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Fixing Litter Box Problems

By: Brette Lea - www.news8austin.com


When it comes to potty problems, more often than not, the cat is not to blame.

Step into a class on cat behaviour. The students are shelter workers. The teacher is one of the top cat behaviourists in the country. Pam Johnson-Bennett is telling the class a sad statistic, "more cats are relinquished to shelters for litter box problems. That's the biggest thing I deal with," she said.

Bennett is a firm believer that bad behaviour is not the fault of the cat. If the cat's not using the litter box, there's a reason, she said.

That's the first question you should ask, "Is it medical?"

There are several conditions, some serious, that could cause your cat to "go" elsewhere: Urinary tract infections, kidney disease, bladder problems.

"If you've ruled out health problems, then you're looking at a behaviour problem," Dr. Craig Prior said.

Bennett said if you're cat is acting out find out why.

"Most of the time it's because owners aren't cleaning the litter box enough or the box is in the wrong locations or we have too many cats and too few litter boxes," she said.

If this is a problem in your house, here's a checklist:

  1. See the vet.
  2. Clean the box daily.
  3. Location, location, location. Make sure the box is in a private but easily accessible location.
  4. Cat to box ratio. NO more than two cats per box. One per box is optimum.
  5. Changed the litter? Some cats don't like clumping, they prefer clay.
  6. Lose the top. If you have a covered litter box, get rid of the lid. It scares some cats, traps the smell and can lead to feline asthma.


Bennett said give her a cat with a potty problem and she'll give you an owner doing something wrong. She wraps up the class with an example.

"One of my clients came to me with a litter box problem. She had put the box down in a dark, dank basement, behind a closed door. The cat had to go through a swinging pet door to reach it and the owner only cleaned it once a week. You tell me that cat had a litter box problem? Yeah, the cat had a problem - the owner was the problem," Bennett said.

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