(Thinking) Inside the Box (Part 2)
One of the biggest realities to understanding inappropriate elimination, is that there are as many physical components as there are emotional ones. In addition to this, there is a strong interdependency between the two, so just by approaching the physical and thus ignoring the metaphysical/mental aspects, Kitty’s problems may never be conquered (Deep, I know). In part two of this post, we are exploring the mental causation behind Kitty’s problems with elimination and here are our tips:
Getting a physical
As we explained in Post 1, the first thing you should do when Fluffy decides to liberate herself from the box is to get your Fluffers to a feline veterinarian. Your phenomenally-qualified feline-veterinarian will rule out any of a number of urinary and glandular causes that can be causing either increased urination or discomfort while urinating. For the sake of the current post, let us fast-forward a bit. You had a few out-of-box experiences, went to the vet and Fluffy has been prescribed a fine prescription (Rx) diet of urinary-appropriate food. You fed diligently (making sure that Fluffy never got Fluff’s non-Rx food), got a recheck and a urinalysis for her a bit later and…. Wet Pillow!
Houston, we have a mental block here
It’s not uncommon that a kitty will continue to go in the wrong place even after an apparent physical cause is remedied. What may have happened is that Kitty is equating the litterbox with the initial causality of the discomfort. While we do love them all, they do sometimes lack critical reasoning. There is probably no magic bullet for this but all further efforts should be to re-associate her loo w/relief. Keeping the boxes plentiful in numbers, freshly scooped (up to twice a day), cleaned out before refilling (with scent-free or a lightly-scented detergent).
Taking off the edge
After a few out-of-box mishaps, you might be thinking that the only relief in sight is some serious stress relief for you. Ironically, you might be more spot-on than you realize. Household stressors can and do stress your little predatory pal. If you are stressed, either outwardly and or even if you are the sort that just internalizes things, odds are, Fluffy knows. Doing your best to make that household a sanctuary both for kitty and for you should help. A number of commercial products including Feliway™ can be used to help decrease the stress response through pheromones. They are available in both diffuser, spray or wipe forms.
Rethinking the box
At this point, replacing every box in the house (at least right now) might be ill-advised. It is, however, never a bad time to try out a different style of box and by doing so, adding new boxes. When there are issues we recommend simple rather than complicated. There are a plethora of options available for purchase including covered, uncovered, simple, ornate, manual or automatic, etc. As you are now in problem-solving mode, often, the easiest solutions can be gained through simplicity. The good news is that simplicity means affordability (but of course we know that every cat owner would spare no expense). One easy way to construct such a box is to take a Sterilite™ or similar tote (clear is preferred but you can experiment) and cut a “U” in it. The “U” should be offset from the center (helps for those kitties that tend to enter, stand and then pee) and can be cut into the skinny end of the tote. You want to cut the entrance at a height that the kitty can get into without effort but high enough that a reasonable level of litter won’t spill out. Your goal is to simplify and decrease any possible causes of distaste or distrust of the box. You should choose a taller tote and often a rubber-lined shower rug can be used to catch any spill-out and clean Fluffy’s paws. Trying one or more different types of litter varying consistency, material, scent (or lack thereof) can also be done but should be limited (for now) to these new bins only.
Fluffy should never have to try to reach the box. Boxes should be easily accessible, able to be stepped directly into with little effort. Paths to and from the box should not be bottlenecks and as wide open as possible. If another cat shares the bin, there should be enough bins for all kitties (follow the N+2 rule if you can, where N is your number of cats) and you should watch for any gate-keeping by other kitties who might be blocking Fluffy from using her favored bin. In addition to this, bins should never be higher than cat level. Odds are, if you’re cat isn’t bothered now, someday, when arthritic or when rushing to the bin, an accident may happen. Also, keep in mind that two bins in the same location are only understood as a singular bin. It’s location and diversity that matters! Often, even in cases where both kitties only go in one box, we find that adding a second box will cause one kitty to go in one location while the other kitty suddenly prefers the second location. It’s no surprise when the urinary issues resolve shortly thereafter.
Serenity in the loo
Keeping the environment around the litterbox quiet is never a bad idea. Perhaps more important, is to decrease sudden sounds and buzzers (such as those from a laundry or dryer) that come unexpectedly and might startle your kitty. Sudden movements, fans, toddlers or dogs that might startle or harass your cat are also things to minimize near your cat’s loo.
Note from the doctor:
Thinking like your cat is a good way to initially approach behavioral causes of inappropriate elimination. Many cats will respond well to one or a combination of the above recommendations. However, there are occasionally cats who need a little extra help from behavior modifying medications. These medications, when used appropriately, tend to have very few side effects and can mean the difference between success and failure in behavior modification. Medications sometimes need to be long term but some cats respond well and can be weaned off after just a few months of treatment. Partner with your veterinarian to decide if your kitty may be a candidate for this type of treatment.