Help my cat like her litterbox again
April 20, 2004 12:04 PM   Subscribe

My cat won't pee in the box.

Franny's about 7 years old. She had been living with an ex-girlfriend for several years until a few weeks ago, when I moved into a place that allows pets.

She knows where the litter box is and I've seen her use it, but every couple of days I find a big puddle right outside the litter box.

I thought it might be because she's in a new home, but my ex confirms that she had been doing this before I took her.

She (my ex) had assumed that she (the cat) had been doing it because she was living with four other cats and the box wasn't always kept super-clean. But she only shares this box with one other cat (her brother, whom she loves very much, so I don't think it's a territorial thing) and I keep it very clean.

One other thought: she's pretty overweight. Could that have something to do with it?
posted by jpoulos to Pets & Animals (23 answers total)
the only cats i've known who started this were having kidney problems of some sort. have you taken her to the vet about it?
posted by crush-onastick at 12:11 PM on April 20, 2004

Does the box have a lid on it? When my sister's cat stopped peeing in the box, her vet told her the cat may require more open spaces when it is urinating.
posted by LeiaS at 12:14 PM on April 20, 2004

Yeah, a lid can be a problem. I've seen my (fat) cat walk halfway into the box, and believe he's all the way in (presumably since everything goes dark suddenly once his head is in). He'd literally put his front two feet in and just pee right on the floor before the door. Removing the lid stopped this.
posted by scarabic at 12:23 PM on April 20, 2004

It pees in the box or it gets the hose again.

All right, seriously. Some good tips here.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 12:26 PM on April 20, 2004

Response by poster: The box does have a lid. I'll try taking it off. I really hope that's the problem. She nearly died a few years ago from kidney problems, so your comment kind of scares me, crush-onastick. I'll take her to the vet, too, just to be safe.
posted by jpoulos at 12:30 PM on April 20, 2004

I second the advice to see a vet.

At the risk of entering icky territory, have you ever watched your cat urinate? My family's first cat no longer used the litter box correctly once he got older (and arthritic); it's possible that, as scarabic suggests in another context, the cat isn't aiming properly.

Territoriality might also be an issue. My male cat has occasionally "forbidden" his littermate to use either of the litterboxes, with predictably annoying results. Speaking of which, it's usually a good idea to have multiple litterboxes for multiple felines.
posted by thomas j wise at 12:31 PM on April 20, 2004

My guess is also kidney problems, sad to say.

But, it may be something as mundane as the litter type - my mom's kitty used recycled newspaper pellets for years, then suddently starting pooping on the floor. Mom changed to a clay litter and kitty was fine. I guess the pellets were too much for her aging paws.

Does your cat like to use the box right after you've changed the litter (it seems to be common behaivor)? That would be a good time to observe her.
posted by Sangre Azul at 12:36 PM on April 20, 2004

Best answer: Take her to the vet (on preview, what crush-onastick and thomas j wise said). There may be a behaviorial source of the problem, but the standard recommendation is to always eliminate physicial problems first. I've had three cats each start avoiding the litter box at some point. Two turned out to have painfully blocked urinary tracts due to crystal formation; although they had different types of crystals, both were treatable by prescription foods. The third cat was a different story. She had been traumatized by a previous vet's mishandling and so she violently "defended" herself against any more physicals. She never did respond to behavioral re-training and later went into kidney failure, so chances are that physical might have saved her life if she'd only permitted it.

Once the vet gives Franny a clean bill of health, s/he can then advise you how to deal with re-training. It may take some trial and error to figure out things like whether she's trying to communicate something (clean this box, where's the rest of my family, I don't wanna live here, etc.) or experimenting with changing preferences (litter type, box size, location, etc.). Vigilance and consistency are critical; if you can't be there to catch her every single time she's tempted to pee outside the box, then plan on confining her to a very small space and supervising her "paroles". And yes, this is exactly as crummy as it sounds. But effective.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 12:36 PM on April 20, 2004

Good advice. I'll third/fourth/whateverth the advice to take her to the vet - any change in behaviour, especially related to bathroom habits, warrants a medical exam. Other things: keep the litterbox very clean (scoop it every day), as was mentioned make sure the box is big enough and that there's enough litter in it (at least a couple-three inches), make sure the box is located in an easily-accessible but low-traffic area and not within 10 feet of her food or water, finally, some cats just have trouble aiming and there's not much you can do about it other than spreading newspapers around the box (a bigger box can sometimes help, and many cats are "perchers" and need the partial lids to crouch on to be comfortable). nakedcodemonkey : since she's puddling right outside the litterbox, confining her won't help, good advice for cats who are messing away from the litterbox, though. Good luck.
posted by biscotti at 12:49 PM on April 20, 2004

