1. Placing the litter box, food, and water in the same location. We wouldn’t want the bathroom to be incorporated into the kitchen and neither do our cats. Cats are fastidious animals and generally prefer to eliminate far from where they eat and drink. If they must be located in the same room, be sure they are on opposite sides of the room.
2. Having multiple boxes lined up next to each other when there are multiple cats. Cats prefer to have a couple options for eliminating especially when there is more than one cat in the household. Most cats are private when they go to the bathroom. They are also quite vulnerable to ambushes (playful or not) while they are busy in the litter box. When boxes are all lined up like urinals in a public restroom, they aren’t able to be private or feel safe. It is better to have boxes in different locations within the same room or different rooms altogether.
3. Introducing a new cat into the household too quickly. Cats need time to acclimate to another cat. Very few cats readily accept a new cat without some adjustment. It is best to keep the new cat in a spare room with all the necessary kitty amenities for a day or two. Then wedge the door open about 2 inches with a rubber door stop to encourage limited interaction. Once the cats are interested in each other without acting as if they will fight, then they can have brief time together as long as they are supervised. Once they can be peaceful with each other where no one is a bully and no one is traumatized, they can be allowed together unsupervised. This whole process can take from a few days to a few months.
4. Not cleaning the litter box often enough. This sounds so obvious, but it is the most common thing we see that contributes to litter box problems. When using scoopable litter, the boxes should be scooped daily or twice daily depending on the number of cats in your household. Again, cats are fastidious animals and want a clean area in which to eliminate. Be sure to keep the box itself clean as well since used litter sticks to the bottom and sides of the box. The box retains odors even when the litter is scooped. The box should be cleaned periodically before adding additional litter.
5. Not giving your cat vertical access. Cats like to climb high, hide in “hidey” holes, play fort behind things, jump out from under things, etc. Cats should have a cat tree or cat condo to provide for those needs. If you do not provide appropriate places for your cats to climb and hide, they will create their own. This may include your curtains, piano, counters, shelves of knick knacks, etc. The more outlets cats have, the easier it will be to retain your precious belongings!
• Sam Kabbel, CPDT-KA, is owner and president of Valley-based Pet Behavior Solutions, serving the Phoenix area. For more information, visit www.petbehaviorsolutions.com.