by Barbara George, Tellington Ttouch Behaviourist
We have looked at the various parts of a cat that are used in communication, and talked about the sounds they make. There is one other avenue that cats use to communicate – the litter box, or sometimes not the litter box!
Messages about digestion and health can be found in the litter tray. The first step is to understand what ‘normal’ is for your cat, then note any differences. For example, a Maine Coon adult has a far larger bladder then a Singapura, so it would have a bigger urinary output.
A typical cat will urinate 2-3 times and pooh once in a 24-hour day; however it does depend on the cat and the diet. Many small attempts of either type indicate an issue which requires a vet visit. The size of daily pooh does depend on the diet; again notice any change in the number, size, and consistency as these are signs that something is not working correctly.
Since smell is a major form of communication, and elimination is a good way to spread smells, this is equivalent to the cat shouting out messages that may not previously have been heard or understood. Eliminating outside the litter tray, including spraying, is a way of communicating with either a specific person/animal or generally anyone who comes past the area.
These messages typically fall into one of 3 major categories; medical, territory marking, and other behaviour issues. Each of these categories has subcategories depending on the many factors that have influenced the cat.
The first step in resolving elimination issues is always veterinary consultation, since medical issues can be diagnosed and treated relatively easily. Other solutions are as varied as the cat, environment, and reason and therefore cannot be covered in one article.
Another action that could be classified under this category is scooting – where the cat sits on a surface and propels himself forward, effectively wiping his bum on the floor, often leaving a very smelly trail. This signifies a potentially serious issue with anal glands and should be seen by a vet as soon as possible.
So really cleaning the litter box and all those ‘accidents’ is an important factor in understanding your cat, and not just a daily chore.