My cats mainly use the litter only when I'm eating or just getting to sleep
My first cat started doing this and all of a sudden the two kittens I acquired a few months ago started doing it too.
They mainly use the litter box only when I'm eating or just getting to sleep. I would be OK with it if it didn't happen throughout the night, several times.
As far as food consumption, while it is available all the time, they still eat less than the recommended amount. Food hasn't recently been changed out and has happened across 2 brands. I doubt the food itself is the issue.
Any help would be greatly appreciated.My thoughts:
From your description, I'm assuming your cats are repeatedly entering and leaving the litter box at particular hours of the day. The kittens copying the older cat is not a surprise, but a closer look at what's really happening in and around the box might be helpful.
The question is, are they going in the box and actually using it, or are they just swishing the litter around and coming back out of the box?
In other words, is this playtime (burning off energy), a health issue (tried to go but can't), or legitimate bathroom time (success)?
In my experience, the main reasons cats repeatedly go in and out of the litter box in a short period of
time are constipation, urinary tract problems, or follow the leader/king of the hill/game playing.
Assuming no other health issues, the constipation issue can often be solved through diet (dry food contributes to it) and encouraging your cats to drink more water.
You might try regulating feeding/bathroom times on a more controlled schedule. You can, to some degree, regulate your cats' bathroom habits by regulating when and how much they eat. That requires set meal times, rather than free feeding.
If the problem is box guarding or playing in and around the litter box, I would add at least one more litter box in a different part of the house.
I would also increase your cats' exercise/play time to burn off that excess energy. The hunting instinct is strong, and all that energy has to come out somehow.
Twice a day exercise sessions, morning and evening, when cats are most active, can help with this. An evening exercise session followed by meal time has helped many a cat owner get a better night's sleep.
Jackson Galaxy summed this up well with his "hunt-catch-kill-eat-groom-sleep" mantra. Get better control of when your cats eat, and when they exercise, and that will naturally lead to resting when you want them to rest.
I hope that helps and please let us know how things progress.