When a cat arrives home for the first time it can be a very stressful period for them. They have usually come from a place they have known well and are thrown in to a world that smells funny and looks enormous, and it can be very daunting.
One of the biggest security factors at a cat’s disposal is having somewhere to toilet. Cats will sometimes sit in their litter tray and while this may seem like a cute quirk, the reason for doing it is usually down to either stress or a medical issue that needs treatment. This is why it is so important to go at the ‘cat’s pace’ and let them find their feet accordingly.
If you have a cat flap and a safe outside space, you will probably find that your cat will toilet outside as a natural behaviour (after they have been inside for a suitable amount of time). It is always strongly advised and beneficial to everyone concerned to leave a tray indoors just in case so your cat doesn’t get into any bad habits.
Helping address toileting issues
A big reason why some cats are unwanted and abandoned is that they start toileting outside of their litter tray in the house.
Most of the time, this can be addressed in two simple steps:
1. Take your cat to the vet to check for a medical reason for this behaviour
2. Either add a litter tray back in to the house or add more trays to help make your cat feel more secure
Please note: Other stress factors would need to be considered if a medical reason was not found, but the principal of making your cat feel more comfortable in their own home is simple, and something you should be willing to undertake.
Try not to use litter tray liners as this is another common reason your cat can take offence to using their tray as it just feels unnatural to them, and can put them off using the tray entirely.
If your cat is really struggling to get to grips with things, especially when you first bring them home, you can try re-introducing them to the tray itself slowly by feeding some treats nearby. If there are any accidents just soak or scoop up any urine or faeces and put it in the tray and just pop the cat next to it so they can smell what they have done - their natural response to cover it over should take effect.
Lastly if you have a hooded/covered tray, just take the swing door off as many cats won’t like this and could be fearful when entering the tray through a door.
Cat litter - which one to choose
The type of litter used can also have a bearing on your cat’s preferences. If you change to a new type, your cat may be put off using their tray. Some textures of litter will be also be too hard for some cats.
At Mayhew, we use wood or recycled newspaper pellet forms of litter. These are normally highly absorbent and you can use less in the tray itself leading to reduced overall wastage. For kittens, if you use other types of litter make sure you use ‘non-clumping’ options, as clumping can prove dangerous if ingested.
Make sure you clean the tray regularly (at least once a day). Not only is it unhygienic to leave the tray dirty, but it is also a reason for your cat to decide that the kitchen floor would make a better alternative. When in doubt always provide your cat with enough resources so it can use them correctly.
Where to place litter trays
It is important that you position litter trays in a quiet area so your cat can have some privacy. Avoid putting them in hallways, and look to find a place with low footfall. Putting trays in different locations can also help matters as you may need a tray in or near a certain room to stop them urinating in it.