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Cat Not Using the Litter Box? Top Reasons Why and How to Fix Them!

It can be very upsetting when your cat urinates outside their litter box. Feline inappropriate elimination (FIE), or house soiling, can be a challenging problem to solve, leaving many feeling overwhelmed. In fact, FIE is one the main behavioral reasons why people relinquish their cats to shelters. By becoming familiar with FIE, you can hopefully prevent it from developing or know how to curtail it.  Before treating FIE as a behavioral problem, medical causes need to be excluded. Inappropriate urination can be due to kidney or bladder infections, diabetes, kidney failure, bladder or kidney stones, or even cancer of the genitourinary system. FIE may be the presenting symptom for a disease in an otherwise healthy cat. Make sure your veterinarian excludes medical causes before you accuse your cat of bad behavior!  Marking their territory Many cats urinate outside the litter box because of their instincts. In the wild, cats mark the boundaries of their territory to keep others away. Not surprisingly, domestic cats have kept this behavior. In particular, unneutered male cats are more likely to mark or “spray” outside of the litter box. Often neutering can prevent or correct this behavior, especially when done at 6 months of age or younger. Sometimes, even neutered male cats or female cats can become territorial. If multiple cats are sharing one litter box, cats will often “claim” the litter box by marking it. Make sure you have multiple litter boxes in different locations to help prevent this behavior and consider using feline pheromones to “calm” territorial disputes.  Location Like in real estate, it’s all about location, location, location. Cats, like us, need privacy when using the bathroom. Placing the litter box in a high traffic or noisy location will deter many cats from using it. Be sure to place the litter box in a quiet location where your cat will not be disturbed, otherwise it may fear the litter box. Also, make sure the litter box is easily accessible. Older cats with arthritis may have trouble climbing stairs so place the litter box close to where they spend most of their time.  Preferences Most people know cats can be picky: they are picky eaters, they are picky about whom they like and they are picky about when they want to be loved. It should not be surprising that they can also be picky about litter or their litter box. Fortunately, ökocat makes different formulations to suit your cat’s fancy. “Original premium” has a natural texture and scent, “super soft” has a soft texture similar to clay, “less mess” has small pellets that are less likely to stick to your cats’ fur, “featherweight” has a soft texture and is their lightest litter, and “dust free” is a non-clumping paper pellet that is ideal for cats with respiratory issues or after surgery. If you change litters, make sure you change the litter gradually. Some cats may be picky about their litter box; some prefer open litter boxes, while others like the privacy of a covered litter box. Watch for these preferences and remove or add a cover based on your cat’s desires.  Accessibility As cats get older, arthritis becomes more common. Arthritis is a progressive, painful joint disease that limits mobility. Arthritic cats may have trouble getting in and out of traditional litter boxes and end-up going outside of the litter box. This problem can be resolved by using “low profile” litter boxes or boxes with a ramp. Likewise, soft litter, like ökocat “super soft” and ökocat “featherweight” are easier on an arthritic cat’s joints.   Dirty litter boxes Cats are very clean animals. They meticulously groom themselves. It should be no surprise that they prefer clean litter boxes. The presence of waste and the smell of ammonia in a dirty litter box can deter a cat from using it and force them to go elsewhere. Keeping the litter box clean is a chore that is often neglected. However, keeping the litter box clean is often the only way to cure inappropriate urination. If you can’t scoop daily, consider an automatic self-cleaning litter box or try teaching your kitty to use the toilet (yes, it is possible with training and patience, but don’t expect them to flush).   Solving FIE By knowing the causes of FIE, you can hopefully prevent it from developing. Since bad habits are hard to break, it is easier to prevent a behavioral problem than to treat one. But what do you do if your cat already house soils?    First, rule out medical causes. Once they have been excluded, the approach to correcting FIE can be divided into 3 steps: cleaning up the accident, preventing future accidents, and making the litter box more inviting.  All accidents must be cleaned up completely. Use cleaning products that completely remove or neutralize the urine smell. Cat’s sense of smell is 14x more sensitive than ours. If a cat can still smell the scent of urine, they will be drawn there and will continue to soil in that location.  In order to prevent future accidents, make the location less attractive. Use products to deter cats from house soiling such as scat mats, double-sided sticky tape, crinkly runners, aluminum foil, and noise canisters. By making the site of the crime unappealing, it will encourage your cat to choose a more appropriate location (i.e. the litter box).  Finally, make the litter box more inviting. The most important step is to keep it clean. Also choose litter and a litter box that caters to your cat’s preferences. Make sure you provide enough litter boxes for everyone (the rule of thumb is one litter box for cat plus one). Finally, feline pheromones can help with territorial issues.  FIE can be a frustrating problem. By knowing the most common behavioral causes of this problem, you can help prevent it from developing or treat a pre-existing problem. If these problems persist, ask your veterinarian for a referral to a veterinary behaviorist.
