Sunday, January 6, 2013

Kitty talk

Ok, so here I am with a bit of kitty-kat info for anyone who may care to hear about improper elimination. Improper elimination is the technical term for a cat who may urinate or defecate outside his/her litter box. For one reason or another, many cat parents find themselves in this very annoying situation, at one point or another, in their cat's life. In my circle of friends, I have somewhat end up being known as the crazy cat lady, the go-to-gal to consult if you have any feline related question. So this topic has come up many a times! I am going to group most of my do's and don'ts here for your benefit :)
  1. THERE IS NO SUCH A THING AS IMPROPER ELIMINATION OUT OF SPITE! Cats do not know such feelings as spite or hatred. They simply react to stressors and problems in their territory to attract your attention (sometimes that's in a stinky manner). They are simply crying out for help and demanding your attention to resolve the issue. Once the issue has been solved, most of the times they revert to be the proper, well mannered cat that you loved and cherished.
  2. ALWAYS MAKE SURE THEY ARE HEALTHY. There are many health conditions that may associate with improper elimination. Urinary tract infections (UTI's), constipation, diabetes and so on. If your cat starts thinking outside of the box, take him/her to the vet and make sure there is nothing medically wrong.
  3. LITTER SIZE MATTERS. I often cringe when I see what size boxes cats are forced to use on a daily basis. There are very few boxes, sold out there, that can fit an adult size cat comfortably. A cat needs to have a good amount of space to turn around and to choose an area that is not soiled. If your box is the size of a paper sack, how can that be enough for a grown cat? You want to make sure your cats adore their potty! A happy cat = a happy home! I chose to make my own litter box out of a 50 gallons storage tote as I could not find one that size. Yes, you read that right, fifty gallons. And no, I do not own a maine coon. When I got the box I only had Rufus -- a kitten (she was 3 months old and weighed a little under 3 lbs). Yes she looked ridiculous in that huge box, but she learnt to love all that space to roam around. And that's what matters. The bigger the box, the better...remember size does matter!
  4. LITTER STYLE MATTERS. All cats are not made alike! They all enjoy different styles of boxes. Some of them are happier with covered boxes (they may like the privacy) some of them prefers open boxes (the dust content and odors do not linger as much). So make sure you switch it up and try to figure out what your cat likes best. Some people are not fond of cleaning the litter box, so they will resort to using automated self cleaning boxes. In my experience they are not the best idea. For once, I like to clean my box and see what's going on. I like to see how many times a day they peed, how many times they pooped and off course I can realize really quickly if something is wrong (diarrhea, constipation...). That cannot always possible with a self cleaning box. Secondly, I have had a chance to see how these 'machines' operate (I had a few friends that had different kinds) and I was not impressed with the results. It seems like many of those boxes leave behind a lot of small crumbs. These small particles become very smelly as they are left to marinate in the box. I have smelled the worst smells from what was supposed to be a clean box. I just rather scoop out my box daily and not ever knowing it is there.
  5. LITTER BOXES AMOUNTS MATTERS. The cat's rule of thumb is: one litter box per cat plus one. So if you have one cat you need 2 boxes. If you have 2 cats you need 3 boxes...and so forth. It may seem ridiculous to some...especially if you have 4-5 cats in the house. But believe it or not having more than one litter box may be the best thing you can ever do for your cat. If you live in a multi level home, you should try to have a litter box for each level. A cat should never have to go too far to go potty. Also in a household with multiple cats, having more than one box can help if both animals need to use the box simultaneously. 
  6. LITTER BOX PLACEMENTS MATTERS. You should try to place your litter boxes in quiet areas. Away from loud noises and other animals. Sometimes cats can grow afraid of a noise and decide to stop using the box all together. You should also pay close attention to the other pets in the home as sometimes there could be some bullying issues. If a cat feels threatened or bullied in his litter box he will definitely stop using the box and find a new place to call bathroom. The litter box should NEVER be next to the food and water bowl. That is a big NO NO for a cat. Would you like to have your dining room table next to the toilet? No? Well, neither do cats! Remember...their sense of smell is far superior to yours! Be smart and put yourself in their shoes!
