My Pet World: Cranky cat’ won’t use the litter box, and owner may know why
Our old and somewhat cranky cat has decided to not use her litter box. She uses whatever is around it but won’t use the box. I changed the cat litter and am wondering if that is the problem. Any suggestions?
–Fran, Tucson, Arizona
If you changed the cat litter recently and her decision not to use the box occurred around the same time, then yes, changing the cat litter was probably the problem. You either need to change it back to the old litter or use a cat litter attractant to coax her back to the box. If changing litter, it’s helpful to go slow. Start with ¼ new litter with ¾ old litter for a week, then ½ new litter and ½ old litter for a week, then ¾ new litter and ¼ old litter for a week, until you reach 100 percent new litter. Cats can accept change, but they need more time to do it.
Another thing that could be contributing to her litter box issues is your “somewhat cranky cat” could be experiencing age-related joint pain, making it difficult for her to get in and out of her litter box. If you think that might be the case, please take her to the vet for an exam. (See the letter below for a reader tip on elderly cats and litter boxes.)
I was a pet sitter for 16 years and would like to pass on a few tips I learned from my clients. Cats seem to prefer to drink water when it is off the ground. Many of my clients left a glass or bowl of water for their cats in their sink or on the kitchen counter, instead of on the floor. I had a small dog who had a stand for her food and water, and the cats loved drinking from her bowl, so I got them their own stand.
Another tip is, if you have an elderly cat who has trouble getting into a litter box, you can use a low storage container that goes under a bed as a litter box. They aren't as high, and cats don't have trouble getting in and out of them.
–Melissa, Attleboro, Massachusetts
Just like people, cats may develop arthritis or joint issues as they age that make getting in and out of a litter box difficult.
As for drinking water up on higher ground, it’s true that cats sometimes feel safer eating and drinking on higher ground. It’s the reason some people feed their cats on shelves or tall scratching trees. They like to see who is headed their way.
Thank you for sharing your tips.
I have a two-year old female Coton de Tulear. She is very social with both dogs and people and does not bark at anyone when out for her walks except for one dog. She’s met him up close and once he put his paw on her playfully, but it must have scared her or hurt a little. After that, she was scared to pass him during a walk. Now when she sees him, she barks, pulls, growls uncontrollably, regardless of whether on a walk or inside seeing him through the window. I've tried making her sit but she is quite determined to keep barking. What do I do?
–Linda, Mount Sinai, New York
If your dog has access to a window, she will likely always bark at other dogs or people outside. You can close the blinds, or you can interrupt your dog’s behavior, so she doesn’t continue barking. When she starts barking, shake a can of coins or use a Pet Corrector (compressed air) to get her attention, then call her to you. Ask her to sit. When she does, give her a reward word like “bingo” (always use the same reward word) and a treat. Then give her something to do, like play with a food-stuffed toy. Distraction is the best medicine for a barking dog.
As for barking at a dog during a walk, use one of the disruption techniques described above to get her attention, then, as you walk to the other side of the street, give her treats to keep her distracted. Keep walking and keep doing this until the other dog passes. Over time, she will learn she is going to get treats when she sees that dog and will start looking at you for that reward instead of barking.
(Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to email@example.com. Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.)(c) 2020 DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.