Place the cat in a small space (like a large 36”kennel) that is big enough for a litter box, food, water, and bedding to see if the cat uses the litter box. If the cat uses the box in a small space, give the cat a larger space like a bathroom. While the cat is confined, play with the cat to help cat be relaxed and comfortable.
If cat does not use the litter box, first place a Feliway collar or diffuser. Feliway is a feline pheromone which can help the cat feel more relaxed and calm about using the litter box.
If still not using the litter box, then try different litters, different boxes and sizes and heights, covered or uncovered, multiple boxes, clean box multiple times a day, possibly different boxes with different litters. Litter comes in a variety of types: clay, scoopable, crystal, newspaper, wheat, corn, and pine.
Arthritic cats may like a box with a lower entry but high sides. Also avoid litter mats and strong cleansers. Litter box attractants like Dr Easley’s are also useful.
Look at environment and the location of the box. Are their bullies in the cat group? Is the cat too scared to be stuck in a litter box pooping? Cat may need a Feliway plugin in the room.
Last but not least, the last resort is Prozac. While the cat may be trying to communicate what’s wrong, the humans just aren’t understanding. Prozac for a couple months may help to level out the emotions of the cat, especially cats who have had the recent stress of losing their home or being in a shelter environment. Prozac is a prescription medication only available from your vet.
Declawing used to be commonplace, and many great cat owners/vets used to declaw cats as standard practice. However, as more research has been done on the practice, it is no longer recommended by most animal welfare groups, including the Humane Society of the United States (link to article). In fact, it is actually illegal to declaw your cat in several places in the U.S. (San Francisco, Denver, New York State) and is illegal in nearly all countries in Europe as well as many other countries. It’s okay if you were once a part of the camp that declawed, but it is important to become informed on why declawing is no longer recommended and how you can help reduce negative clawing habits in your home.
First, declawing is a surgical procedure that is physically traumatizing to cats. It is equivalent to cutting a human finger off at the first knuckle. It is not simply cutting the cat’s nail; it is removing part of the bones in their paws. Yes, some cats handle this procedure without problem. But many cats do not, and suffer from post-operation infection, nerve damage, bone spurs, and other complications. Additionally, negative effects of declawing are often exhibited in behaviors you might not associate with declawing. These are common symptoms of cats who are experiencing long-term pain and discomfort associated with being declawed:
- tender-footed walking or avoids walking, often resulting in weight gain
- increased aggressive behavior (especially biting), especially when approached for petting
- litter box issues, whether consistent or sporadic
BUT, the good news is there are many ways you can reduce unwanted clawing habits without declawing! Here are several tried -and-true strategies that have proven effective, especially when used together. When used consistently, cats usually adapt to these strategies.
- Trim Nails: Regularly trim your cat’s nails. If you start this practice as a young kitten, it is very effective. Then, be consistent in trimming every 2 – 3 weeks or as needed. Cat-nap time is the perfect time for nail trims.
- Scratching Surfaces: Provide a cardboard scratching box or a rope scratching post. Use catnip or other attractants if the cat does not use the surface instinctively. Also, place these scratching surfaces on or near where they are doing unwanted clawing.
- Use Deterrents: There are surfaces and sounds cats do not like, and you can use those to train your cat to not use that surface for clawing: tin foil, double sided sticky tape, pokey surfaces like the underside of a vinyl carpet runner. If you use these deterrents, you must provide an alternative scratching surface.
For more details/information, see Jackson’ Galaxy’s detailed description about these strategies, including descriptions of how to trim your cat’s nails. Link: “How to Stop Your Cat from Scratching Furniture”
Look at the stool consistency. Is it normal? Too hard? Too soft? Does it have “things” in it like rug segments, blood, mucous or hair? What color is the stool? Stools that are too hard may mean that the cat needs hairball remedy. Blood and mucous in the stool is not normal. Does the cat have long hair? The cat may need a trim around its anus to make defecating more comfortable.
Is there anything else going on with the cat? Good appetite? Drinking well? Skin and coat normal or does the coat look dull? Any coughing? Normal activity?
It is common for cats to have parasites. Visit a vet to test for and treat worms (Pyrantel), Coccidia (Ponazuril) and Giardia (Panacur and Metronidazole). Some cats don’t show signs of parasites but do indeed have them.
We’ve all heard the importance of spaying/neutering our pets. Bob Barker from The Price is Right surely helped beat that into our souls with his daily reminders at the end of his game show. Yet, many people still do not follow through, do not understand all the benefits, and/or think it only applies to outdoor cats. We’d like to provide you some additional information in hopes that we can increase the number of cats who have been spayed/neutered which will greatly DECREASE the number of homeless, stray, feral cats in our community.
Obviously spaying/neutering is important if a cat goes outside regularly. But it is also important for INDOOR-ONLY CATS:
- It increases the life expectancy and overall health of your cat, in addition to preventing several diseases/cancers.
- It eliminates negative behaviors associated with the cat “going into heat” (such as trying to escape).
- It reduces aggressive / territorial behavior (such as marking).
- Your cat might accidentally get outside (door left open, visitors are not careful, sneaky cat) , and if the cat is in heat, unwanted kittens will likely be in your future.
For more information, here is an article from the American Veterinarian Medical Association.