Can Persistent Litterbox Problem Be Solved?

A feline behaviorist offers steps to retrain a skittish cat to use the litterbox.

By Pam Johnson-Bennett

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This kitty may be eliminating near the box because those the times when he needs to have more escape potential. Where are the areas in the home where this kitty feels more comfortable?

Here's the plan:

1. Make sure you are scooping boxes twice a day

2. Remove all covers from boxes so the cats have more escape potential.

3. Add a couple of litterboxes on the main floor of the home. 

4. Set up a Feliway Comfort Zone diffuser in the basement (not next to the litterboxes though). The diffuser contains synthetic feline facial pheromones and they have a calming effect on cats and can help them calmly identify with a territory. The product is available from pet supply stores. 

5. Incorporate two or three interactive play sessions with this kitty using a fishing pole-type toy. Bring the kitty in an area away from the other cats so he can relax and concentrate on enjoying the game. The play sessions will help build confidence, ease tension, and will help him to trust you more. 

6. Watch all the cats to see if there is a specific time of day when this cat eliminates inappropriately, or if it happens after an encounter with another cat.

This should get you started. In order to help you more I'd need more specifics about the cat. This is a problem that has been going on longterm so it won't be fixed over night. I applaud the patience you have shown and all that you've done to correct it. Did your veterinarian ever talk to you about any anti-anxiety meds for the kitty?

Finally, even though creating a kitty area in a basement is convenient, it's not necessarily the best for the overall hierarchy.

Let me know if you have questions on any of the above. You can also find step-by-step instructions on interactive playtime, understanding the multi-cat hierarchy, and how to solve litterbox problems in the book, Cat vs. Cat.

Pam Johnson-Bennett, CABC
IAABC-Certified Animal Behavior Consultant

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