Litter training usually comes naturally to most kittens, as they instinctively bury their waste. It still takes a little bit of patience on our part to help them learn as quickly as possible. Make sure your kitten has the choice of a couple of different litter boxes, placing them in a secluded spot in the house where they are not likely to be disturbed. After your kitten has awakened from a nap, or shortly after he/she's finished eating, place him/her in the box. Praise him/her if she uses the box, but never punish him/her for mistakes. If needed, place him/her in it at hourly intervals until he/she gets the idea. Keep the litter tray scooped out each day as cats do not like to use litter trays when they are over soiled.
The rule of thumb is that you should have at least as many litter trays in the house as there is cats, plus an extra!
Place food and litter boxes away from appliances and air ducts that could come on unexpectedly, and locate them such that another animal or human cannot sneak up while he/she uses them. To keep them appealing to the cat, food and water should be fresh, with the two bowls not located directly next to each other (cats do not like to drink close to their food source).
To discourage clawing furniture, make sure to provide some scratching posts, and be sure to ask us about a new product called FeliScratch.
Indoor vs. outdoor
We recommend that all cats are kept permanently indoors to prevent injuries from motor vehicle accidents, cat fights, falls from a height and other common traumatic injuries. Outdoor cats are also more likely to contract Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) from fighting with other cats. Another reason to keep your cat indoors is to prevent predation of our native wildlife!
Although it is ideal to keep our cats indoors, we must make sure we provide adequate conditions for them to outlet their natural behaviours. Recent studies have found that a majority of indoor cats are not provided sufficient environmental enrichment, leading to chronically elevated stress hormones which impair the immune system and make them susceptible to disease. Cat behaviour is very complex and many owners may not detect the subtle signs that their cat is not coping within their own home!
We strongly urge that all cat owners visit the Ohio University Indoor Pet Initiative at http://indoorpet.osu.edu . It provides detailed information and checklists to help you ensure your cat feels safe, secure and enriched in the indoor environment.
Some general recommendations include:
- Making sure water and food bowls are kept clean and water is fresh daily.
- Make sure there are enough litter trays- one for each cat plus one extra.
- Scoop out soiled litter daily and clean trays thoroughly at least once a week.
- Make sure your cat has elevated platforms where he/she can view the room from up high as this is where they feel most secure.
- If there are stray cats that wander near windows or doors, try to visually block these cats from view with curtains/blinds or use tools to keep them away from the outside of the house such as sensor lights and sprinklers.
- Why not provide your cat with an outdoor run or enclosure? There are plenty of commercially made products available, as well as plenty of cost effective DIY projects online that you can try.
A 'wee' little problem...Cats that don't use their litter boxes!
Cats may eliminate outside of their litter box for a number of reasons including medical problems, an aversion to the litter box or the type of litter, or because of a preference for toileting in places outside the box (a preference for a type of surface or location). It can either be a consistent or occasional problem involving urine, faeces or both.
Cats love a clean toilet - this is why they hop right in the box as soon as you clean it and put fresh litter in! Make sure to scoop the litter twice daily, replenish the litter regularly, and completely clean the tray at least once a week (using baking soda or unscented soap). Clean any accidents in the house thoroughly with an enzymatic cleanser designed to neutralise pet odours.
You may need to purchase several types of boxes and several types of litter to determine which combination your cat likes best. Sand-like, finely granular, clumping and non-perfumed litter is usually the most preferred. Although humans like covered boxes for reducing odour and stray litter, from your cats' point of view, covers hold odour in.
Provide as many boxes as there are cats in the house, plus one extra. For example, if there are three cats in the household, there should be at least four litter boxes. Also ensure that kittens and elderly cats have boxes with low sides so that they can easily get in and out of the box.
Locate the trays in a quiet (but not cornered) area of the house as cats like their privacy. Keep boxes away from busy, loud or intimidating places like next to your washer/dryer or next to your dogs' food/water bowls, or in areas where there's a lot of foot traffic. Make sure to put your cats' food bowl somewhere other than right next to the litter box.
Stress can cause litter box problems. Identify triggers of stress such as multiple cats, neighbourhood cats, new visitors or pets, moving house or new furniture. In addition to stress, any medical condition that interferes with a cats' normal urination or defecation can cause litter box problems, so a vet check is recommended.
Behaviour problems - we can help!
Dr. Chloe Groves is one of our veterinarians who has been with us since Townsend Vet Clinic first opened and now works remotely. Dr Chloe has a particular interest in behavioural medicine and offers a behavioural consultation service via Skype to help you problem solve those frustrating issues that are tarnishing your bond with your furry best mate!
What does a behaviour consultation involve?
Behaviour is a complex and constantly evolving field of veterinary medicine, so getting to the bottom of a behavioural issue can take time! Gathering an accurate history of the problem is crucial, so we first give you a questionnaire to fill out about your dog or cat’s behaviour and lifestyle prior to booking your behaviour consultation. Your behaviour consultation will be conducted via Skype. This can be done at home, or in the clinic. Once you have completed your questionnaire, Dr. Chloe will contact you to arrange a time for your Skype consult.
The initial consultation will take an hour and a half or more and will be an opportunity for Chloe to observe your pet’s behaviour, discuss their physical health, as well as to gather more information about their behaviour in the home or consult room setting.
Following this first session, Chloe will formulate a detailed behavioural report which will outline a diagnosis of your pet’s particular behavioural problem(s), a series of recommendations (which may or may not include medications) and a prognosis for improvement.
What are the costs involved?
The cost of a behavioural consultation is $200 which includes your initial extended consultation and any follow up calls required to monitor your pet’s progress within a 3-month period.
After this 3-month period, follow up consultations are recommended for your pet if you continue to have concerns about their behaviour. A half hour follow up consultation is $40 and will include some ongoing phone support to monitor response.
Please be aware that mental health problems in dogs and cats are complex and dynamic, and there is never an easy fix. Improvements are expected to be gradual and there will always be hurdles along the way.
Can all problems be managed in- house?
If management of your pet’s behavioural concerns are beyond the scope of our clinic-based service, we will recommend referral to Dr Sally Nixon, a local veterinarian undergoing advanced training to become a fully qualified behaviour specialist. Sally has extensive experience as a behaviour veterinarian. Just like with physical health problems, some mental health conditions are more complex than others and require referral.