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Litterbox issues for a rescued stray

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
Nano is a very persistent and intelligent cat, so she always seems to find a way to escape from my apartment on a weekly basis. A couple days ago someone was leaving and the door was ajar for three seconds and she sprinted out the door. "I didn't know your cat could move that," the guy said when apologizing.

Anyway, she will come back in 1-2 hours and claw at the door to be let back in. But while outside, one of the things she does -- besides some quick exploring -- is to defecate. And once she comes home, for the next 48 hours Nano will repeatedly whine at the front door to be let outside whenever she needs to go to the bathroom.

Nano will gladly use the litterbox to urinate, but she will become constipated and tolerate severe discomfort rather than use the litterbox to defecate. She keeps waiting for me to let her outside. As a behavior issue, I ignore whining and begging but eventually (after 36-48 hours without clearing herself) I have to re-acclimate her to the litterbox because I get worried about her health. Here is what I do:

I will take off the lid, sit down on the floor and noisily run the rake through the litter for 2-5 minutes. Once I do this, Nano will immediately get into the box and I will walk away to give her privacy and then she will finally defecate. In the next two hours she will willingly use the litterbox (without me prompting her) until she is fully caught up on her business. Then she is a happy girl and regular again...until she escapes and gets to use the bathroom, then we have to repeat the whole charade.

Please remember this is a rescued stray so consider her background information: Although she is 6-8 years old, I had to train Nano to use a litterbox when I rescued her. For the first couple of weeks she would ignore the litterbox. She "buried" her turds under clothes left on the floor, under floor rugs and other creative places. She urinated in the bathtub. I never punished her but three times a day I would place her inside the litterbox until she figures out she could "dig" and then eventually she learned to bury.

More background information: At one point she began defecating in front of her litter box. This was at around the 4-6 week mark. So she clearly knew she was supposed to use a litterbox, but wasn't figuring out she needed to get inside. Anyway, I solved this problem by giving her an extra large litter box. One more strange thing: I have to use 30 lbs of litter (yeah, I know) at a time because she gets skittish if she doesn't have a very deep layer in there!

Now back to the main problem: Once Nano has a jaunt outdoors, how can I get her to defecate regularly in the litterbox once back inside and not wait until she gets constipated? I can always use that "trick" to get her to go, but that is time consuming and disruptive to other things. And please remember, once she uses the litterbox then she is "re-trained" and back to ideal behavior...until she gets outside again and loses her acclimation.
post #2 of 12
Thread Starter 
I am considering getting her a second litter box for near the front door and fill it with a bag of cheap dirt on these occasions. Is that a reasonable thing to try?
post #3 of 12
Originally Posted by Nano
I am considering getting her a second litter box for near the front door and fill it with a bag of cheap dirt on these occasions. Is that a reasonable thing to try?
ABSOLUTELY!! Most cats do not like to urinate and defecate in the same area, so having two litterboxes is always a good idea. Don't fill it w/dirt, though. Use the same litter, but put the box in another location - if you think placing it near the door to start will help, then do that, and then you can gradually move it to a better (or more aesthetically pleasing) location. Maybe even just next to the other one, since she has a history of defecating just outside.
post #4 of 12
nano, give her two more litter pans, not just one. Fill the pans with a combination of plain clay litter and organic potting soil. You do not want to use dirt, because dirt will bring in bugs, but organic potting soil is what I use when I first get a stray here that shuns the litter pan. You need to give her something she can scent identify with and potting soil is it. Also be sure the litter pans are NOT together. Place them in the same room, but not lined up. Her instinctive nature will tell her that pooping and peeing in the same place is wrong- DANGER- predators will come and ~eat~ her. So to make her feel comfortable, give her two more pans space them far apart, even across the room if you can. If you still have problems you may need to use straight potting soil at first, then mix in the clay litter later.
post #5 of 12
Thread Starter 
Thank you for comments. I will be working on implementing a second litter box.
post #6 of 12
There's also a type of litter called "Cat Attract" that worked for me really really well. When I got Kirara she went anywhere but the litter box, but when I put some of that in there and weened her off of it, she never went anywhere but a litter box.
post #7 of 12
A friend of mine at work has an indoor-outdoor cat who is about 8 years old. They have never been able to get her to poop in the litterbox, she insists on going outside. Everytime they've tried to get her to use the box, she looks at them like "why do you want me to soil my home!?" and then begs and begs to go outside.
post #8 of 12
I have five litter boxes and it is strange - each cat uses one to poop and one to pee, but they are not the same boxes. So Dushka will poop on Eliie's pee and vice versa. All of them will pee and not poop in the one I keep upstairs in my bedroom for overnight needs.
post #9 of 12
Thread Starter 

I was working sequentially through a few different possibilities and seem to have found a solution that maximizes Nano's satisfaction. Her new litter box is medium sized, placed near the entrance to the bedroom and has a 3" layer of hard clumping Tidy Cat. Her old litter box is huge, placed in the familiar place in the bathroom and has a deep layer of cheap brand-x clay litter. Once I stumbled upon this specific arrangement, without any prompting from me she immediately began using one litter box for one thing and the original box for something else (if you know what I mean).

Probably a normal cat would just like two identical litter boxes...but as I explained in first post, Nano has special issues around defecating. So the multiple litter box thing really does work!
post #10 of 12
I'm so glad that reading through the posts, and applying other solutions worked for you. Cats can be such funny creatures, sometimes folks give up on them when they just need more patience to work through the issue, as you did, bless your heart.

It's good to hear you've hit upon the right solution. Hopefully from here on out, your issues are solved, and everybody can get on with their lives, kitty and human!
post #11 of 12
Thread Starter 
Well, it is not quite over yet...now Nano is avoiding the box with the cheap litter and doing all her business in the Tidy Cat box. Hmmm! I'm going to switch to all Tidy Cat and see how it goes.
post #12 of 12
But this is great; she's told you clearly what she likes, and she did it in a positive manner! Kudos to both of you!
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