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Published on January 3rd, 2014 | by Debbie Martin


Herding Cats – Back to the Litter Tray

We all get caught short sometimes (don’t we?) and it can happen to the best of us (can’t it?). It can even happen to our feline friends and, while most cats are easily house-trained and good on personal grooming, from time to time little accidents can occur. There are a number of reasons that even the best turned out puss can lose interest in the litter tray and they are often a sign that something is wrong. If your cat is taking a hit and miss approach to the litter tray here are some of the common reasons and ways in which to help them to recover that purr-fect aim.

Cats are naturally clean animals

One of the reasons that cats are particularly easy to house train is simply that they are very clean animals. They spend a large amount of time grooming, as you may have noticed, and litter trays allow them to maintain a clean and tidy environment. If a cat ceases to use the litter tray it can often be a sign of an underlying medical problem. Although not necessarily serious, you should consider a trip to the vets to get everything checked out. Problems in the urinary tract, including cystitis, can be the root cause of inappropriate toilet behaviour (mistaking your shoes for the litter tray for example). Cystitis can cause pain which the cat begins to associate with using the litter tray, leading them to seek alternative options. Urinary infections and cystitis can normally be treated with either antibiotics, anti-inflammatory medication, or both, and should clear up quickly. In this case the cat will normally return to the litter tray of his or her own accord.

Creatures of Habit

Apart from being exceptionally clean and tidy individuals, cats could be accused of being a little ‘OCD’. They can become creatures of habit and are also quite territorial; unexplained changes in their environment can cause considerable distress. Something as simple as changing your regular brand of cat litter can cause this distress and lead to a cat seeking solace in the dog’s bed, your bed or anywhere else that seems homely and familiar. Avoid sudden, unexplained brand changes once your cat is toilet trained; if you’ve decided you can no longer afford the organically produced, environmentally friendly, gold-plated variety that Kitty prefers, and plan to drop a few price brackets to the supermarkets own-brand, introduce the change slowly by mixing the two varieties gradually.

Location, Location, Location

Yes, cats have standards to; despite the misleading appearance, given by a busy city centre on a Saturday night, most of us don’t like too much public attention while we attend to our ablutions. Would you like your toilet placed next to the washing machine? Directly next to your table? In full view of the rest of the family? The answer is, presumably, no. Cats hold very much the same opinion, they like a little privacy in which to maintain their dignified air. Keep litter trays in quiet, un-frequented areas and don’t place them in a location comparable to the central reservation of the M6. On the same theme, cleanliness is next to… catliness; we flush and as they can’t, ensure you clean the tray out on a regular basis and give it a quick wash with warm, soapy water.

Once you have eliminated the problem itself, whether it is caused by illness, change of routine or undesirable location of the toilet facilities, most adult cats will happily begin to use the litter tray

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About the Author

Debbie Martin has worked at Beeston Animal Health for over five years, having previously worked as a nurse in equine and small animal practice. Although generally involved with aspects of marketing these days and putting her psychology degree to good use, she still has a great depth of up to date knowledge in all creatures great and small. Debbie lives at home with her partner and two children and spends much of her spare time looking after her horses, dogs and cats or at the home farm with the cows, sheep and turkeys.

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