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HOW TO TEACH A STRAY OR ADULT CAT TO USE A LITTERBOX

Updated on May 8, 2010
Cats can be beautiful and elegant pets, but their urine leaves a faul odor.
Cats can be beautiful and elegant pets, but their urine leaves a faul odor.

CATS & LITTER-BOXES

Most of us have been told that cats do not have to be trained to use the litter-box, and generally this is true; however, occasions do exist when cats do not naturally use litter-boxes, or reject them for reasons we can change.

WHEN CATS DON'T USE THE LITTERBOX

Cats don't use available litter-boxes for a number of reasons. Some are listed below

  • The cat does not know that the litter-box is there, what it is, or that he or she is supposed to use it.
  • Too many other cats are using the same box
  • The cat does not like the particular brand of litter selected
  • You need to change the litter-box; it is dirty, and stinks

WHAT TO DO WHEN THE CAT DOES NOT KNOW THAT THE LITTERBOX IS THERE, WHAT IT IS FOR, OR THAT HE OR SHE IS SUPPOSED TO USE IT

I once captured a stray cat, with intent to capture, neuter and release. His previous owners moved, and left him homeless, breeding and wondering the streets. He had never been an inside cat, and did not know what a litter-box was. I am not a cat trainer, but am a behaviorist by profession. I used some creative imagination to teach this cat to use a litter-box, in order to keep him inside my home until the date for his castration could be arranged, and in order to keep him inside until his surgery was sufficiently healed and he was ready to return to the great outdoors. Here is the approach that worked for me.

First I placed the cat in my small bathroom, where there is no carpet, making sure nothing was there that he could defecate on, such as a rag, towel, rug, or any soft material item that would feel anything like grass, be difficult to clean, or hold a stain or odor. I placed a litter box inside the bathroom, dropped the cat into the box (he jumped out immediately), allowing him to know that the sandy type surface was in the room. I found some feces in my own cat's litter-box, and placed the stinking poop in the litter-box I wanted the stray cat to use.

Explanation: Cats, like dogs, use the sense of smell to determine where to use the toilet. Cats will always return to the scent of previous urine or defecation for a repeat performance. That is why it is so important to insure that they do not use your carpet, couch, or the dog's bed the first time.

SUCCESS STORY: The stray cat used the litter-box the first time, and every time afterwards. I named him Elvis, and he actually remained inside my home for many months, until my sister adopted him to be her own cat.

TOO MANY OTHER CATS ARE USING THE SAME LITTER-BOX

Cats are extremely clean and picky animals, and many will not use a litter-box that even one other cat is using, though this is not generally the case. Most animal trainers and experts suggest that a pet owner or guardian have one litter box for every cat in the home, and then provide one extra litter box as well. In other words, if you have two cats inside your home, you should have three litter-boxes available for use; if you have three cats, you should have four litter-boxes, and so on, and so on. Having an adequate number of litter-boxes, and cleaning them daily, will usually resolve this problem.

THE CAT DOES NOT LIKE THE PARTICULAR BRAND OF LITTER SELECTED

This one is a no brainer. Change your brand of litter. The economy brand, or high perfume content brand, may seem like a good idea, initially, but if your cat is going to use your carpet in order to avoid using it, you are not saving money, or making your home smell better. In this case the cat is in charge. Change the litter, stupid. It ain't workiing. You may have to try severa brands to find the one your cat prefers, but it is well worth the effort.

THE LITTER-BOX IS DIRTY

Again, this problem does not require much imagination. Change the box. Cats often will not use dirty litter-boxes, and will look for a clean place to go. Your best option is to clean the litter-boxes daily, and as suggested above, have one more litter-box than the number of cats you have in your house.

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    • valeriebelew profile imageAUTHOR

      valeriebelew 

      6 years ago from Metro Atlanta, GA, USA

      Did you scoop any of his poop, and put it in the cat box? Cats go by odor, so that is how I got the stray cat to use the box. Try that and see what happens. He should follow the scent and use the box.

      In all honesty, though, I had two cats that just wanted to be outside cats, PERIOD. Fluffy and Pete refused to be inside cats, and it wasn't just about using the bathroom. They refused to stay inside, so I finally relented. Fluffy is still alive today and nine years old. Pete died a few years back.

    • profile image

      Christy 

      6 years ago

      We have taken in a stray cat that's maybe a year old. I bought a brand new little box and litter. Our garage is attached to the house where the cat spends most of his time and the little box is right near his bed. I've lifted him and placed him gently in the box only to have him freak out and try to claw me to death. We've had him now since August and he still wants to go outside to the bathroom. How can I get him to use the box?

    • bagoliv profile image

      bagoliv 

      6 years ago from Lisboa

      It´s common to mistake bad behavior from real signs of desease.

      Sometimes even abnormal behavior problems need to be corrected medically or even via surgery.

      Please refer to your vet if you are having trouble with your pet urine or defecation patterns, some of them could be emergency situations requiring immediate medical assistance.

      http://www.hospvetvascodagama.pt

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