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Extremely unintelligent behavior... litter-box related

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
I've always thought of cats as extremely intelligent pets, but the behavior of this one cat I've owned for over a year just has me baffled. She correctly chooses to pee using the litter box, but she seems incapable of understanding exactly how to use it. The first problem has always existed, the second has only started in the past couple months.
  • The box is about 45 cm wide by 60 cm long (or so), but she chooses to use only the very end farthest from the wall. This leads to a supersaturated region of acrid ammonia-smelling dirt that doesn't even clump properly, after only 1-2 hours after cleaning it... I'm having to do so 3-4 times each day to get rid of the stench.
  • She doesn't comprehend how to cover up what she leaves... she stands outside the box trying to shovel nonexistent dirt on it. She'll do this upwards of 10 minutes at a time, then give up, and then the next time she's in the area start doing it again because she smells pee. This wakes me up at least twice every night. I'm also worried she'll cause nasty damage to her paw-pads since this is beyond the normal extent of their use.

I'm currently forced to keep the box in my bedroom with me because she absolutely despises the other cat running around the house (we've had him about 3-4 months now). This, of course, is a totally different issue, so I'll leave it alone for now.

Does anyone know how to correct this baffling behavior? I'm at my wit's end.
post #2 of 19
Maybe try a covered box?
post #3 of 19
It's actually pretty normal.
Cats, especially females, are creatures of habit.
They always go in the same place, some, like yours, take this to extremes.

As for not properly covering, well, that's a skill that their mom cat teaches, one of the many reasons it's best to leave cats with mom till about 10-12 weeks old.
I'm not sure if you can stop it.
You might try a larger, deeper box, or even a covered box if she'll use it.
It may just force her to dig while in the box, and since all she could reach would be litter, it may solve that problem.
post #4 of 19
Thread Starter 
Oh, well... I tried. I already tried the covered box idea, it was originally covered, so that's no help =[. Don't know where her mom is. We get all our cats from the local shelter.

I'll try putting a bunch more litter in the box (deeper), and let y'all know how that works out.
post #5 of 19
At PetSmart and other pet stores I'm sure, you can get a litterbox that is completely enclosed. The enterance is on the side but the cat walks up a small ramp to get into the box. So there is no way for the cat to pee over the side and she can't scratch outside the box.

You could also try a top enterance litterbox.
post #6 of 19
Thread Starter 
Thanks for that, Jen... I'll look into it this weekend!
post #7 of 19
If you're having that much trouble with odor, I think that a new, better kind of litter is called for. Feline Pine has very little odor, even after weeks, but you do have to introduce it gradually as many cats don't like it. Or you could try crystal litter -- I find the odor control not as good as Feline Pine, but way better than clay litter, and more importantly the cat loves it.

Also, it's not unusual not to cover. Mine will do that only when the litter is brand new and he likes the type of litter.

Digging in the box is also related to the cat's likes. It sounds like your cat does not like the type of litter you're using, or the odor. Mine also will scratch around the outside of the box when he thinks it smells. It's instinct -- a strong smell in the wild attracts predators.
post #8 of 19
One of MIL's cats always pees in the front corner of her box resulting in exactly what you have, a giant pee clump that is never fully clumped. I am guessing that the smell problem you speak of is when you clean like I encounter since there is too much urine in one spot to dry up in a clump.

Wish I could offer you hope for change, but Choo-Choo, (the offending cat), is now two years old and has remained steadfast in this habit.

I saw Feline Pine suggested and that may be a good way for you to go if your cat will allow it. The Feline Pine does not clump, but kind of breaks down into a sawdust kind of thing when the cat pees on it and the dusty material can be shaken to the bottom of the box till the whole box contents needs dumped and replaced. You would, (of course), have to scoop the feces every day, but that may kind of take care of the "big lump in front" problem.
post #9 of 19
Thread Starter 
The smell of the regular cat litter isn't bad, it's just that it doesn't get covered up with clean litter, like it's supposed to. I imagine that no matter what kind of litter we use, if it doesn't get covered up, it will stink just as bad.

