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Cats and litter boxes don’t always get along

If your cat has a problem using a litter box, don't worry. You're not alone. It is one of the most common problems among pet owners in regard to their cats. Case explains that if the cat is not using a litter box, this is probably occurring for one of two reasons. Either the cat has developed some dislike for its litter box for some reason, or a stressor is causing the cat to stop using its box.

The most common cause of the cat not liking to use its litter box is that it simply may not be clean enough. Case states that if you feel at all this might be a problem, the first thing you should do is to scoop every day and change litter more often than previously.

A cat may also develop an aversion to its litter box simply because it is not accessible enough. Some cats either can't or don't want to spend a lot of time trying to find their litter box. Therefore, if you place the litter box in an accessible location, you take this obstacle away and make it easier for the cat to use. Another problem is that the cat may not like the spot you've designated for the litter box. Simply moving it may help this simple accessibility problem.

If your cat is under stress, he or she may urinate outside the litter box. Especially in a multiple cat households, for example, there may be stresses that humans will not pick up on. Group dynamics among cats are an interesting field of study in behavioral research. Recent studies suggest that even though one cat may not be actively kept away from the litter box, the cat may nonetheless be anxious and be manifesting this anxiety by urinating inappropriately outside the litter box or even with “marking” behavior.

A rule of thumb to follow is that you should have one litter box for each cat, placed in various locations. This gives your cat or cat choice of location and can also help the cat choose with whom the litter box is shared (or perhaps no one at all).

Another reason for litter box aversion may be preference of location. Cats often either prefer soft absorbent surfaces or smooth porcelain ones, according to Case.

Other problems that may occur include urinary tract infections, which can cause a previously “well behaved” cat to suddenly begin urinating outside the litter box. Cats also associate unpleasant memories with people or locations. Therefore, a cat that has a urinary tract infection and who goes to use its litter box may then associate the litter box with his or her pain. The cat thinks that if he or she stops using the litter box, the pain will go away. Therefore, if the cat is normally faithful about using the litter box and suddenly stops, you should take your cat to the vet and have him or her checked out for a urinary tract infection or other health problem.

Finally, it's a common owner complaint that the cat will “misbehave” and will go to the bathroom on bedding or clothing when “Mom” or “Dad” leaves the house. Some owners think that the cat is “angry” with them and is acting out of spite. However, this simply is not true. Cats do not develop separation anxiety as dogs might, because the simply aren't as strongly attached, according to Case. However, they can become stressed by change; this in turn can cause anxiety, which then can manifest itself by inappropriate urination or defecation outside of the litter box.

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