Help Your Stressed-Out Cat to Relax

While we may think that stress only affects humans, the fact is that cats can easily become stressed and show this by inappropriate elimination. The intelligence and sensitivity of cats makes them susceptible to stress, and when you begin to find puddles on furniture or rugs, it could well be the result of an upset and fearful cat.

Stress can actually cause a physical condition, interstitial cystitis, to occur in your cat. Although this illness is not completely understood, it appears to affect the nerves connected to the bladder and can cause your cat to lose control. Once other medical conditions have been ruled out, it will be time to help your cat relax once again.

Meditation for Kitties?

Unfortunately, it's not possible to teach your stressed-out cat how to meditate, but there are some things you can do to help your cat relax and hopefully return to normal litter box use as quickly as possible.

  • Multi-cat households usually have one cat who dominates the others to some extent. A cat who is 'lower down on the totem pole' can feel threatened by the top cat. Providing a safe spot for the lower status cat can help relieve the pressure he or she may be feeling. A litter box, bed, food, and water in a separate area can help calm a nervous cat.
  • Make sure there are enough litter boxes for all the cats in home. Each cat should have their own box, and all the boxes should be kept clean. Jockeying for position with other cats at a single litter box can cause a cat to avoid using it.
  • A change in litter can also upset a cat and cause inappropriate elimination. If you are changing litters, do so gradually, adding a bit of the new one every day.
  • Upsets in the household, such as illness, a new baby, or a new pet can stress your cat out. If possible, pay more attention to the cat and try to settle things in as quickly as possible รข€“ a return to routine will help your cat back to the litter box.
  • Indoor 'trees' for cats give cats a secure perch where they can get away from other pets and young children who may not understand how to treat animals.

Sit down with your nervous cat and spend some time simply stroking the animal. This is very soothing and comforting to a cat, and you will probably find yourself relaxing as well.

Finding the Right Box for Your Finicky Cat

The biggest mistake cat owners make when purchasing a litter box for their fussy cat is that what you may think looks like the perfect box may be anything but that to your kitty. Manufacturers design boxes that will appeal more to the buyer, in many cases, rather than what your cat will actually use. Understanding what constitutes an acceptable box for your cat will help keep waste where it belongs - in the litter box.

Choosing the Right Box

You might find that there is a rather bewildering array of litter boxes for sale. Long gone, evidently, are the days when cat owners cut a cardboard box in half and filled it with litter. Not only can you cat use a basic plastic box, there are also enclosed boxes and mechanical self-cleaning boxes and special boxes that fit on your toilet. A good deal depends upon the personality of your cat - a laid back kitty will be more apt to take whatever you give him or her, while a nervous cat might be spooked a fancier box.

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  • The plastic pan is probably the most widely used of boxes. These boxes should have the litter changed completely once a week. Washing them before putting in new litter will keep the box smelling nice longer. If you are getting a plastic pan for a kitten, make sure it's low enough to allow the kitten access easily.
  • Covered boxes look neater, but some cats don't like going into a dark spot to eliminate. These litter boxes also take up a good deal of room.
  • Mechanical boxes that automatically remove waste are not only quite expensive to buy and maintain, but many cats are afraid of the noise and motion.
  • Toilet seat boxes may be the ultimate in sanitary treatment of cat waste, but it can often be difficult to get the cat trained to use this kind of litter box.

You can help make it more likely that your cat will accept the box you have chosen if you put it in the right area - somewhere private, but not dark and cold, and somewhere still close to the main part of the home.

If your cat absolutely refuses to use the litter box you have purchased, it would probably be easier and less stressful for both of you to simply try another kind of box.

Finding the Best Spot for the Litter Box

Although some cats will use the litter box regardless of where you place it, just so that they can somehow reach it, other cats will balk at using an inappropriately positioned box. Choosing a good place for the litter box means that there will be less chance that you will find wet spots on the rug or 'worse' behind the sofa. Cats are clean animals and will use their box if it is convenient and accessible.

Think Like a Cat

Cats not only need a litter box filled with dry, clean, loose litter to dig in, they also need a place where they feel comfortable. The placement of the litter box should be for your cat's convenience, not necessarily yours. And, ultimately, a litter box that is used consistently by your cat will be the most convenient for you, regardless of where it's located.

