A new cat in the home.
Most cats and kittens arrive in the home pre-trained by mom-cat in the use of litter boxes. What a surprise if new kitty, once introduced into the home, instantly forgets all of its training. Presumably kitty used the litter box before coming home so what went wrong? How can kitty be reintroduced to the litter box and persuaded to use it?
It is advisable for any new cat to have a veterinarian perform a wellness check as soon as possible; preferably before coming home. The check should exclude a health issue as the cause should kitty decide not use the litter box.
- The litter box:
- Is the litter box clean? Daily scooping is the minimum in a one cat household.
- Is the litter box too small or too big? Can kitty get in and out easily? Are the sides too high? Replace if required.
- Does it have a cover? Covers encapsulate odors. An open litter box allows kitty to see if anyone is creeping up on them. Some cats crave covers for privacy. Others simply don’t care either way.
- Does kitty approve of the litter? Strongly scented litters can be an issue. Use unscented. Texture may be the problem. Try using the litter kitty was accustomed to. Cats used to being outside may prefer garden soil. Add Cat Attract to litter.
- Does the litter box smell of cleaning fluid? Cats have extremely sensitive noses; a strong ammonia or bleach smell can be off-putting.
- Litter box location:
- Does kitty know where it is? Can it get to the litter box easily? Is it behind a closed door? What might be most convenient for you may not be for a cat.
- Is the litter box in a heavy traffic area? Cats like their privacy.
- Is there something in the room frightening kitty? An automatic self-cleaning litter box? A washing machine or heating unit/air conditioner for example?
- Is kitty prevented from getting to the litter box by another creature? Does kitty feel the threat of attack? Cats may avoid routes considered unsafe or places where they feel trapped. Ensure there is more than one exit or move the litter box elsewhere.
- Is kitty’s food near the litter box? Some cats will not eliminate near their food or water bowls.
- Kitty is in a new environment; everything familiar has gone. Slow introductions are best. Give kitty time to acclimate to the new home. Bring something home with scents of the cat and its old environment and place it in the cat’s space. A blanket or toy is a good choice.
- Are there feral or neighborhood cats outside? Kitty needs to feel this is its home. Urinating near a door may be an attempt to mark territory.
- Did kitty have a past medical issue causing discomfort urinating or defecating?
- Is the litter hurting an injured paw? Has the cat been declawed? A cat may refuse to use the litter box if it associates it with pain. Some declawed cats have a life-long problem. Scooping litter to cover urine or feces exacerbates the initial post operative pain. The cat may continue to associate this pain with litter boxes long after the wounds have healed. Additionally, as with any amputation, there can be residual phantom pain lasting a life time. Try different-textured litter or replace with puppy pads. Once kitty begins trusting the box, gradually add litter until the pads can be dispensed with.
However hard you have tried to make kitty welcome in its new home, kitty has decided something is amiss. Your task: to scratch your head and try to figure out what. Here is a convenient checklist of possible causes.
If you are having litter box issues with an established cat; Why kitty peed on the carpet Part 1 may be for you.