Cat in mourning won't use litter box

by Jo
(NS, Canada)

My female cat of 10 years has stopped using her litter box. Her house mate of 10 years, died a month ago and she has had litter box issues ever since.

The only time she goes to the box is when we carry her to the box and put her in it. She holds it for hours at a time.

I've cleaned the box and the area around it to no avail. Any help would be appreciated.

My thoughts: I'm sorry to hear your cat is grieving, and I'm sorry for your loss. I'm assuming she has no medical issues that might contribute to or cause this problem.

Cats grieve in different ways. Some go into a deep depression and stop eating. Others begin "acting out" and tearing up things or pacing the house and yowling, and still others stop using the litter box.

In your cat's case, it would appear the stress has thrown her off the box. There are no guarantees, but there are some things you can do that may help ease the stress.

If she were my cat, here are some things I would try:

Exercise, playtime, and extra attention.

You can help relieve her stress with more exercise, playtime, and attention, if she'll accept it. Give her space if that's what it seems like she needs, but you might try encouraging more play and exercise.

A few new toys and a regular play session or two every day might help to get her moving and distracted.

I don't know how often you groom her or if she enjoys it, but if she does, a daily grooming session might help to stimulate her.

I would make every effort to acknowledge her, talk to her, and show her affection as much as possible during this time. If it seems like she needs to be alone or is annoyed by
your efforts, however, I would back off.

Maintain a routine.

Maintaining a routine is always important. It's even more critical when her world has been turned upside down. Avoid any major changes, if possible, unless you feel those changes will help her recovery.

Use food, especially treats.

Cats are often food motivated, so you might want to increase the treat frequency just a bit. If you place some treats around the house in unexpected places, this can help stimulate your kitty.

Products that may help.

1. To help attract her to the box, use Dr. Elsey's Cat Attract Cat Litter or add Precious Cat Ultra Litter Attractant to your current litter. I'd go for the additive first and stick with your same litter, since that would be the least amount of disruption.

2. Feliway

Feliway uses a synthetic cat cheek pheromone and may help ease anxiety and the effects of stress in cats.

3. Bach's Rescue Remedy

Rescue Remedy is a favorite of some cat rescuers for helping to calm cats during times of stress.

Contact your vet or a cat behaviorist.

Your vet, a vet who specializes in behavior issues, or a cat behaviorist may give you some additional perspective. Although I'd try the above options first, sometimes drug therapies can be helpful as a short term solution.

For example, some of our readers have reported success using Prozac to help their cats get through tough times or resolve litter box problems.

Isolation retraining is always an option in extreme cases of inappropriate elimination. I think I'd be careful with that, though, as confining her to a room may increase stress and worsen any depression. On the other hand, if you can spend a lot of time with her in there, she might be comforted by the smaller space.

I hope that helps, and please let us know how it goes.

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Aug 30, 2017
Litter box
by: Anonymous

You might try locating the litter box in another location.

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