  7. LITTER CLEANLINESS IS A MUST. Cats are very clean animals. They are very particular about being clean (grooming about 50% of their lives....mmmm, cleaner than humans I may suggest LOL). They are also gifted with a sense of smell that is 14 times as strong as yours! So imagine what that box must smell like to them!!! Don't be lazy and clean the litter box once a day! Period! If you would not appreciate going potty after you have left a 'brownie' in the bowl to marinate all day, then neither will your cat! So get that scooper out and scoop the box once a day.
  8. TERRITORIAL ISSUES. Cats are not like dogs people! Keep that in mind if you are thinking to introduce a new cat into your household. Chances are, your in-residence cat will not appreciate that move. It takes MONTHS of hard work to introduce a new cat. Disregard this clue and reap the unpleasant benefits! Most of the times if you really take your time and do all it is needed to properly introduce a new cat, you should not have improper elimination enter the equation. However, with a few stubborn cats this may still present an issue and you may have to permanently separate the two cats for the behavior to stop.
  9. DRY FOOD VS. WET FOOD. As most cat owners, I had 2 cats eating kibble...that was until Smokey started to have litter box trouble! I was oblivious that kibble was to blame...I only knew that Smokey was going #2 in front of the litter box rather than inside. His poo was hard as a rock, so I thought he was just constipated and needed fiber. For a while I added canned pumpkin to his diet. He had no problem eating it, and it was a good source of fiber. But the problems continued. To top it all, I finally realized that he had a massive blockage and I had to rush him to the emergency room for UTI surgery. About $2000 later I found out that the culprit was most likely the dry food. Cats do not have a sense of thirst (in nature they get their fluids from their pray), so eating kibble they are constantly dehydrated. In addition, dry food is just packed with minerals and nutrients and, without water, these cannot properly be flushed out of their kidneys and therefore cause UTI's, painful bowel movements and so forth. If a cat feels pain while eliminating, he will learn to associate the pain with the box. He then will try to find another suitable spot, in the home, where to try to evacuate hopefully pain free. Cats naturally have the need to bury their waste, so they often chose blankets, bedding and such areas as their plan B. Switching your cat over to a completely wet food diet may be the best thing you'll ever do both for your cat and for your wallet. Since his surgery, Smokey has been on a wet ONLY diet (I use kibble as a snack in between meals or if I am gone overnight -- for its convenience). I feed him a can of wet food a day (mixed with a can of water...sort of like a soup). I split it in half and he gets 1/2 of it in the morning and 1/2 of it around dinner time. This ensures that even if he never makes it to the water fountain, he still get a full can of water a day. He has been doing great on this regimen and I have started to do the same with Rufus's wet food. Sometimes it may be hard to get them to eat this soupy concoction, if they turn up their nose try to add the water a spoonful a day. Start with a little until your cat gets used to the texture and flavor and work your way up to a 50/50 water/food ratio.
  10. GOOD QUALITY FOOD. One cannot feed cheap/poor quality food and hope for the best. I often think that a lot of cat's health issues (and subsequent litter box etiquette faux pas) can be attributed to crappy food. You don't eat only junk food, so neither should your cat! When choosing a canned (or dry food for snacking) read carefully the ingredients list. If all I see is BYPRODUCT or MEAL, I run for the hills. I want the first ingredient listed to be a protein source: chicken, beef, fish, duck, etc. Not chicken byproduct or chicken meal! Cats need to eat muscle meat, bones, organs etc to be healthy...not just scraps! That's what a byproduct or a meal is. A mixture of meat scraps that are leftover from meat processing plants! Another thing I don't feed my cats are GRAINS. Cats don't need much carbohydrates and all the corn and grains that you see in cat food are only there to act as a filler. They make the food cheaper and the flour binds it together. They are not there to provide any nutritional value! Cats are not herbivores. They do not need corn in their diets! So stop feeding them cheap food and you will save money and trouble in the end!
One of my favorite sites to learn about cats and their 'upkeep' is
I found it to be an endless source of sound/unbiased information ranging from nutrition to bathroom etiquette. So, if you want to know more about your cat, just head over to this site and read away! This may just be the best feline website you will have stumbled upon! 

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