A cat should never be disturbed while toileting on a litter tray

Cat on toilet

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A cat should never be disturbed for any reason while toileting on a litter tray. Here is a really nice example of how things can go wrong.

Serena Cuthbertson’s cat, Fantasia, was ill and her vet prescribed pills. Serena had to administer them. We know how tricky that can be. After a few successful but difficult attempts at giving a pill Fantasia decided enough was enough and conveniently disappeared whenever it was pill time.

The one certain time when Fantasia was fixed to one place and clearly visible was when she was on the litter tray. It seemed a good idea to deliver the dreaded pill while she was doing her toilet. This worked out nicely and Fantasia recovered well. The world was at rights. Until….

Fantasia decided to go to the toilet anywhere but in the litter. Fantasia had decided that the litter tray was a place where unpleasant experiences took place. She had a made a classic association between two events. It was a case of unintended cat training with unforeseen consequences.

The argument goes that cat owners should never take advantage of a cat (or anyone) when in a vulnerable position.

Fantasia learnt that the litter tray was no longer a secure place to be. The cure was to try and make the litter tray once again an agreeable and secure place.

Serena was advised to move the litter tray to the place that Fantasia had used as a toilet area because this area was regarded as safe and pleasant enough by Fantasia. The idea is to break the association between using litter and an unpleasant experience.

Covered litter trays are possible the best because they are simulate the sort of area a cat might use outdoors (i.e. under a bush). I have a covered litter tray and it was used successfully by my late lady cat, Binnie.

I think cats like a bit of peace and quiet when doing toilet. The same for us. The positioning of the litter tray is pretty important. Also some cats don’t like to pee and poop in the same litter tray. I don’t know how commonplace this is. Two litter boxes may well be needed for one cat.

The basic rules for litter box location are, where possible:

  • Quite location
  • Private location
  • Easy access (not upstairs for example)
  • Pleasant location (not in some unpleasant place such as a basement)
  • Not near food
  1. Associated: Litter Box Aversion
  2. Photo Gordon Flood

15 thoughts on “A cat should never be disturbed while toileting on a litter tray”

  1. I have to test Mr Minns’ urine for glucose and urea. This means standing over him while he’s on the tray so I can dip the diagnostic strip into the flow (without touching him). I thought he’d be disturbed by this, but it’s got to the point where he jumps in the litter tray ready for testing whenever he sees me in that part of the house! I’m sure the post-litter tray treat helped matters though.

    • Nice. Are you testing for diabetes? Charlie used to go outside to the toilet but now we have moved he goes to the litter. I always tiptoe around him when he is using it because I am very pleased he is using it so well and don’t want him to use any excuse for not continuing. He hadn’t used a litter for many years but got the knack back instantly.

      • He’s diabetic (feline transient i.e. on-off diabetes) and hyperthyroid. I have to test so I know whether his diabetes is “on” or “off”.

  2. Quite right Michael, toileting is private and no cat should be disturbed.
    We have a litter tray in the bathroom and in the alcove in the hallway for emergencies but they are rarely used, our boyz like the corner of the garden we keep dug over and is now covered in the leaves which keep coming down. Jozef particularly likes this time of year, he digs away and the leaves fly.
    Of course cats are allowed to sit in the bathroom and watch us on our toilet, it’s different rules for them lol

    • I was just thinking Monty would probably enjoy a litter tray filled with leaves. Not gonna do it for him– but it does seem like he enjoys leaves. He seldom poops outside unless there are leaves on the ground.

      • I’m sure Monty would love a leafy tray Ruth lol
        Walter likes chasing leaves, it’s usually quite windy here and they float down, if he catches one he sings a sort of yodelling song, the same one he sings if he catches a mouse lol

        • Monty is vocal, but he doesn’t say anything when he catches prey (a toy or live prey.) We see pictures of each other’s cats and it can almost seem like we know them through the pictures, but we really don’t because the sounds they make are so varied and so much a part of who they are. Like Michael’s Charlie who looks so much like Monty but doesn’t sound like him at all.

          • Wouldn’t it be good to hear each others cats ‘speaking’ Walter would record a long spiel, although Jozef doesn’t say much at all apart from when he’s in the cat basket to go to the vets and in the waiting room.

      • Walter is very funny on a night, he keeps shouting ‘meow’ at me in the bathroom as if to say ‘hurry up’
        I have to escort him to Barbara’s bed, lift him on and then he marches up and down the bed between us barking and shouting, then sits down by me at the bottom and I say ‘trust’ and he falls onto my arm.
        I wish we had a video camera.
        Jozef waits on my bed for our goodnight cuddle.
        We all love our bedtime routine 🙂

      • Monty pushes his way into the bathroom too, pushing the door all the way open. It doesn’t latch so there’s no way to stop him. He does that when I’m soaking in the bath tub. It is less than 60 degrees F in our house in the winter, so when he pushes the door open all that cold air rushes in. Then he doesn’t even stay long, so at least I could enjoy his company. He just saunters off like his work is done. Cats hate a closed door. It’s simply not allowed. Unless he wants to be put in his room at night. Once in awhile he seems to want his privacy in there.
        I think the rule is that Monty is allowed privacy in his room and certainly while in his litter box (he gets annoyed if I am nearby) but I am allowed no privacy anywhere in the house, including while bathing or “using it” as the kids where I teach would say. (I wonder if “I gotta use it” is a widespread slang term among youth today or just African Americans who say it or if that is just a Milwaukee thing, like saying “bubbler.”) Anyway, in my house, if I gotta use it Monty is going to be there, sniffing around even, and there is nothing I can do to stop him. I used to laugh at my sister when I’d see her and her cat Kobe both come out of her bathroom upstairs. If she doesn’t let him in there he howls outside the door, so it’s just simpler to invite him in.

        • lol our bathroom door doesn’t latch either, well it does but once shut on we are locked in unless someone sets us free from the outside. So we push it too with a toy cat (of course) If we forget to tell visitors about this it’s quire funny hearing them shout ‘Help I can’t get out’ It’s a wonder we have any visitors left lol
          So the cats have a free for all and realty it’s an honour they want to be with us when we do such basic things in there lol
          I laughed about your sister and Kobe and now you have Monty doing the same, yes cats just hate closed doors.

  3. I had to laugh at when I read that covered litter trays simulate an area a cat might use outside, like under a bush. Not Monty. If there are leaves on the grass Monty prefers the middle of the back yard. I’ll look out to check on him or sometimes I’m out getting some exercise and there he is, perched and pooping right out in the open on the grass. My husband hates this, so he took care of the leaves. Monty wasn’t too happy about that, but then he went back to pooping on the side or very back, areas where we don’t mow the grass or walk. But so long as he has leaves to cover it up right out in the middle is his favorite place to do his business.

  4. This makes total sense – I never bother my cat’s mid toilet time. Sometimes I am in the same room but I just ignore them. They have that ‘far away’ stare when they are on the toilet anyway 🙂


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