Hey, Mom and Dad:
This is Ralph, everyone’s favorite Labrador and resident Good Boy. I am writing to you about a personal topic, but not for me—for Eddie the cat.
A lot of confusion seems to surround Eddie’s litter box, and he asked me for help. I know—I am shocked, too—but I guess all my sniffing did pay off. Actually, Eddie says I can help, because he thinks you guys understand me better, although I usually call on the professionals at Mill Creek Animal Hospital when I need help, because they really understand pets. Mill Creek came to the rescue this time, too, and helped us read the meaning behind Eddie’s tail twitches and paw swipes. This is probably his best chance at making things obvious, since pooping in your shoe was surprisingly ineffective.
Your cat wants medical attention
Ralph the Labrador retriever: I may lose my dog-hood for this, but I think cats are pretty clever—they know that changing their bathroom habits is the best way to get noticed. Sadly, humans do not always receive the message that the sender intended.
Mill Creek Animal Hospital (MCAH): Changes in your cat’s litter box routine or usage (e.g., eliminating inappropriately, eliminating outside the box, rushing out from the box and not covering up, or vocalizing) can signal a potential medical condition. Unfortunately, health issues are often mistaken for a cat being spiteful or ill-behaved. If your cat changes their litter box behavior, the first step is to schedule a comprehensive physical examination at our hospital so we can rule out any medical issues.
Your cat wants privacy
Ralph: Eddie is a guy’s guy, but nobody wants to use “the facilities” in the busiest room in the house. Technically, the living room is a convenient location, but have you ever tried to poop in the middle of Monday night football? Eddie was so frightened by the shouting that he shot out of that box like a rocket, leaving nothing. I checked after he left.
MCAH: Cats can experience stress over their litter box location. A low traffic, quiet, easily accessible room makes the best location. Always provide one box per cat, plus one, which helps reduce bullying and litter box resource guarding, other potential stressors.
Your cat wants protection from other pets
Ralph: I guess I shouldn’t have mentioned that I checked out Eddie’s litter box. Eddie suggested adding a gate at each litter box location. The gate should have an entry door for him, but be too small for me. Maybe I was wrong to think we are friends, after all.
MCAH: Nosy pets and bully cats can block subordinate cats from the litter box, causing them to seek relief elsewhere, often inappropriately. Dogs find the litter box exciting, but a cold nose or a pouncing puppy while the cat is vulnerable and busy, is definitely unappreciated.
Your cat wants a clean litter box
Ralph: I’m not quite sure I understand the big deal here, but Eddie said you should scoop his box more often because cats are highly sensitive to odors. I have a great nose, and I think it smells pretty great, but according to Eddie, the slightest smell, and he’ll find another bathroom, which I’m not at liberty to disclose.
MCAH: Cats who can smell the slightest amount of urine or stool will decide their litter box is not clean enough, so scooping and cleaning are imperative. Litter boxes should be scooped at least daily and thoroughly cleaned with disinfectant at least weekly. The cleaner should be a cat-safe product and not ammonia-based. Ammonia is a natural component of cat urine, so what smells clean to you smells like an unattended public restroom to your cat.
Your cat wants to breathe freely
Ralph: Mom, you were so eager for Eddie to try that new litter—the one the television said would transform the litter box. Well, it did. Eddie walked out of the litter box in a cloud of fine dust, like a rock star coming on stage. He and I were both impressed, until we both had sneezing fits.
MCAH: Many types of cat litter contain a lot of fine dust that is irritating to the respiratory tract. Each time they dig, your cat inhales this dust, which, along with fragrances and perfumes, may cause respiratory conditions like asthma. Let your cat breathe clean air by using dust-free or low-dust, fragrance-free litter.
Ralph: I hope this has helped you understand Eddie a little better, Mom and Dad. He knows you only want the best for him, and that is why you try so hard. By the way, Eddie also said to tell you that despite the advertisement’s claim, he did not feel like he was pooping in a field of lavender.
Contact Mill Creek Animal Hospital about your cat’s confusing litter box habits, to rule out a medical condition, or to answer your questions. We do not want you and your cat—or your dog—unnecessarily frustrated.