Why has cat stopped using litterbox?

There's money to be made in scooping poop

Our cat, Willy, has stopped using his litterbox. His droppings
look normal, but now he always leaves his

stuff

right next to the box, not in it. Otherwise, he’s a young
healthy cat that is the best kitty I’ve ever had. I don’t think
he’s sick, but maybe?
Q: Our cat, Willy, has stopped using his litterbox. His droppings look normal, but now he always leaves his “stuff” right next to the box, not in it. Otherwise, he’s a young healthy cat that is the best kitty I’ve ever had. I don’t think he’s sick, but maybe? Should I have him examined? Could this be psychological?

A:

Willy’s bad bathroom habits could be a sign of illness, but it also could be something more simple. Some kitties are very sensitive to change in their environment, particularly if it affects their litterbox. If you recently changed the brand or type of litter you use, or even if you changed the location of Willy’s box to somewhere new in the home, he could be showing you his displeasure by leaving his “stuff” on the side of the box.

There are other variables here as well. For example, I know a family that started using their downstairs “extra” bathroom while their regular bath upstairs was being remodeled. Their cat’s litterbox was in this downstairs location. Suddenly, their little guy, Oscar, started making messes all over the house. After considerable evaluation, we determined that Oscar was upset that he had been forced to share his bathroom with the rest of the family. When they moved his box to a more secluded location in the house, Oscar returned to being a good boy and hitting the box every time.

Bottom line here is this: If anything has changed, even if you are using a new litterbox that has a different shape or size, go back to what Willy was used to. If his indiscretions persist, he should be checked by his veterinarian. Incontinence can also be a sign of other more serious health issues.

And this is a good time to remind everyone that if you have more than one housecat, you should have more than one litter box. Behaviorists agree that optimally, two cats in the same house get along better if there are two and sometimes three boxes located throughout the home. More litterboxes mean less conflict with private matters and this can prevent lots of messy problems.

Q:

My cat started to lose her hair about six months ago. The vet said she had a flea allergy. When her fur started to grow back, it was a different color. She was black originally now the fur is gray. Not only did the new fur grow in gray, but even where she didn’t lose her fur has also changed to gray. I have never seen or heard of this. Should I be concerned?

A:

Change in fur color occurs with age, but it can also indicate other health problems. So I think you need to get another opinion on your cat’s status. There are several conditions that lead to color change in the coat hair. One is hyperthyroid disease, where too much circulating thyroid hormone changes the skin metabolism and overall physiology. Another possible cause of your cat’s change could be an immune disease where antibodies actually affect lower layers of the skin and change pigmentation. These conditions are all treatable, but as always, it’s best to get an early diagnosis. Have her re-evaluated sometime soon.

Q:

Yesterday, I saw a car driving down the highway with a large dog (I think it was a Labrador) hanging halfway out of the window. It just didn’t look safe. Why do people endanger their dogs this way?

A:

You bring up a good point. There are inherent dangers when a dog has its head outside the car traveling down the road. An insect or a small rock can easily cause serious injury to an eye. Other problems are also possible.

I remember seeing a dog with a swollen tongue, brought in by a man who said his pooch had just yelped as they drove down the road. Within minutes, this dog had difficulty breathing. We had to anesthetized this dog to remove a bee lodged in the back of his throat. The stinger was embedded in the left tonsil and this dog had extreme swelling, making normal breathing almost impossible. You can bet this dog owner never let his dog hang out of the car window again.

And finally, there’s the story about the family dog that jumped out of the moving car to chase a squirrel. He ran off so fast that his family was never able to find him. Just one of many reasons not to let your dog hang out the window of the car as you drive. Doggy seat belt anyone?

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