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VET Q&A : Litter Box Lessons

December 29, 1985|BY SANDRA J. JONGEWARD DVM

Q: My spayed female cat will not do her bowel movements in the litter box if she has urinated in it. Even if I'm around to clean her box immediately, she'll use the living room rug. I've taken her to the scene of her crimes and forced her nose close to it. She knows she's done something wrong because she runs and hides. How do I housebreak my cat?--B.B. A: To correct a cat's indiscretion, you can change the litter box, treat the soiled areas, evaluate environmental stress and examine the pet.

Many cats prefer two litter boxes, one for solid waste and one for urine. When adding a second box, try placing it in the area of indiscretion and then gradually move it to a more appropriate location. Some cats find more security in covered litter boxes; others prefer open boxes. Therefore, when using more than one box, try at least one of each. Different types of litter, paper, sand and dirt may solve the problem for some cats. Be sure to clean out the wet litter and solid waste daily. Every three days you should rinse and dry the box and refill it with fresh litter.

To remove the scent, clean your soiled carpet with a mixture of half white vinegar and half water. After the area is dry, cover it with plastic, foil or bowls of food to discourage future use of that spot.

Cats are very sensitive to environmental changes such as a new location for the old litter box. Changes in furniture, draperies, rugs and so on may inspire inappropriate elimination behavior. More frequently, this behavior is related to the addition of new pets or people to the household or to a change in the owner's life style. Awareness of the cause of stress may enable the owner to solve the problem.

One principle that animal behaviorists usually follow is not to discipline a pet. Lavish your cat with praise and attention when the appropriate behavior is performed, but do not punish her when she does not use the litter box.

Finally, many cats develop inappropriate elimination behavior because of a physical problem such as a bladder infection or an inflammatory disease of the lower bowel. A thorough evaluation by your veterinarian would be indicated.

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