  • Do not position your cat's litter box next to his or her food and water dishes. Nobody enjoys eating in a toilet.
  • Cats, like people, enjoy a bit of privacy when going to the bathroom. Don't place the litter box so far from the center of activities that it will be difficult to use, but do put it a bit off the beaten path.
  • The litter box should be in a lighted area so that the cat feels safer using it. Don't put the box in a dark basement filled with clutter; the cat will be afraid that it might be attacked when using the box.
  • Make sure that use of the litter box doesn't require you to open a door for the cat - there should be free access to the box at all times.
  • Once you and your cat have found the right place for the litter box, leave it there. If you find that it must be moved, do this gradually by shifting the position of the box a little each day.
  • Multi-cat households should also provide multiple litter boxes. It's also a good idea to keep the boxes separated from one another. There should also be an extra box in case one of the regular ones is soiled or otherwise inaccessible.
  • If you have a house with several stories, it's a good idea to have a litter box available on each floor. There will be less chance of an accident if your cat doesn't have to travel a long distance to use the box.
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Fear May Be Keeping Your Cat Away from the Litter Box

Cats tend to be alert, somewhat nervous animals who can react with fear to a number of situations, and this can result in inappropriate. Being 'fraidy cats' has helped cats to survive in the sometimes hostile natural world where they might make a tempting meal for a larger animal. Although living with humans has undoubtedly softened some of the cat's natural skittishness, they still depend upon instinct to keep them safe, and often appear to us to overreact.

There are a number of reasons why a cat might be avoiding the litter box, such as an infection, or a dirty box. However, fear can also be responsible for litter box avoidance and in soiling inappropriately, and this could well be the case with your cat.

Why Your Cat Might Be Afraid of the Litter Box

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The fear your cat might be showing as avoiding the litter box could stem from his or her fear of the box itself, or of the place where the box is situated. If your cat associates a certain spot in the house with an unpleasant or traumatic experience, it could cause your cat to mess outside the litter box. Cats have good memories and will associate the litter box with the incident long after the 'danger' is gone. If simply moving the box is not an option, there are ways to help your cat overcome his or her fears.

  • Use positive reinforcement, such as treats and petting to help your cat relax in the room where the litter box is located.
  • There are attractants that will help lure your cat to the litter box that can are useful in overcoming the cat's fears.
  • If you have recently gotten a new litter box, there could be something about the box that is frightening him or her.
  • Make sure that while the box is in a place that grants your cat some privacy, the area is also well-lit and warm.
  • Accompanying your cat partway to the litter box can help your friend to feel more secure. The need for this will diminish as the cat's confidence grows.

Most cats who develop a fear their litter box because of past trouble in the area can be helped to overcome this with patience and kindness. Never punish your cat for messing on the rug or behind a chair, it will only make the animal more nervous and less likely to use the litter box in the future.

Encouraging Litter Box Use

Most kittens and cats are eager and happy to use the litter box. When we had a litter of Siamese kittens years ago, we put down the top of a shoebox filled with litter for them to use, and those little guys went right into it to do their business at about four weeks of age. However, things do not always go as smoothly as this, and when your kitten or cat is avoiding the box, it's time to take a close look at what the problem might be.

Getting Your Feline Friend to Use the Litter Box

In a natural state, cats seek out dry, loose sand or soil in which to urinate and defecate. Avoiding litter box and inappropriate elimination shouldn't be too hard for cats of any age.
  • In a natural state, cats look for dry, loose sand or soil in which to urinate and defecate. If you provide a litter that mimics this, you will have a good chance of having your cat use the box without problem. Many cats do not like scented litter, so stick with an unscented brand at least until your cat is used to the box.
  • Keep the box clean. Remove soiled litter every day, and the sooner the better. The litter in the box should be changed completely once a week and the litter pan washed.
  • If you have more than one cat, provide a litter box for each one of them. Most cats aren't fond of sharing the box with another.
  • Choose a spot that the cat likes to use for elimination, preferably away from where the cat eats and drinks. Most cats like a bit of privacy, too, so placing the box in a more out-of-the-way spot can encourage use.
  • Should your cat be resisting using the box, you can try confining the cat in a small room with the box available. In most cases, the cat will get the idea and start using the box.
  • Kittens, especially, can be easily trained by using an attractant in the box until they become accustomed to using it.

