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November 18, 2017

Litter Box Locations Matter

04.05.15  Litter box locations matter to cats. Cats do not like eliminating in places where they can potentially be cornered or where they feel trapped. Ideal litter box locations have great views—allowing cats to see what is going on around them and to easily escape any potential threat. Cabinets, closets, most bathrooms and behind doors are poor places for litter boxes because they set up situations where cats can be cornered and trapped.

For lively discussions about cat behavior, please check out The Cat Coach on Facebook

Litter box locations matter

Litter box locations matter. Closets and cabinets are poor locations for boxes. by Marilyn Krieger.

Covered litter boxes

03.29.15  The best litter boxes for cats are large and uncovered. Covered litter boxes can be unpleasant for cats—they keep the odors in and cats feel they can be trapped and ambushed in them. Instead of covered litter boxes, get your cats large, uncovered, transparent plastic storage containers. These boxes have high sides, keeping litter in, but at the same time allowing cats to easily escape. If your cat has difficulty jumping into them, cut a “U” into one side.

For lively discussions about cat behavior, please check out The Cat Coach on Facebook.

Large, uncovered storage boxes make perfect litter boxes for cats.

Large, uncovered storage boxes make perfect litter boxes for cats. by Marilyn Krieger.

Cat Behavior and Medical Issues

03.01.15 Cats need to be examined by veterinarians whenever their behavior changes or they have behavior issues. Felines are subtle—sometimes the only indications of medical problems or injuries are changes in behavior. Elimination issues, aggression as well as other behavior challenges can be caused by painful and sometimes serious diseases, injuries and chronic conditions. Even subtle changes in behavior need to be checked out.

Cats need to be examined by a veterinarian when they display changes in behavior.

Cats need to be examined by a veterinarian when they display changes in behavior. by Shutterstock.

For lively discussions about cats and cat behavior, please check out The Cat Coach on Facebook

Set Up For Success: Avoid Litter Box Problems

Litter box info-graphic

Litter box issues are the number one reasons people seek me out for a cat behavior consultation. Because of that, I created this info-graphic. Hopefully it will help stop litter box problems before they begin.

You are welcome to use and distribute it as is, without alteration.

MKriegerLitterBoxInfoGraphicE

Moving Litter Boxes

12.02.12 Abruptly moving litter boxes to other locations can be stressful for cats and cause them to eliminate outside the litter box. Instead of immediately placing the litter box in another spot, move it gradually, a few inches a day to its new destination. Another solution is to leave the litter box in its original position and place another box in the new location.

Litter box Bit Tip: The Right Size

11.25.12  Make sure litter boxes are large enough to accommodate your cat. Ideally the size of litter boxes is 1.5 times the length of your cat.

Cat Litter Boxes: Locations Matter

Poor litter box location

Tucked away in a cabinet, behind the laundry room door—this may seem like an ideal location for a litter box. It is out of the way, hidden from view, odors are contained and it’s private. Although this might be a perfect solution for people, it’s not for cats.

Survival and safety take priority over privacy. Cats need to go to the bathroom in locations where they can’t potentially be trapped by another animal. They also don’t want to eliminate in enclosed areas that retain odors and most cats don’t respond well when startled by sudden noises such as cycling washers and dryers.

 

What’s wrong with this picture?
Everything is wrong with the location of this litter box. It may work for the cat’s people, but not for the cat. The box being located in a cabinet has two fundamental problems. Cabinets retain odors. Even though this box is scooped every day, the smells remain in the cabinet. People can’t smell the odors, but the cat can. Because a cat has a highly develop sense of smell, they often avoid litter boxes that smell offensive to them.

Everything about the location of this litter box screams ambush and is a set up for the cat to be trapped by another animal. In addition to potentially being waylayed in the cabinet, the cat can be cornered behind the door. Furthermore, because the cat can’t see around the door, he can’t see any threats that he may need to escape from. Cats do not want to be in situations where they can be trapped or ambushed.