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Vet Tips on Caring for Your Senior Cat

Thanks to advances in technology, medicine and nutrition, our pets, like people, are now living longer healthier lives. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)’s pet owners survey, the number of geriatric animals has dramatically increased in the last several years. Senior cats have unique healthcare needs and caring for an aging cat population poses special considerations for pet parents and veterinarians.  Like their human counterparts, geriatric animals suffer from many of the same age-related diseases. Diabetes mellitus, chronic kidney disease, thyroid disease, inflammatory bowel disease, periodontal disease, hypertension, and cancer are all more prevalent in older cats. While we can’t stop aging, there are things you and your veterinarian can do to ensure that your pet stays healthy as long as possible.   Pets seven and older are considered senior pets and should have comprehensive examinations every six months. Regular examinations enable your veterinarian to do a full physical looking for early signs of disease. During the examination, your veterinarian may suggest blood and urine tests. These allow them to screen for diseases that may not be evident on examination. Studies have shown that 17% of senior cats and 22% of senior dogs that appear healthy on examination have been shown to have clinical disease.  Since our pets can’t talk, many diseases often go unnoticed until an animal is very ill. Routine examinations and diagnostic tests help veterinarians uncover diseases early, and many can be prevented, controlled or completely cured if diagnosed early. Waiting until our animals become ill and show symptoms of these diseases means their condition is more advanced, making it harder and more costly to treat. What else can you do? You should become familiar with senior health issues so you can recognize the signs and symptoms of disease. Look for increased urination, increased thirst, change in appetite, weight loss, change in energy or activity level, drooling, trouble eating or weight loss. Cats are very good at hiding illnesses and at times the only indication you have that something is wrong is that they have lost weight. Notify your veterinarian if you notice any of these symptoms, detect weight loss, or if you discover any new bumps or lumps. Remember you and your veterinarian are on the same team, by working together you will be able to diagnose diseases earlier. Getting old is an inevitable part of life. Though we cannot halt the passage of time, we can take steps to meet the unique needs of our senior cats. Routine examinations and screenings can help up detect diseases earlier before many of the complications of advanced disease have developed. By working with your veterinarian, you can ensure that your senior cats age gracefully. What cat litter should you use for your senior cat?  If your senior cat has sensitive paws, ökocat® Super Soft or Featherweight litters make a great choice because of their soft texture. However, the most important thing is to use a natural litter that has little dust for their sensitive respiratory systems and one that traps urine and odor on contact to help prevent urinary tract infections.      
