My cat only uses the litter box half the time!
June 3, 2010 6:26 AM   Subscribe

CatFilter: A few years ago, my cat (~7 years old now) got a URI and stopped using the litter box. We cleared up the URI, but litter box problems persists, and I'd like to correct it once and for all. Details inside.

The problem is that she has no problems pooping in the litter box, but seems to absolutely refuse to whiz in it. This has been going on for about 1 1/2 years now. We've managed to confine it to an unused half-bath in our house, so the problem is contained.
Right now, her box is in this half-bath, on the far side under a pedestal sink. On the other side under the sink, we throw down newspaper for her to pee on. The problem is that she frequently hits the baseboards, and they've started to rot badly, and has probably started to seep in the drywall as well. I'd like to go ahead and replace them, but of course, in a year they'll be stained and rotted again. I need advice as to how to get her to pee in her box again.
We've caged her up before (4 times, in fact, from 3 to 10 days each time) to get her to pee in the box again, and she's done great every time. But once she's out of the cage, it's back to the newspaper.

Help me, MeFites!
posted by ChrisLSU to Pets & Animals (10 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Try to add another litterbox. Cat attract litter might also help or another litterbox with newspaper in it. It's fairly common that they like separate boxes for pee and poop.
posted by Ferrari328 at 6:35 AM on June 3, 2010

First, you need another litterbox. The rule is one per cat plus one.

Second, use "Cat Attract" litter, it really does work.

Third, try a bigger litterbox.

Fourth, clean with enzymatic cleaner like Nature's Miracle, and move the litterbox to the closest location that ISN'T near the baseboards, and block off that area so the cat can't get there to pee. It will be inconvenient for a while, but you need to break the habit.
posted by biscotti at 6:35 AM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

The thing is, a UTI hurts. So first a cat learns "It hurts when I pee in the litterbox" and from then on will have a bias against the box, even when the UTI is gone. More litterboxes (different styles if you can). Different litters. Scrupulously clean box. Different locations. And even then, there will still be misses. Some pieces of vinyl, cut to fit, can be put down to save your floorboards/baseboards. I hate to say it but this may be a "rest of her life" thing (it was with my cat after his UTI).
posted by The otter lady at 7:07 AM on June 3, 2010

One last thing. Get rid of the first litter box. No matter what you may have done to it, there is, for the cat, a lingering odor of when she had that infection. She is repelled by it. Take away any memory of the problem and she is more likely to use the new ones.
posted by Old Geezer at 7:15 AM on June 3, 2010

Here's what worked for us, pretty much the same issue you're having now:

-New litterbox, one just for her. She seriously will not share a litterbox with another cat. Her box is in a cage (see below for explanation on how she gets to it to use it),

-Scrupulous cleaning. Like, scooping every day, complete change-out every four days. I know, but that's what she likes.

-We actually take her to the litterbox a couple times a day. She started letting us know she needed to pee by killing socks. It's kind of her thing. Anyway, she'd start roaming, find a sock or two to kill, and she'd cry and cry and cry. One of us would grab her and take her to her litterbox. She initially would take forever to pee. Now she just goes in, scratches for a second and pees. Now we just sort of time it. If it gets to be noon and neither of us has taken her downstairs, we grab her and go. We also take her down before we go out for any length of time. It's kind of like having a potty-training toddler, only there's no respite in our future. The thing is, this is so much better than finding random surprises all over the house, and it doesn't take much time out of our daily routine (and we both work from home, so there's that).

-She is caged at night and if we're going to be out of the house for more than four or five hours. If we go out-of-town, she gets sequestered in the bathroom with her own litterbox and a friend comes to take care of her (and the other cats).

It sounds restrictive and time-consuming but she's kind of old (though you'd never know it; she's spry and plays all the time) and she gives us so much joy in return. This is what works for her and for us, so we do it.

Good luck!
posted by cooker girl at 7:43 AM on June 3, 2010

All of the other ideas are excellent, but a super simple idea might be to use ripped up newspaper in her litter box, instead of litter? Maybe she prefers newspaper now.

(Also, I've had many cats with UTIs, and they all went back to using the box afterwards, so while the aversion does happen, it doesn't have to)

(We feed 1/3 c twice a day -- we've found that adding 1/4 or so of water to the crunchies helps prevent future UTIs. Some vets have rec'd wet food, but that makes everything smell bad and isn't as good for their teeth, so I'm a crunchie devotee)
posted by MeiraV at 7:55 AM on June 3, 2010

I've seen people use "puppy pads" for cats that pee outside the litter box. These are thin/light enough to tape to a wall, covering a baseboard.

Also, you could, at least theoretically, seal the baseboard with polyurethane, covering the joints with caulk. This wouldn't be perfect, but it might make it less gross and control the odor.

A second litter box with newspaper-like litter (Cat Attract would probably work, too) is a great idea. Also, you should be able to find a litter box with high sides. Maybe you could eventually move to a covered litter box.
posted by amtho at 8:02 AM on June 3, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions so far. To address a few:

1. The current litter box is a different one than she had when she got the UTI.
2. I had, at one time, spread small amounts of her litter on the newspaper to help acclimate her to start peeing on litter again. After a few weeks of it, I got lazy and stopped. She was going on it with no problems. I'll try that again.
3. I'd really like to move the litter box at some point. The half-bath is a parlor that would normally be used by guests. Right now we don't have many over because it's embarrassing to have to direct them to another out-of-the way bathroom, or have them use the half-bath that stinks to high heaven and has rotting baseboards. But I'm very concerned about moving it while she's having this problem. The only real good thing about her going in there is that we can be reasonably sure that she's NOT going somewhere else. I'm afraid that if we move it like we want, then she may pick another less-desirable place to start peeing.

Please keep the suggestions coming.
posted by ChrisLSU at 8:03 AM on June 3, 2010

I have a cat with similar issues, and meticulous cleaning is key.

A little less obvious is trying zeolite based litter (or just buying zeolite in bulk from a pool store and sprinkling it in normal cat litter).

I have no idea why, but, at least for my cats, it acts as a strong attractant. So much so, that we have to keep the bag stored in the garage where the cats aren't allowed, or they would just pee right in the bag itself.

caveat: it is fully possible that my cats are weird. But it's not terribly expensive and it might be worth a try.
posted by quin at 10:10 AM on June 3, 2010

My cats are definitely attracted to the Cat Attract litter. Our peeing problems have almost completely stopped now. We also added one more box than cats (3 boxes in a 2-cat household).

Someone upthread mentioned scrupulously clean litter boxes. For some reason, ours prefer a little "something" in there, rather than completely clump-free. They won't tell me why, sadly. One of those weird cat things.

I've seen people use "puppy pads" for cats that pee outside the litter box. These are thin/light enough to tape to a wall, covering a baseboard.

I tried these, and it didn't work for us, because my cats always need to cover the results of their litter box trip, so we ended up with shredded puppy pads after one use.

There are Pooch Pads made from regular fabric, with a water-resistant side that you put face down, and the liquid-absorbing side face up. This works great for our Pomeranian, who "covers" his tracks by running ten feet away and giving a half-hearted scrape with his back leg. On the rare occasion when one of the cats use it, they sometimes end up scraping it up into a pile, but never have they shredded it. They're pricey, but I've got four in rotation now, and they work great and have now paid for themselves.

A better option for protecting your baseboards and the bottom of the drywall is some kind of heavy-duty, unshreddable tarp used as a the bottom layer, with the disposable pads or a Pooch Pad on top. Ugly, but it works.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 11:39 AM on June 3, 2010

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