluffy more time out of the crate-supervised time as we want to be certain that she is using the litterbox only and not looking for other places to do “her business.” With patience and perseverance, you will usually wind up with a new cat in 30 days—a happy cat who will be more than happy to use her litterbox regularly—provided you live up to your end of the bargain and keep it clean, scooped daily, and leave the hood off!