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6 Ways to Keep Your Cats Healthy

Don’t Skip Check-ups Annual examinations are the best way to detect medical problems early and to ensure your cat is protected against preventable diseases. We take our kids to the pediatrician for wellness visits, so why should our cats be any different? Cats get sick too. They suffer from many of the same illnesses we do, like obesity, diabetes, thyroid disease, and kidney disease. And cats can’t talk and tell us when they are sick. To make matters worse, they are masters at hiding illnesses. You may not notice any signs or symptoms until the disease is very advanced. That’s why routine physical examinations are so important. They allow your veterinarian to check your cat from head to tail for subtle signs of illness. Your vet can also utilize screening tests to detect diseases early and to start treatment promptly. The fact is bringing your cat to the vet at least once a year for a check-up is the best way to be ensure your cat lives the healthiest, happiest life possible.    Keep Vaccines Up to Date Cats can be exposed to a number of different infectious diseases, even if they live indoors. Upper respiratory infections can be carried on your clothes or shoes or can spread through an open window or screen door. Not to mention that even indoor cats can sneak out. Although strictly indoor only cats may require less vaccines than outdoor cats, the fact remains that indoor cats may benefit from vaccines that protect against the upper respiratory viruses: feline rhinotracheitits, feline calicivirus, and feline panleukopenia. In addition, some states require cats to be vaccinated against rabies. Speak with your veterinarian to find out what vaccines are appropriate for your particular cat based on their age, lifestyle and risks.     Don’t Forget About Parasite Control Unfortunately, even indoor cats aren’t immune to parasites. Pesky bugs like fleas can be brought into your home by your dog or rodents. You can even move into a house with an existing flea problem. Fleas in the pupa stage can remain dormant for months. In addition, mosquitos transmit heartworm disease and we all know how easy it is for them to get inside. Just because your cat doesn’t go outside don’t assume they are safe from parasites. Be on the look out for parasites and speak your veterinarian about parasitic screening tests and preventative medications that might be appropriate for your cat.   Microchips Are a Must All pets, even strictly indoor cats, should have microchips and ideally collars and ID tags. What happens when your cat sneaks out an open door or window, or worse yet, gets lost during an earthquake, hurricane or tornado? They become an outdoor cat with no identification! Collars and tags allow a neighbor to return your cat directly to you, but unfortunately, collars can break or fall off.  Microchips provide a more reliable means of identification. Of course, for them to work, make sure you register and keep your contact information up-to-date. The fact is accidents happen and it is always better to be safe than sorry. Being sure your pet has proper identification (collar, tag and microchips) is the best way to improve the odds that your pet will be returned home if they ever get lost.    Get Your Cats Moving All animals, even cats, benefit from exercise. Exercise is the best way to keep your cat trim and healthy. Like us, cats can suffer from obesity and the problems associated with being overweight such as arthritis and diabetes. You can keep your cat active by playing with a laser pointer. Most cats love to chase a laser pointer (and most humans find this entertaining too). Some cats can also learn to play fetch. The goal is to find the toy or activity that gets your pet moving. Don’t be afraid to ask your veterinarian for ideas and help getting your lazy cat off the couch.   Keep Cats Indoors The decision to keep your cat indoors is probably the single most important action you can take to promote the health and longevity of your feline friend. The average lifespan for an outdoor cat is just 3 to 5 years, while indoor cats average 12. This huge difference in life expectancy should be a compelling enough reason for all cat parents to keep their feline friends indoors. Outdoor cats are at risk for getting hit by a car; being attacked by a dog or coyote, getting into a fight with another cat; ingesting poisonous chemicals such as rodenticides, insecticides, snail bait, or antifreeze, and are more likely to get parasites and infectious diseases like feline leukemia virus (FeLV), feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), and feline infectious peritonitis (FIP). The fact is once your cat is outdoors, there is no way to protect them from all of these dangers. See also >>> Clean & healthy litter that stops odor   As pet parents, besides loving our pets, our responsibility is to care for them and protect them from harm. What can you do to insure your cat lives out his nine lives? Make sure your cat has regular veterinary check-ups, stays up-to-date on their immunizations and parasite control, gets regular exercise and stays safely indoors.                
