Janet writes: Dear Doctor, My cat is 19 1/2 years old. He started urinating outside of the litter box approximately 2 weeks ago and was very lethargic. Since he is old and very crabby at the veterinarian, his Dr. decided to give him a Convenia injection (4 days ago). I’m sure he associates the litter box with pain from his UTI. How long will it take for him to resume going in the litter box? Is there anything I can do to help his anxiety? Thank you !
Janet’s question is a valid one, although difficult to answer exactly because there are so many variables in her situation, most notably the apparent absence of a urinalysis because her kitty is “crabby” (Janet’s words, not mine!). Such situations frequently lead us to symptomatic therapy.
A thorough medical workup, including urinalysis whenever possible, is an important starting point for every litterbox-use problem.
One of the reasons for Janet’s cat’s unwillingness to use the litterbox may be the absence of proper litterbox care.
Even though a cat has used the box properly all its life there are commonly situations that change and lead him to change his preferences.
Most common is an increase in fastidiousness, which usually occurs around three years of age. In this scenario a cat who willingly used the litterbox regardless of how often it was cleaned suddenly rebels. He may use it once, then insist that it be cleaned or scooped prior to using it again. How does a cat “insist?” By urinating and/or defecating somewhere other than the box. He may choose to “go” right beside the box or in a distant location. Usually it will be where there is an absorbent surface so that urine is soaked up and seems to him to “disappear.”
It matters not what the age is or that “he just started this” or “she never did that before and I’m still using the same litter/box/cleaning frequency.” What matters is that he’s doing it now and we must find a way to stop it.
Fastidiousness can extend to substrate preferences, also. A cat who used to like scoopable litter might begin to prefer non-clumping litter. Or, he may like one brand over another. Some cats even develop preferences for urinating in one litter and defecating in another.
Box maintenance is also important. Regardless of the litter type it should be dumped and completely changed at least once every two months. While the box is empty scrub it well with dishwashing soap. Avoid bleach and strong-smelling cleaners. Residual odors may deter your cat from returning to the box.
Remember, his nose is in the litter, much closer than you will ever be.
At least annually the box should be replaced. Plastic is notorious for holding odors and the stench of twelve months of cat urine soaking into the box will build up to a point that is objectionable to most kitties.
All of the above comments assume a one-cat household. If you have two cats, halve the intervals. If you have three cats divide the intervals by three, etc.
Most cats prefer privacy for their bathroom time. Having the litterbox in a high-traffic area such as a hallway may be counterproductive.
Some cats like a covered litterbox. Some feel trapped in one. If your cat used to use a covered box regularly and doesn’t anymore, try removing the top.
Avoid anything negative your cat can associate with the box. Medication, scolding, insulin injections and pesky dogs waiting for a “treat” of “kitty Godiva.”
Because Janet’s kitty is 19½ years old he may have arthritis and/or other abnormalities that make it too much effort to make it to the box. Some older cats may require more than one, or even more than two litterboxes around the house so that they are never very far from one. This concept is especially important for cats in kidney failure and diabetes. Both conditions cause increased thirst, which means the number of trips to the box per day is greatly increased.
If these tips do not help your kitty’s litterbox problem, be sure to ask your pet’s doctor for medical advice.
See you tomorrow, Dr. Randolph.
covenia, convina, convinia, covinia