My Cat Scares My Other Cat in the Litter Box!

November 8, 2013

cat-familyThis 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.”

Marilyn says:

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!

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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.

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Sharon Konnick November 11, 2013 at 12:31 pm

I have a litterbox Nazi named Cuddles. We had worked with him by giving him a lot of structured play and also by stopping him when he would try to attack our other cat, BamBam, for using the boxes. It worked well for about a year, then my daughter and I went away to visit my mom, who lives out-of-state, for a week. During that time, my husband also ended up working double shifts at work. Nobody was there to play with or monitor Cuddles, and he took his frustration and boredom out on BamBam. The situation was exacerbated by the fact that I am BamBam’s safe space. She is very bonded to me, and when all this was going on, I was not there to protect her or comfort her. When we came back, Bam had completely stopped using the litterboxes. In fact, she is terrified to even approach them. If she is confined in the bathroom by herself she will use the litterbox there, but we can’t simply leave her confined by herself all the time. We have dealt with the situation by putting pee pads down for her, and she does use those, but it has been more than two years since she has used a litterbox and those pads get expensive. We have tried Feliway; we have tried Safe Space for Cats from Spirit Essences; nothing has worked. Do you have any suggestions? Oh, we do have multiple boxes (5 for 3 cats), and Cuddles is confined in my daughter’s room when we are not home.

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