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6 Tips for Welcoming a New Cat into Your Home

We can all use a dose of good news during these times. One silver lining of the COVID pandemic has been its effect on animal shelters. With more people abiding with stay-at-home orders, the number of pet adoptions has soared, and many shelters are literally empty. If you are planning to open your home and heart to a new cat, there are a few things you need to do to welcome your new feline to your family.  Essentials. Always start with the essentials. You will need food, bowls, litter, a litter box, a bed, and a few fun items, like toys, to help your new feline friend feel at home.  Food. It’s best to feed your new cat the same food they were previously eating. Once your new cat becomes accustomed to their new home, you can gradually change their food to the food of your choice by slowly mixing it in. Speak with your veterinarian to find out which diet is best suited for your cat based on their age, health, and level of activity.  Litter. It’s the part of being a cat parent that no one likes, especially since most cats haven’t learned to use the toilet and simply flush the problem away. However, there are steps you can take to keep your household free of potty odors. Choose a superior, plant-based natural litter, like ökocat® that is made entirely from sustainably sourced wood that absorbs liquid on contact and stops the creation of ammonia and odor before it starts. And unlike traditional clay litter, ökocat® is 99% dust-free, contains no artificial fragrances, no synthetic chemicals, toxic dyes or GMOs, making it a cleaner and healthier choice for your cat, your family, and your home. Plus, it’s better for our planet too.  Cat-proofing. Cats are curious by nature so make sure your home is safe and cat-proof. Keep any poisonous plants, toxic household cleaners or chemicals out of your cat’s reach. Even innocuous items like string and ribbons can be dangerous to cats and should be stored out of reach. To find out more about household dangers, visit the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center website.  Vet Check. Take your new cat to the veterinarian for a complete check-up. Your veterinarian will perform a complete examination to ensure your cat is healthy and free of parasites and infectious diseases. They will also determine which vaccines your cat needs to stay healthy.  Transitions. If you have other pets, initially keep them in separate rooms. This allows them to get used to each other’s presence and can prevent a mini epidemic. Once they seem accustomed to each other and your veterinarian has given your new cat a clean bill of health, they can be gradually introduced to each other. By making the transition gradual, it keeps the levels of stress lower for everyone, including yourself.  Adopting a pet during these difficult times can break-up the solitude of stay-at-home orders and bring you much needed joy. By following these simple steps, you can ensure a smooth transition as you welcome your cat to their new home.
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Important Tips for Fostering Pets

Now more than ever, animal shelters and rescues around the country need your support. Shelters are reporting staffing shortages, decreased adoptions, and sadly, an increase in owner surrendered pets. Many shelters are trying to reduce their in-shelter pet population in order to make it easier for their limited staff. However, you can make a difference. Besides donating money, you can volunteer to foster animals. Foster pet parents have always played an important role with shelters and rescues. The impact of fostering is even greater during these challenging times.Under normal circumstances, shelters often need assistance caring for animals that require additional attention, such as young animals that need frequent feedings, or sick and injured animals that need additional medical care. This problem becomes magnified as shelters operate with reduced staff during the COVID crisis. Shelters still need fosters to care animals that need more care, but they also need fosters to decrease the number of animals their limited staff can care for during this pandemic. Fostering a pet can have a positive impact on the whole family Fostering animals doesn’t just help shelters, the benefits are reciprocal, and this is especially true now. With most of the country following social isolation and working from home, many people are experiencing increased stress, anxiety and loneliness. Having a foster pet to care for during these difficult times can give you a sense of purpose, can help reduce stress, and can provide much needed companionship. And if you have kids, fostering a pet can have a positive impact on the whole family. Having fostered many animals over the years, my own children have seen how our love and care helped these animals grow and get healthy for their adoptive families. Fostering has taught them to be gentle and to develop a respect for life. It has also showed them the importance of hard work and dedication. There is a great sense of gratification knowing that your efforts saved a life and helped a deserving animal find its family. Photo by Tran Mau Tri Tam on Unsplash   Fostering is a great way to try out being a pet parent There are other benefits to fostering. Being a foster parent is also a great way to try out being a pet parent without the long-term commitment. If you aren’t sure if you and your family are ready to take on a pet for life, fostering may be the answer. You can have a pet in your home for a few weeks to months and determine if your family is ready to make a long-term commitment. It also allows you to determine if a particular pet is a good fit for your family or not. While you might be interested in a puppy, after fostering you may decide an older more settled dog may be better for your home or you may decide you want a cat instead of a dog. After all, becoming a pet parent is a major commitment and you want to be as sure as possible that you are making the right choice. There is one other benefit to fostering shelter animals. Sometimes, when you open your home to a foster animal, you open your heart, and you realize that you are their forever home. This is how two of my cats, Starlite and Mr. Smee joined our family. It’s an unintended consequence, but under the right circumstances, fostering the right animal at the right time will serendipitously lead to the realization that your foster animal is a perfect addition to your family.   Foster pet parents play a vital role in helping shelter animals that need extra care and can mitigate the current challenges facing shelters operating with reduced staff. Fostering during these challenging COVID times is a win-win for you, the shelter, and the animal you foster. If you are interested in becoming a foster pet parent, contact your local animal shelter or rescue today. Article by Dr. Ruth MacPete, D.V.M., well-known veterinarian and author. 
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