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The above suggestions refer to getting a cat or kitten to use the box to begin with. However, if you have a cat that has been using the litter box reliably and suddenly stops, there could be a medical problem involved and you should schedule a visit to your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Cats Are Cleanly - This Can Help Stop Litter Box Problems

The most common reason why cats wind up sitting in a cage at an animal shelter is because they refuse to use the litter box. Cat urine has a very strong odor, and getting it out of fabric or even removing the smell entirely from hard surfaces can be difficult. And, cats have been known not only to defecate behind furniture to hide the deed, but also often on the worst places possible, such as your bed.

If you've been frustrated in trying to get your cat to use the litter box, you may be surprised to learn that the answer to the problem could be very easy to solve. Please note that any cat who is not using the litter box should be checked out by a veterinarian, just to rule out hidden illness.

Keeping It Clean

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 Rather than getting angry at your wayward cat, it may be time to examine a critical element in the problem - the litter box itself. Cats are very clean animals, and one thing that can drive a cat from his or her litter box is a box that is filthy. Put yourself in your pet's place and imagine how you would like to use an overflowing toilet; you wouldn't, so why should your cat. Today's busy world often leaves us trying to do too much in too little time, but the litter box cannot be neglected.

  • Clumping litter is probably the best choice for the litter box. Not only does this kind of material make it easier to remove feces, but it also makes it simple to remove urine. You should use a scoop to take out the clumps at least twice a day, and if you are home most of the time, scoop the box as soon as your cat is finished. Remember to add a bit of new litter to compensate for what was removed.
  • The entire box should be changed once a week if you have only one cat using it and at least twice if you have several cats all using the same box. It's best to provide a box for each cat, however, to prevent one cat from dominating.

Cleaning Up After Accidents

Although you may have read that soap and water or baking soda will remove cat urine odor, they will not. Some of the compounds in cat urine are not water soluble and require an enzyme cleaner to remove the smell completely. You may need to repeat the process several times until all the odor is gone. Your nose will tell you when the job is done.

Cat Urine Odor Removal Tips

There is no mistaking the heavy, ammonia smell of cat urine. Whether your cat is simply urinating wherever he or she wishes, or is spraying urine to mark territory, the result will be the same. This is a strong odor that will affect a surprisingly large area of the home, even if the problem area is relatively small. You should actually account yourself lucky if you are able to spot a puddle or a wet area on the rug or upholstery and begin treating it immediately. However, once the urine has dried, in most cases you will have to locate it by smell or by using a black light.

Odor Removal Once the Urine Is Found
Once you find out the problem area, it's important to take some care to remove the urine as completely as possible; not only for the sake of your nose, but to discourage your cat of thinking of that particular spot as a bathroom

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The organic compounds found in cat urine can pose some problems in removing the odor - some of the compounds are water soluble, but the uric acid not only is capable of binding to adjacent surfaces, but is not soluble by water. When you find fresh urine you should:

  • Wipe up the urine from hard surfaces with a paper towel and use the same to blot urine in furniture or rugs. Don't use cloth unless you are prepared to throw it away afterwards.
  • An enzyme cleaner is your best choice for removing cat urine. These cleaners are specifically designed to break down the uric acid into ammonia and carbon dioxide, which will simply off gas naturally afterwards.
  • Do not try to hasten the drying process after using an enzyme cleaner since it interrupts the normal dissipation of the ammonia and carbon dioxide.
  • Use the best enzyme cleaner possible - inexpensive cleaners often require multiple uses before they remove the odor of cat urine.
  • Be generous when applying the cleaner; you should soak the target area to allow the enzymes to really do their job.
  • After leaving the cleaner on for approximately a quarter of an hour, blot it up, then let the spot dry naturally.

Although rugs are the usual areas where your cat may urinate, beds, sofas, and clothing can also be sullied. Use the same procedure on these as you did on your rug. Slipcovers and clothing should be washed separately after they have been treated with the enzyme cleaner. Spray marking will be found on a vertical surface such as a door frame or chair leg.