I had a phone call this morning from someone who adopted two of my foster kittens recently. "Why is it" she said "that the kittens aren’t using their litter tray?"
As it happens, I think her kittens have slightly upset tummies and just weren’t making it back to the tray every time. My advice to her, and to anyone who is concerned about their cat’s wellbeing, is to let the vet check them out in the first instance just to be on the safe side. The kittens didn’t sound poorly in themselves, but I’m not a vet so best to check them out.
Another possible clue was to find out what sort of litter they were using. And the answer on this occasion was wood-based pellets. I have used wood-based litter myself in the past, with my own mature cats – it is dust-free, naturally mildly anti-bacterial, has a clean piney smell, and disintegrates into sawdust after use which is easy to dispose of and biodegrades. My cats never minded it and the main reason I stopped was that I got fed up with them trailing sawdust through the house on their paws. For kittens though, wood-based pellets are quite large under their soft little pads and are probably a bit uncomfortable for them. We use a fairly fine grain non-clumping mineral litter such as Sophisticat original non-clumping and that seems to suit most kittens quite well, but if you are having problems try a variety of different substrates and see if you cat prefers one sort over another.
Vicky Halls has a chapter on soiling in the house in her book Cat Detective. If you haven’t read any of Vicky’s books I can thoroughly recommend them, especially if you share your home with more than one feline friend. This is her interpretation of the perspectives of some of the cats she has visited in the course of her work as an animal behaviourist.
- I have arthritis and the high sides of this tray make it hard to get in
- The indoor litter tray is the same one as I had when I was a kitten. I’m bigger now and I can’t turn round and dig in it comfortably
- This covered tray is all very well but I’m a tall cat and I can’t poo in it as comfortably as I can on the carpet
- The dog stares at me when I am using the tray. There is just no privacy
- The litter tray is next to the washing machine, which sometimes switches itself on suddenly at night. That can be scary
- The wood pellets in my tray may have been great when I was a kitten but I’m heavier now. It’s like walking on a pebbly beach in bare feet. Ouch!
- The polythene liner in my tray gets caught in my claws when I dig and the litter goes in my eyes
- I have one tray and I am not very keen on pooing and peeing in the same place
- My owners don’t clean my tray out regularly because it is a covered one and they can’t smell it. Walking in there makes my eyes water. It stinks!
- The litter tray is so conveniently placed for my owner that it is like an assault course to get there (in the cupboard, over the vacuum cleaner, through the flap etc)
- I have to share my tray with my brother. I don’t like him and I want a separate loo.
- My tray is right next to my bowl of food. Disgusting, how unhygienic!
- Sooty won’t let me use the litter tray; he says it is his.
- My owners use a pine-scented freshener in my litter. What’s pine? It smells ghastly!
- I have to use a litter tray that is next to the patio doors and next-door’s cat pulls faces with me through the window
- The litter tray is right next to the cat flap. What if a strange cat comes through when I’m using it? I can’t defend myself
- My owners use newspapers to line my tray but object when I pee on the Sunday Telegraph before they have read it. Isn’t that unreasonable?
- I’m a Persian for goodness’ sake! What’s a litter tray?
If you live in a multi-cat household, the rule of thumb for litter trays as with other essential resources is “one per cat plus one spare, located in different parts of the house”. I haven’t quite followed this rule – I have two litter trays in the hallway (one tucked away under the bureau, and the other perilously close to the cat flap!), a covered one upstairs, and another covered one, used solely by Humbug, tucked out of sight in the living room. Humbug is very fastidious. And tidy. He doesn’t share. And his efforts are buried beneath a pyramid that is geometrically accurate down to the last grain of litter!!! The two in the hallway are used interchangeably by all the other cats (and Lucy from next door apparently) – one primarily for peeing and one for pooing. And the upstairs one is emergencies only.