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Is your cat in the top 4%?

This is Butterfly. We share a problem. My cat pees outside the box. I have to deal with it. Feline Inappropriate Elimination (FIE) is the number one reason cat owners abandon, relinquish, or euthanize their pet. If you share the problem, check with your veterinarian to be sure there isn’t an underlying medical issue. Our first problem with Butterfly was related to a bladder infection. Once treated, she returned to using the litter box. But given the all-clear from the vet last week, we’re pretty sure this round of FIE is a cat with anxiety issues.

One writer’s war on FIE goes on. Who knew this was part of a writer’s life? Concurrently with scrubbing the floor, using an enzyme destroyer, and getting some plants cats don’t like, I do a litter preference test. What kind of litter is best for cats? We’ve been using cat litter made from recycle newspaper since Butterfly was a kitten. I love it because it doesn’t leave a cloud of dust. And yes, there are pellets that sometimes get tracked out of the box, but I prefer sweeping those up to the choking clouds of dust raised by clay litters and those 99% dust free litters. Amazing how much dust 1% turns out to be.

Phase II of My War on FIE: From the Trenches “Are you keeping the litter box clean?” It’s one of the first questions asked when you address the problem of FIE–right after the, “Is there a medical problem.” Seems like one of those, “Well, duh!” questions. Apparently it isn’t. To kitty a box that isn’t routinely scooped is probably akin to a toilet that hasn’t been flushed. Just saying.

So it’s time to do a cat litter preference test. Most sources I’ve consulted support a sandy material that may appeal to something deep and primal, since cats evolved from the African wild cat. It doesn’t appeal to me because of my deep and primal need to walk on sand at the beach, not in the house. But, given the limited choice between finding pools on the floor and sandy tracks, it’s a no brainer.

Another thing, harsh smells may drive a cat away. (Okay, they drive me away, too, especially the smell of cat urine on my carpets.) So how to clean the box? A weekly hot water and detergent scrub is sufficient for cleaning the litter box. Don’t use bleach. And, even though I think the boxes are clean, over time, plastic collects odors that I can’t smell.

New boxes, new litter trial. I’m on it. At the pet store, I pick up four new litter boxes. I study the litter options, finding a sandy litter that says, “no tracking, no clouding” on the packaging. Looks like it might fill the bill for cats and me. Have I found the best cat litter?

At check out, I wait behind a woman who is whining because there aren’t any birthday cakes left in the pet birthday section and it is her dog’s birthday. She’s going to have to face him with shallow explanations as to why he doesn’t have a cake. She thinks they ought to stock a better supply of party hats and streamers, too.

Once I’m home, it’s time to set up the test. I figure it is like the old blind test of Pepsi vs Coke, except Butterfly isn’t going to consent to wearing a blindfold. In tray number 1: pee-pee pad, tray number 2:  the familiar recycled newspaper cat litter, and next in line, tray number 3: no tracking, clumping cat litter. The tension mounts. Which litter does my cat prefer?

The moment of truth. Butterfly sniffes all three boxes, climbs in to check the newspaper litter, uses it. Yay! Maybe it does matter that it’s in a new box. One victory doesn’t win the war, though.

Getting your cat’s litter right is an important part of getting rid of cat pee outside the box–I keep reminding myself.

Butterfly may be the target cat, but the other two figure they are part of the experiment. Luna doesn’t seem to be all that particular and leaves a spot in all three—who knew she was that interested in equity? Alistair thinks anything as important as rating the litter box should belong to the Lion King. He gives five stars to the sand. I don’t actually see him in his personal moment, but I know it’s him because I follow the tracks he left. So much for trackless litter. He returns to the sand litter box both upstairs and downstairs, leaving tracks in both places.

After a few days of making note, it comes down to keeping the familiar litter and disappointing Alistair, who really does love the sandy clumping litter. I hope he doesn’t express his disappointment by Feline Inappropriate Elimination!

****** Important disclaimers. I’m muddling through this, hoping to solve the problem of cat pee outside the litter box without having to take Butterfly for cat behavioral therapy. I’ve been gratified to find some very helpful online resources. Check out these if you need more than tongue in cheek musings.

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