How to get cats to use the litterbox?
October 23, 2009 6:51 AM   Subscribe

How can i re-litter train my cats?

We had two cats, and they were good cats. they are about a year old, litter mates, didn't fight much, used the litter box, or atleast pooped on the tile next to the litter box in their bathroom, which was easy to clean. Then one day we are walking to the apartment and a kitten that looks almost exactly like the jumps out of a bush and comes straight up to us. He let's me pick him up, he has no tags so i decide i'll feed him and see if someoen puts up signs for him. Well, no one did, and he thinks i am the greatest thing on the planet, so it's pretty much too late to get rid of him. The bad news being that the older cats took a while to warm up to him, and now that they have and everything seems ok, one of them has stopped using the cat bathroom entirely, rather opting for the carpet in the dinning room.

I found another similar question and everyone suggested isolation, but the is the problem with that (possibly). There are three of them, and we live in a 900 sq ft apartment. Their bathroom is like a glorified broom closet with bathroom fixtures in it (which as i am sure you could guess take up most of the space.

I know the question of "why three" comes to mind because it often comes to my mind. Well like i said we started with 2, the first we got, and then i realized that with my work schedule and school there were huge chunks of the day that no one was there and i wanted him to have some company, so that introduced his brother. The third was a chance encounter and probably a mistake, but i am a big softy when it comes to poor defensless kittens.

Any suggestions?
posted by djduckie to Pets & Animals (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I know you live in a tiny space, but you should add another litterbox somewhere else in the apartment. I was in the same situation once when I moved in with my parents after college with my young cat. There were already 2 old cats in the house and they basically prevented him from using the litterbox. I had to give him his own litterbox away from them so that he could go in peace.

The general rule I've heard is to allow one box per cat plus one, in a multi-cat situation. This makes sure that everyone has a place to go safely (since they can't all be guarded all the time). But adding one more should help.
posted by cabingirl at 7:00 AM on October 23, 2009

Cats can be very oddly territorial. (We all know this, of course...) Their hierarchical behavior is not like we are used to with people and dogs, but it exists. Adding another cat to the mix is tricky business.

I would try getting another litterbox. Introduce it to the offending kitty, and see if equanimity regains. And maybe give them each their own "place" to sleep, like a trio of those little cat beanbag things. Find the good napping spots in the house and spread them around, so each cat can (hopefully) claim a corner of the house as their own.

We had a mother and daughter cat, and they sniped at each other until the day the mom cat had to go off to kitty heaven. And bless her heart, she remained top kitty. At various times, they had to have separate litter boxes and food dishes or else they'd fight. The daughter cat would always lose and end up not eating. Reminded my of when you see the two old people who go for coffee every single day, but sort of hate each other. They only thing they hate more than being together is being along...
posted by gjc at 7:00 AM on October 23, 2009

You definitely need at least 2 litter boxes with three cats.

Is he always going in exactly the same spot? You might try covering that area with aluminum foil. My cat got in the habit of pooping in the same place all the time, and the aluminum foil trick worked like a charm. It was a bit irritating having aluminum foil on my living room floor for a few weeks straight, but a lot less irritating than cleaning up poop off the carpet.
posted by something something at 7:03 AM on October 23, 2009

Many years ago I successfully re-litter-trained a cat who was peeing in a living room chair by putting a litter box in the chair for a few days; then moving it to the floor, then gradually moving it a couple of feet at a time until it was where I wanted it to be. I never had any litterbox problems with that particular cat again.
posted by not that girl at 7:05 AM on October 23, 2009

First, make absolutely sure that all traces of cat urine are gone from the carpet where the cat peed. Cat noses are super sensitive and trace amounts of urine can still encourage them to go back and pee in the same area, even if you think you've thoroughly cleaned it. Make sure you use an enzymatic cleaner (like Nature's Miracle ... all pet stores have a good selection of different enzymatic cleaners) and follow the directions on the bottle to rid all areas that have been peed on thoroughly.

Secondly, yes, a second litterbox would be ideal. I think the "rule" of 1 litterbox per cat +1 is a bit excessive, but I don't think it's reasonable for more than 2 cats to share a box. If the litterbox is not cleaned everyday, you should make that a priority, as well -- many times cats refuse to use a dirty litterbox, and their concept of what's dirty may not match your concept of what's dirty.

Thirdly, if the cat keeps peeing, and it's just that one, take it to the vet for a urinalysis to make sure that it does not have any urinary tract or kidney issues. Urinating outside the box can be an indicator of FLUTD, which can result in kidney damage and even death.
posted by dumbledore69 at 7:50 AM on October 23, 2009

In addition to the suggestion of multiple litter boxes--I had fabulous success using Cat Attract with my 17 year old stubborn male cat. It's expensive, but totally worth it.

It took a few days, and we had to be scoop the litter after each use--but it was definitely better than ruining yet another carpet!

Good luck!
posted by Zoyashka at 8:33 AM on October 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Three cats -- you definitely need another litter box. Trust me on this. I'm even more crazy that you are, with three cats in 600sqft, and the absolutely best thing I did was take a huge rubbermaid container, cut a hole for a door (about 4-5 inches from the floor), and fill it with a qood quality super-clumping multi-cat litter. Way cheaper than other large covered boxes, and sturdier, as well. My other box is this awesome one.

I know it's hard to find a good spot for a box, but it's better than them going on the floor. Maybe put the new, covered one (ie the rubbermaid container) in a different room than the original, so it's like there are two seperate areas in the house to relieve themselves.

And worst case, a cat in the tiny tiny bathroom will not kill him. It may make you crazy, but eventually he'll figure it out. I've also had success locking one of mine the bedroom (when she had open wounds the others kept trying to clean -- I couldn't keep those huge collars on all three...)
posted by cgg at 9:07 AM on October 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

We also live with three in a smaller space than yours.

You do need two boxes and be sure to scoop them as a matter of habit twice a day (you don't say how often you clean the box, but there are some people who avoid doing it as much as they should and that can definitely lead a cat to look elsewhere). Good luck!
posted by quarterframer at 9:57 AM on October 23, 2009

You can probably get away with a slightly smaller second litter box (one of ours is shaped so it fits in the corner of a room) as long as you're scooping regularly.

We also have three cats, who have finally learned to get along in a small space. (Our situation was rather vile for a while -- cat no. 2 was pooping and peeing under our bed, and we didn't figure out where the smell was coming from for way too long.)
posted by vickyverky at 10:21 AM on October 23, 2009

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