Let’s talk about litter. Because it’s really the only downside to owning a cat—although I am much happier having a box for the cat to go in than having to take a dog outside to pee when it’s -7 degrees. But that’s not really the point. A litter box still makes that annoying trail of litter on the floor, no matter how many mats you put underneath it, and all the baking soda in the world can’t mask Smirnoff’s poop on a bad day (sorry, Smirf).
And yet, litterbox issues—usually involving a cat not wanting to use said box—is one of the most prevalent behavioral issues a cat owner faces. Now, I’ll insert my disclaimer here, because I’m not a vet or a licensed behaviorist, but from my own experience, as well as the research I’ve done, the many seasons of My Cat From Hell I’ve watched, and working with cats at the shelter, here are some things to note if the litterbox is an issue with your cat:
1. Your cat might need to see a vet. In fact, that should be one of the first things you do. Male cats (neutered or unneutered) in particular are prone to urinary tract infections, and if that happens, urinating in litter can be painful. There could be other issues going on, of course, but if a UTI goes untreated then it could cause a blockage, which requires surgery. And yes, this can happen to female cats, too.
My experience: Smirnoff had this issue, and gave the tell-tale signs of a UTI: going to the litterbox frequently, meowing loudly while in said litterbox, and going into the litterbox but not producing any urine. I took him to the vet (which he hates) and he was prescribed antibotics. He now gets wet food mixed with water for one meal and Science Diet w/d dry food for the other meal. (SD w/d is a high fiber prescription diet that is used a lot for diabetic cats, but it also helps control the pH balance in urine, which prevents crystals from forming and causing blockages.)
What you should know: It’s actually important that you keep an eye on your cat’s litterbox habits. Sure, it seems gross and actually watching your cat pee or poop (which helps if you have multiple cats, so you know who is doing what) seems creepy, but it’s important. Knowing about how often your cat urinates, the consistency of its feces, can help you prevent really bad health problems later on—or at least catch them early.