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Do Cats Prevent Other Cats From Using the Litter Box?

By: Dr. Debra Primovic

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Do Cats Prevent Other Cats From Using the Litter Box?

Do you have cat litter box problems? Specifically, do your litter box problems stem from one cat preventing other cats from using the litter boxes (also known as litterboxes, litter pans or litterpans)?

If the answer is yes, read on.

Cats are territorial by nature. Their behavior is often guided by a hierarchy-that is, who's in charge over whom. Disputes can arise over, among other things, litter box usage.
Cats will mark their territory by urinating or leave their feces uncovered. This is a very clear way to say to other cats "Hey, this is my place – this territory is taken!" You might have noticed this if your cat is angry or upset by being left alone and goes to the bathroom on carpet, clothing, or beds.

Bathroom habits, it seems, are serious business when it comes to cat society. Dominant cats will often show their power through their bathroom behavior. Two things often happen with dominant cats.

1. Some cats will sense another cat's dominance and be reluctant to use that box without the other cat doing anything. They will try to find other places to go that aren't already "claimed," which can be a problem if you don't have other boxes in the house.

2. In other situations, dominant cats will actually "guard" their litter box and attack another cat if they go near it. This causes the second cat to look for alternative places to urinate and defecate. If you have enough boxes and locations that are appealing, this other location will probably be in a different litter box. If you don't this may be an inappropriate location such as your bed, laundry, or carpet.

KEY POINT: Make sure you have enough litter boxes for your home!

To minimize these types of territorial or dominance issues, you need to have enough litter boxes in locations appealing to your different cats.

How many boxes do you need? As a rule of thumb, you should have one box per cat plus an extra. This means if you have 3 cats you should have 4 litter boxes. If you have 2 cats you should have 3 boxes. Of course, more is always better.

Another consideration is whether cats feel territorial due to their environment. Overcrowding (too many cats per square foot) can lead to territorial problems. Enrich your cat home with perches, cat condos, cat shelves, hideouts, window beds, screened patios or decks, and cat trees. This adds effective square footage to your home and creates interesting, safe areas for your cats to explore. To learn more, go to Selecting the Right Environmental Enrichment for Your Cat.

Boredom can aggravate dominance issues so ensure your cat has plenty of play time. Engage them in different types of toys and play to occupy their minds and prevent bordom. Learn more by reading 12 Ways to Avoid Boredom in Your Cat.

I hope this information helps you understand how cats interact and how minimize territorial cat litter box issues.

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