Pawsitively Pets: Companion Cats and Their Boxes
Cats have been companions most of my life. Growing up, my older brother was discovered to be allergic to dogs but not to cats, so we were allowed to have a cat.
Acquiring a cat used to be as simple as hearing about someone's cat having kittens and making the decision to get one.
My cats over the last 20 years have been adopted from shelters or rescue organizations. We are much more aware of the pet overpopulation problems today, and many make the decision to spay/ neuter their cats and adopt rather than purchase them.
Litter box problems are probably the most common reason cats end up in shelters or rescues, or even worse, homeless and abandoned on the streets.
Cats are quite territorial and can be stressed by such things as moving furniture, getting new furniture, changes in household humans and/or pets; even neighborhood cats that make appearances outside the window can produce stressful emotions in a cat.
This stress may go unnoticed - unless they begin to display litter box problems. Then suddenly everyone notices!
But stress and illness are not the only reasons a cat might avoid the litter box.
When my senior cat was much younger and more agile, she amazed me that she used the litter box at all, let alone so fastidiously. When I had the chance to observe her, she behaved as if the litter was distasteful. She would balance precariously on the edge of the box as if she could hardly stand to touch the litter. Even so, she would thoroughly cover up and never missed the box or spilled over the edge.
At 17, though, she no longer avoids the litter and rarely covers up after. But I can forgive her for that, especially since she continues to use of the box.
Keeping the pans clean is paramount. Cleaning includes removing debris as often as possible, at least daily, and replacing litter frequently.
I have learned that it might be a good idea to have one more box than cats, i.e., two boxes for one cat, three for two cats, etc. The reason is, that given the option, a cat will defecate in a different box than where it urinates. In any case, a pan for each cat in a multi-cat household will help reduce the cleaning frequency.
The Moore County Citizens' Pet Responsibility Committee tells fourth-graders in discussions about cat care as a part of the Pet Responsibility Program to: "Keep litter about two inches deep and scoop it every day. They (cats) have a very good sense of smell and may choose not to use it if it is not clean. They may not like a litter box with a dome for the same reason - the odor is just too strong. Do not place the litter box near their food as, again, they may choose not to use it."
If you can smell the cat box, your cat has smelled it for a long time, and it is well past due for cleaning.
The location of the box is important. If a cat is afraid of the sound of the dryer when it buzzes, and the box is near the dryer, there may be trouble. The litter type and texture can make a difference. A bully or dominant pet in the household may actually prevent a cat from getting to the box.
One thing for certain, Moore County is full of folks who are wonderful resources for helping with problems that may crop up with our companion animals, including litter box problems.
This column will be about the companion animals in the area and provide helpful information about the feeding, health, care and safety for pets.
My current assistants include Little Bit, the tortoiseshell 17-year-old with a "tortie temper"; Sherlock, adolescent blue tabby; and Lucy, adolescent tuxedo kitten. We don't currently have any dogs, but Little Bit and I have shared our home with several wonderful canines over the years that live on in our hearts.
Feel free to contact me about your favorite pets so we can share their stories by emailing PetPaws@nc.rr.com. Your questions and comments are also welcome.
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