This week, our Litter Box Mentor, Cat Coach Marilyn Krieger, answers reader Renee’s question about why her cat Izzy is intimidating her other cat, Skittles, in the litter box…and what Renee can do to restore peace.
Here’s what Renee writes:
“Any thoughts on a cat who plays potty police with the other cat? Whenever my cat, Skittles, goes to use the litter box, my mom’s cat, Izzy, hides and stalks Skittles.Then when Skittles is done in the litter box, Izzy chases and tries to attack Skittles … it’s concerning because now Skittles is in the animal hospital due to a blockage in her colon. I know Skittles’s excessive scratching at the litter seems to be Izzy’s trigger, just don’t know what to do to help them. Any thoughts? Thank you.”
It sounds like Izzy is resource guarding the litter box. She has territory and status issues. Unfortunately, Izzy’s behavior is causing Skittles stress. Stress can cause urinary tract, bladder and other diseases.
You can stop Izzy’s behavior by making a few changes in your home. You need to place more litter boxes around your house so that Skittles has choices. If one box does not feel safe, then she can choose another. The boxes need to be large and uncovered. Place them in areas where Skittles can see when Izzy is approaching and can easily escape. Avoid placing litter boxes in closets, cabinets and other areas where Skittles can be ambushed.
In addition to adding the litter boxes, you need to add vertical territory and more scratchers throughout your home. Vertical territory includes tall cat trees, shelves, armoires, etc. Vertical territory will help Izzy establish her place in the flexible hierarchy. Cats scratch for a number of reasons—one of them is to mark territory. Add both horizontal scratchers and scratching posts in all of the rooms the cats hang out. Adding both the scratchers and the vertical territory will help Izzy establish her position in the flexible hierarchy and allow her to mark her territory.
Renee, we hope this helps! This is a common issue that sometimes cat parents miss. If you have more than one cat and one starts peeing outside the box, pay attention to the interaction between the two cats. Even if they get along elsewhere, there may be some subtle (or not so subtle) intimidation happening surrounding the potty!
Readers, any additional thoughts or questions?
SEND IN YOUR QUESTIONS or SUCCESS STORIES! Email caroline(at)highpaw.com with subject “HLB success story” OR “HLB Question” and we’ll see if we can help you. Also, if we use your question or feature your success story, you get a surprise goody pack in the mail, including $5 coupons for Tidy Cats litter, treats and other fun stuff!
Marilyn Krieger, Certified Cat Behavior Consultant and owner of The Cat Coach, LLC® solves cat behavior problems nationally and internationally through on-site, phone and Skype consultations.
Marilyn’s award-winning book, Naughty No More! focuses on changing unwanted cat behaviors through clicker training, environmental management and other force-free methods. She also writes behavior columns for Catster. Marilyn is big on education—she feels it’s important for cat parents to know the reasons behind their cats’ behaviors.
She is a frequent guest on television and radio, answering cat behavior questions and helping people understand their cats.