In addition to the potential of being trapped, laundry rooms are notorious for sudden noises. The sounds of cycling washers and dryers can startle cats—another factor influencing the cat to find a safer place to eliminate.

Ideal Litter Box Location
An ideal location for a litter box is against the wall in a large room. The box should not be in a cabinet or enclosed in a closet. The view from the box needs to be expansive—the whole room, out the door and down the hall (if there is one). A box with a view lets the cat identify any potential threat which he can easily escape from. Litter boxes should not be placed in high traffic areas or areas with lots of noise and activity. Although cats aren’t as into privacy as people are, they do not want to do their business in high profile areas either.

Some people may not want to put litter boxes in those areas that are perfect for cats. Litter boxes do not need to be the focal point of a room. They can be placed in spots that are both unobtrusive to people and appealing to cats. Litter box placement can make the difference between a cat faithfully eliminating in the litter box and one who avoids it.

 

Being Green is Good… but

This blog entry is not for the faint of heart… if you are sensitive to issues pertaining to cat excrement, you might want to not read this.

I support the green movement whenever possible. I’m glad to see people are concerned about what they are throwing away and how it impacts the environment. Having said that, sometimes the implications of being green has some disturbing consequences. Recently I’ve noticed a trend that is causing many cats to avoid using their litter boxes.

Most people understand the importance of scooping litter boxes on a daily basis. Cats do not like soiled litter boxes because the smell can theoretically attract predators and scare away potential prey. This means boxes need to be scooped daily. When cleaning cat boxes, the excrement is typically scooped into plastic bags and then thrown away. Before people started living green, the bags were removed immediately after each scooping. Times they are a-changing…

Some people, in their efforts to preserve the environment and not drown it in plastic bags are collecting the excrement in containers, dumping only after the containers have filled up. Typically, the containers are placed either next to the cat boxes, for convenience, or in the same room as the boxes. Some of the containers are open waste baskets lined with plastic bags—others are semi-closed boxes or bags. The containers are dumped when they are full—sometimes once a week, others once a month. One client was dumping every three months. The cat boxes are immaculately clean, but the rooms smell terrible.

From the cat’s perspective, there is no difference between a dirty cat box and a cleaned cat box that has an open container of excrement sitting next to it or nearby. They both smell and they both have the same consequences—cats choosing to not use their litter boxes.

And yes, there is a solution that will make both cats and people happy. There are environmentally friendly bags available from pet stores, specifically manufactured for this purpose. They can be thrown away every day. Litter lockers can also work, but only if they have good seals on them that prevent odors from escaping. So people, please think through what it means to be green. How is it impacting your cat?

Bok Choi, a Special Boy

One of my Bengals, Bok Choi was diagnosed last night with a large tumor in his lower intestine. He is very sick, the tumor is fast growing. I’m very sad. Bok Choi had a very rough life, was dealt a bad genetic hand, has HCM, disintegrating spine along with some other disorders and to top it off, the previous owner had him 4 pawed declawed and abused him.

Bok Choi is my special boy. Through the years he’s lived with me, he’s been my teacher. I know that sounds a little odd, but he has had just about every behavior problem known and unknown to cat. He has taught me to think out of the box and look at creative solutions. He’s a wonderful boy, I love him dearly and he will be so missed by me and his best buddy Kingsley.

My veterinarian doesn’t think it’s his time yet, but it’s soon. He’s now home, so he can enjoy his last few days with his best friend.

You can see a picture of him in my blog entry about Bengals and litter boxes.

 

Have Cat Behavior Questions?

I have been getting many questions about cat behavior from readers of my blog. It’s impossible for me to answer all of the questions. But… it just so happens… I am going to be the guest question-answerer on Petfinders Forum, starting the 10th of November through the 16th. So, please do surf on over during that time and ask questions about cat behavior and cat behavior challenges.

Thank you everyone for reading my blog, and thank you for commenting and asking questions. I wish I could answer them all.