Thanks for the clarification, biscotti.

jpoulos, besides a big enough box, also consider how high the sides are. With the extra weight and growing older, maybe she's finding it harder lately to haul herself over the edge, so pees nearby instead. You could try experimenting by putting her favorite litter onto some "trays" with low/no sides (ex. paper plate) or buying one of those ultra-low boxes intended for kittens (if there's one wide enough for her to fit comfortably).
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 12:56 PM on April 20, 2004

First, my real name is Franny so I find this thread to be HIGHLY amusing.

Second, everything everyone else said, but I'd really look into the type of litter - It really may just be that she is physically uncomfortable standing on the sand, or the clumps, or whatevery you're using, particularly if she's a fatty Franny.
posted by pomegranate at 12:56 PM on April 20, 2004

My tubby kitty had the same problems and it was a crystals in her bladder. She had to eat some special food for a month and is good as new.
posted by birdherder at 1:24 PM on April 20, 2004

My mom's fat tabby regularly did this, and it seemed to be directly related to her frequent bladder infections. So yes, a vet trip.
posted by me3dia at 1:42 PM on April 20, 2004

If you take the cat to the vet and have no solutions, then I support what pomegranate said about the texture of the litter. We had a middle-aged cat suddenly stop using the litter, which was the regular, chalky, non-scooping kind. After trying everything such as leaving the lights on in the litter-room to taking off the covers, we decided to modify the actual litter. We then replaced the old litter with a finer, sandier scoopable litter, and have had no problems ever.
posted by naxosaxur at 1:50 PM on April 20, 2004

I've also heard, though I have no personal experience to back this up, that declawed cats are more likely to avoid the litterbox because they don't like the way the litter feels on their paws. Not that it would solve the problem, but if your cat is declawed that might at least provide some explanation.
posted by Acetylene at 2:07 PM on April 20, 2004

it's usually a good idea to have multiple litterboxes for multiple felines.

The formula I've heard for multiple cat households is "number of litterboxes=number of cats +1".
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 2:13 PM on April 20, 2004

I hate to derail, but this will spare another question from being asked. As a non-cat-person currently co-habiting with three cats, I just don't get it - how do they know to use the litter? And why doesn't this trick work with dogs?
posted by Sinner at 2:26 PM on April 20, 2004

Sinner: Cats instinctively bury their litter, and given a suitable burying material they don't usually require too much encouragement to use it. Dogs don't have the same instinct, but can be trained to use a litterbox--though obviously this is more practical for small dogs than, say, a Rottweiler.
posted by Acetylene at 2:30 PM on April 20, 2004

Bury their waste, I mean. In the litter. You heard what I meant.
posted by Acetylene at 2:31 PM on April 20, 2004

If only a feline-canine ("fenine" or "caline?") hybrid could be constructed....

We can build it. We have the technology.
posted by Sinner at 2:40 PM on April 20, 2004

...and given a suitable burying material they don't usually require too much encouragement to use it...

Which is why we can't have nice houseplants.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 2:42 PM on April 20, 2004

PinkStainlessTail- have you tried Bitter Apple? It's meant for things you don't want your cat to chew on, but I think its smell alone might work.

jpoulos- Good on going to the vet. Odds are there's a bladder infection, particularly if it's behavior that carried over from a previous owner. You should press your ex, though- when did it start? Is it sporatic or regular (even if not constant)?
posted by mkultra at 3:42 PM on April 20, 2004

The cat could also be a little bit stressed out. Stressed from the crowded previous living conditions, and stressed from moving to a new home. Things that don't seem all that stressful to us still sometimes send kittens over the edge -- they don't SEEM to be particularly bothered, and yet they are, and manifest it by peeing, er, poorly. If there are still problems after you've ruled out everything else everyone has suggested (the bladder infection thing obviously being the thing to rule out first), try some anti-stress stuff.
posted by JanetLand at 5:06 PM on April 20, 2004

« Older Where should I get prescription sunglasses?   |   Online resources for emotional support after a... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.