My cat isn't using the litter box in my new apartment
by Taylor J
Hi! I recently moved into a new apartment with my boyfriend.
I got my cat, Marley, who is about 2 and a half, while in college. He lived with me in my house in college, and I never had any issues with Marley and the litter box.
When I graduated, I moved back in with my parents for a couple of years and Marley was with me there. They have a big house, but he got used to it very quickly and never had any issues.
I just moved into a new apartment with my boyfriend and Marley isn't settling in too well.
I think my boyfriend scares Marley a little but they are bonding better each day. He still seems very scared of the new place though and isn't using his litter box.
He's NEVER had any issues using it and I'm not sure what to do to make him feel more safe and comfortable in his new home and get back to the happy, curious, loving, playful Marley he has always been. Any advice would be great! Thanks!
I'm sorry to hear that your cat is having trouble settling in. This is a common problem.
I know a lot of people bring a cat into the house and give it the run of the place, but that is not always the best idea. It can be scary for a cat to be dropped into a new place.
In fact, the way you introduce a cat to a new home, much like the way you introduce a cat to another animal, is often critical.
The prevailing advice from major cat welfare organizations is when a cat is first brought into a home, it's usually best if the kitty is confined to a single room. There are a number of good reasons for this "cave" approach, and a big one revolves around cats being territorial beings.
When they're moved from one territory to another, it can take up to six months for the kitty to get used to the new territory. As I'm fond of saying, cats hate change, and a gradual introduction to the house can help ease the transition.
When you confine a cat to a small area, it's easier for the cat to manage. With a smaller amount of territory to get used to, at least first, the cat
has a chance of settling in much more quickly.
During that time, you can monitor for behavioral and health issues, make sure litter box habits are sticking, and get the cat on a regular feeding/exercise/play/sleep schedule.
Once the cat is secure and confident in that new, small territory, the cat can be allowed to explore more of the house. If your kitty becomes uneasy, or encounters anything that might be a threat, he can retreat back to the relative safety of the cave.
This principle can work in reverse as well. When a cat has a severe litter box problem that doesn't seem to resolve, isolating the cat in a single room can help to get the cat back on track.
It's also worth considering that there might be a medical issue, and the stress of a move doesn't help in this regard.
Assuming medical issues have been ruled out, here are some things I would focus on:
Reduce stress and increase Marley's exercise levels. Products like Rescue Remedy and Feliway
can help to calm a cat during stressful times.
Keep noise levels to a minimum during this transition.
Give him extra attention and affection, as well as additional play/exercise time, but don't force him to interact.
If he wants to be alone, give him his space and a safe place to do that. Set up perches and cat trees for climbing and high viewing, and hiding places where he can rest in safety.
Offer Marley two litter boxes, placed near areas of the house where he frequents, but not in high noise or high traffic areas. Bathrooms and laundry rooms are popular choices, but not always the best due to noise and activity.
Consider keeping him in one room for a while, where he has all the amenities, including his litter box, and gets lots of visits from you before exposing him to the rest of the house.
Encourage a stronger bond with your boyfriend, including playtime.
Consider that there may be unfamiliar smells in the new apartment, so allow him to scent up objects and place them around the house. The more the place smells like him, the better he'll feel.
Keep in mind that there may be other animals nearby, and he and he may be feeling threatened by that.
I hope that helps and please let us know how it goes,