We gave Feline Pine a shot for a couple of months, transitioning several times... every time we got the regular litter down too low, she just started used the rug in front of the litter box. I also don't much like the way I can't sift the feces out of Feline Pine without taking a bunch of fresh pellets with it... rather wasteful unless I go in and pick them out with a rubber glove.

I'm going to try the covered cat box idea, and see if that forces Hannah to shovel actual litter onto her clumps. I suppose I should clarify what I meant by "covered box" earlier. It was just a regular box underneath a decorative plastic-wicker shelter. I've seen what you all mean by it... a fully-domed box with a ramp going in. She'll probably be forced to shovel actual dirt if I had that, like you said.

I might even try the automatic Littermaid again... a cat I had until about six months ago was terrified of it, so we put it away in the garage. The noise from that was short enough that it won't wake me up, and I bet this newer cat could tolerate it.
post #10 of 19
My cat doesn't cover after he pees... in fact, I can't remember a cat my family owned that did... and yet the odor wasn't bad. My current cat in particular favors one spot. With the Feline Pine, I was really stunned at the lack of odor compared with other litters.

But, again, as you noticed, some cats don't like the Feline Pine. I'm working on mine, but so far he will only use it when combined with his old litter, and based on the lack of digging I know he's not thrilled with it.

Feline Pine does sell a special litter scoop that sifts out the pellets, though. (Larger holes.)

Maybe crystal litter?
post #11 of 19
Thread Starter 
Maybe after we finish the 160 pounds (seriously) of the last litter, we'll try a new kind again. I've never tried crystal litter... does it smell very chemically?
post #12 of 19
I've thought about trying the Booda Dome, (round), for Choo-Choo. Then she couldn't pee in the corner!
post #13 of 19
You said she despises the new cat who has been there a few months - is there any chance that she's acting this way because she's upset about the new cat?

I'm afraid I don't have a solution - just thought it might shed some light on the cause of it!
post #14 of 19
No, the crystal litter itself is odorless. It seems to have less dust than clay litter, also.
post #15 of 19
I prefer crystal litter, partly for the reasons you have given. It is odourless, assuming it is scooped/cleaned regularly, and hte cats have no trouble with it - you cannot get clumps forming in corners or anything like that. I htink it is much cleaner all round.
post #16 of 19
Thread Starter 
Wow... what a variety of useful knowledge! I'll give crystal litter a shot after I finish this big load of litter I bought at Costco about a month ago (shouldn't take long, the other cat is as big as a small dog!). I might even try the Feline Pine again, as I have half a sack left of it.

As for whether or not Hannah's weird box habit is caused by Casey's presence, I doubt that's the case... it started before he came into our home.
post #17 of 19
Feline pine does smell great! especially since both of mine refuse to use it, and would rather use the carpet next to the box. slow intro--made no difference to them. i just keep one in the bedroom for emergencies in case they get trapped in there. of course, when that happened to one of them, he preferred the carpet anyway surely though, for this problem,trying different litters might help. my other cat, she won't cover it sometimes, but instead will keep scratching on the side of the dryer, the shower curtain, whatever, trying to cover the smell. we figure she is very very smart in other areas. well, she showed up as the kitten of a feral, and thank heavens she has come along way--she no longer thinks the middle of the big bed with us sleeping in it, or the bathroom rug, is an appropriate place!!! mom just did not teach her about a litter box, because maybe mom did not know a thing about them.
post #18 of 19
Thread Starter 
You never know... if you found her feral, she might have not known her mother very long before something permanently separated them
post #19 of 19
that could be true. she showed up in the garage at 8 months old, though, but she could have been separated young, though she does not nurse your shirt or ear or anything, and is very healthy. good luck with your litter box!
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