Q: Cat Litter Box

August 1, 2012 | By Evelyn C. | 2 answers | Expired: 1271 days ago

Evelyn C.

We took in a foster cat and her litter of 6 over 2 months ago. I haven't been able to get the mother to use a litter box. I bought a variety of new, different litter boxes, as well as various types of litter. She goes in the hallway, on the carpet. She has had soft stools/diarrhea from day one. She was wormed before she came to us, but we wormed her again two weeks later in case anything was missed. She was thin, but has been putting on weight even while nursing. I tried putting the litter boxes in spots she used, but she just moved a few feed away. She is terrified of being shut into a small room. When she arrived, she was fearfully aggressive and afraid of touch as well. Even so, she asks for people food and doesn't finish her "cat" food. (We've tried many kinds). She is fine with other cats. I can pet her now, but even though I reach very slowly, she sometimes flinches first and then remembers it's OK and starts purring. She didn't interact with the kittens in the beginning, didn't clean them or show them anything. She didn't clean herself either and had caked on milk and other gunk. After I cleaned her up a few times, she started licking her kittens a little finally, though I did most of their cleaning as well. Fortunately, the kittens have taken to the litter boxes and will use any box in any room with any litter. I clean all the boxes several times a day, so she always has access to clean litter boxes. There other cats in the household, but they do not ruffle her feathers. She has free access to the many litter boxes. I do not know her history. She may have been an outside kitty, but I wouldn't dream of letting her outside to find out until she is spayed! I have never punished her, nor spoken harshly to her. HELP PLEASE! Any cat behaviorists out there?

Readers' Answers (2)

Aug 01, 2012

Has she been checked by a vet recently and did they check her stool? With constant diarrhea so could have something like giardia, which is sometimes very hard to treat. I would definitely get a stool sample and have it checked for everything. As far as the litter box, are you using an enzymatic cleaner to clean the areas where she is going? Cats' noses are so sensitive that they can smell old urine even after it has been cleaned and we can't smell it. Only enzymatic cleaners will break down the urine molecules and dissipate the odor completely. Use it as directed and don't take shortcuts or it won't be as effective. Again, has she been checked by a vet for cystitis, urethral blockage, or stones? Cats having urinary problems often go outside of the box because of urgency or because they associate the box with the pain they feel while urinating. Sometimes they need to be retrained to the litter box after an especially bad infection. So, once you rule out and/or treat any underlying medical causes, you may need to confine her to a small room to encourage her to use the box. A bathroom or laundry room is usually a good option because they're small enough and typically have cleanable floors. Put the litter box at one end and her bed, food, water, and toys at the other. Make sure she still gets plenty of attention and stimulation but keep her confined to encourage proper litter box use. There is a litter that is designed to attract cats to the litter box. It's called Dr. Elsey's Cat Attract. It's a little more expensive, but it has a money back guarantee. If it works, use it for while to help her develop new habits, then gradually cut it with another clumping litter. Other than that, it's the standard rules of litter boxes...Use unscented litter. Make sure you clean the litter boxes regularly. Scoop them twice a day at a minimum and completely sanitize them once every week or two. If you're using covered boxes, uncover them. Think from the perspective of your cat. No one wants to be closed up in a 1x2 foot bathroom. Again, cats' noses are extremely sensitive and even a small bit of urine can be overwhelmingly strong to them. Use clumping litter so that you can completely scoop out all feces and urine. (Don't use clumping litter for kittens under 8 weeks old.) Litter box placement is also very important once she's out of confinement. Make sure the box is placed in a quiet place, away from windows where she might feel threatened by the scents of outdoor animals. Place it in an area where she won't feel trapped or cornered by other pets or humans as they go about their routines. Even the most confident cat feels vulnerable in the litter box if there's a lot of activity in their area or if other animals lurk while they're trying to do their business. Make sure the box is big enough for her and has at least 3 inches of clean litter at all times. Good luck!

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Aug 02, 2012

I'd have her checked for a UTI or other infection, if you haven't already. It could just be a matter of antibiotics to clear her out and make the litter boxes more appealing. Should she have a clean bill of health, try filling a box with dirt {not top soil b/c some can be dangerous for cats}. Cats who have never used litter before, and she doesn't sound very socialized so I'd expect little exposure to a box, just don't know how it works. Cats who have lived outside didn't have such a small designated area, they chose their own. The dirt will replicate the feel that she's used to and as the weeks pass, you gradually introduce more and more litter.

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