NEW EPISODE of Cat Chat with Liz and Marci: Learning to Love the Litterbox

Hello Alcohol Cat fans! Open a beer, pour a glass of wine, take a shot, and celebrate this week with a new episode of Cat Chat with Liz and Marci. This new episode is all about the litterbox—how to set it up, how to trouble-shoot issues… and we all laugh a little too much about poop.

You can download this episode, share it, like it, comment on it… let us know if you’re a fan of Cat Chat, and if there’s anything you’d like us to cover in the next episode! Enjoy!

A Farewell to Pacino

Photo by Amy Eisenman
Photo by Amy Eisenman

The third time Pacino entered our shelter, he had an office upstairs all to himself. But the gate would be left open and he’d roam the halls, wandering in to visit the law enforcement department and the marketing people and the other office cats who were kept behind their plastic barriers. Pacino was the Animal Rescue League of Boston’s own hallway patrol officer. If you went in to say hi to someone and closed the door, Pacino would meow a few times and wait for you to come back out. He’d greet you with a run—his large belly swinging—and walk you to the end of the hallway, to the door where he couldn’t pass because the Center for Shelter Dogs was on the other side, and watch you leave, and then roll around on the carpet. He wasn’t always like this.

When Pacino arrived the first time, he was a sweet but very shy cat. He was always into laps and he’d crawl right in for a snuggle. But he was also nervous. At the shelter, he seemed like the perfect cat (which of course he is). But then he came back.

“He poops outside the litterbox.”

But he used his litterbox just fine in his cage and we were eager to adopt him out again. Sometime adopters just aren’t prepared for having to clean up after a cat. It didn’t take too long for someone new to come along and fall in love. He was gone for several months. Then he came back again.

“He’s a great cat,” said the adopter.

“But he poops outside the litterbox,” said his wife. “In the tub.”

So we brought Pacino upstairs. Only, he wasn’t the same cat he was when he had first arrived. The amazing thing is that the constant switching between homes and the love poured upon him by the staff and volunteers had an amazing effect: Pacino had turned into the most outgoing, chill cat imaginable. Not only a love and a lapcat like he used to be, but a cat who was unafraid of anything. So he took over the hallway.

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The Sacred Box

SammyLet’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.

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