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Lately we’ve been seeing a lot of cats with “box issues”. Sometimes it’s “just” inappropriate urination, sometimes it’s a full blown urinary tract infection or large amounts of crystals. If you’re a boy cat and really unlucky it might be a urethral blockage.

Pee problems can range from the annoying (inappropriate urination) to the life threatening (urinary blockage). Yes, if your cat “blocks” it can be life threatening. In this condition they are not able to pass urine at all and, once the bladder fills, the toxins that the kidneys usually filter out of the body will back up into the blood stream. Also, as you might imagine, with nowhere to go, the urine can eventually cause the bladder to rupture! So, for starters, if your cat is not peeing, or is passing only small amounts of urine frequently, bring them in to see us right away!

But let’s assume you haven’t called us because everything is ok. What can you do to maintain that status quo and not have any box issues?

To start with, make sure you have enough boxes. No one likes to be stuck outside an occupied bathroom crossing their legs! The basic rule of thumb is to have one box per cat in the house plus one extra.

Are your boxes big enough? The rule of thumb for box size is that it should be 1.5 times the length of your cat from head to the base of the tail. That’s a pretty big box and I’m willing to bet that unless you have a very petite cat the average box in the pet store will be too small. Sure, lots of cats live with these small boxes and do ok, but if we really want to provide the optimal bathroom situation to prevent problems, bigger is better. I (Dr. Erika) have a young Maine Coon cat and have already had to upgrade box size. I didn’t do it until it was far overdue, and she let me know. She let me know by not being able to make it into the box! She would walk in and have a pee facing the back of the box. Her heart was in the right place, but unfortunately she had become too long and her little fuzzy bum would hang over the side of the box. Good thing we had litter mats in front of the boxes! Now that we upgraded box size even this completely accidental accident doesn’t happen anymore.litter-spinner-cat-litter-box-2

There are an overwhelming array of cat box options out there. Most of the fancy “self-scooping” boxes get ruled out when you follow the 1.5 cat length size rule, but in case they don’t I’ll give you my two cents. Any box that “self-cleans” by being twisted, turned, or rolled over is probably not a good idea. These boxes take the dirty, smelly used litter and wipe it all over the inside of your cat’s bathroom. No one wants to use a bathroom with pee on the walls!

Some of the automated mechanical scooping litter boxes are ok as long as your cat is not upset about them. Most cats seem to do ok with these kinds of boxes.

Open or closed? That’s a very good question. For cat’s sake I say open. For my house’s sake I say closed. Ideally an open box will have the best ventilation and the best view of the outside world. This helps your cat feel secure that they are not likely to get ambushed. Plus, if someone does approach, any side is an exit. Now, speaking as a cat owner with a “sneaky sprayer” boy cat, I have to use closed boxes or I get pee on my walls. There are boxes with high walls that can help this problem depending on the size of your cat. Closed boxes are ok, just remember to choose a box with adequate ventilation so you don’t end up with porta-potty syndrome. Bigger doors are better, and doors with flaps or other coverings should be avoided.

Just can’t find a box with the right size door or the correct length? Make your own! It’s super easy to give your cat a deluxe custom bathroom that says, “I care about the resale value of your condo.” In all seriousness, though, a large luxurious cat box can be created from an inexpensive plastic storage tub. These tubs can be purchased in many sizes and depths, allowing you to protect your house from stray sprays and to reduce some of the litter spray from exuberant diggers. Simply cut a hole in the side for a door, fill with litter, and viola, a custom sized cat box! They come in just about every color, too.

We’re about out of time for today, but watch for a future post on litter types coming soon.

Is your cat currently having some “box issues”? Don’t delay, give us a call today. Remember, pee problems in boy cats can be a fatal illness, and no one wants to go longer than necessary with an uncomfortable bladder!

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