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Preventing the "Out-of-Litter-Box" Experience

February 16, 2006

Keep that litter box, clean, say veterinarians at UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. It can go a long way toward preventing your cat from spraying or eliminating in the wrong place. Cats, whose noses are sharper—and closer to the floor—than humans' will probably notice litter box odors before you do.

UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine research shows that the cleaner the box, the less frequent the problems. Cleaning up urine-soiled areas is especially effective with females that spray.

What constitutes good litter box hygiene?

§ Clean the box every day.

§ Wash the tray once a week with mild soap.

§ Use fine-grained litter that readily absorbs fluids.

§ Remove urine and feces right away to keep the rest of the litter material clean.

§ At the first sign of house soiling, immediately clean up the soiled area and block off that area to the cat. Then review the litter box management in your home.

Litter box management techniques

§ Place the litter box well away from the cat's water and food bowls. Cats prefer their "toilet" area away from where they eat and drink.

§ Avoid using covered litter boxes. They can concentrate odors and make it hard to see when the box needs cleaning.

§ Do not take advantage of your cat's temporary immobility in the litter box to catch it for administering medication.

§ Keep young children and dogs away from your cat while it is using the litter box.

§ The number of litter boxes in the home should equal the number of cats plus one.

§ Cats differ in their preferences for litter material. This may be a problem when more than one cat lives with you. Find out which litter your cat prefers by experimenting with different litter products, each in its own temporary tray.

For more information about the Behavior Service or an appointment with a companion animal behavior specialist, contact the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, (530) 7521393.