The headline caught my eye which is why I have reused it. What does it mean? How can a family who own five cats live in a litter box? It is actually not as difficult as one might imagine but I am not referring to an actual normal sized litter box that you buy from a pet store, I am referring to the home itself.
What I mean is that under certain situations – and it is normally stress which brings this along – cats will urinate and defecate outside the litter box even if the litter box is clean and well sited. If there are five cats in the household and if they are all stressed then all five could, under extraordinary circumstances, eliminate inappropriately. Once this has happened domestic cats will tend to return to the place where they previously defecated or urinated and do it again. Multiply that times five and you have created a home which is an oversized litter box. The whole thing may be exacerbated by the owners who will no doubt become irritated and upset.
The answer would seem to be twofold. Not only must the cat caretakers clean up the mess thoroughly and remove any odour from urine and poop with an enzyme cleaner they also have to remove the root cause of the problem which is usually, as mentioned, associated with a stressful environment and one that lacks enrichment. The cats’ owners need to look to their behaviour to ensure that it does not inadvertently create a stressful environment and they need to observe the behaviour of their cats to ensure that they get along adequately and that they live in an environment which is as enriched as it can be from the perspective of a domestic cat.
There needs to be an assessment about whether there are antagonistic relationships between some cats. Perhaps the home is too small for five cats? Perhaps they live in an apartment? Strange cats may be entering the home through a catflap antagonising the situation. There should be separate feeding bowls and separate litter trays. There should be high places to allow the cats to exercise their desire to move vertically rather than just horizontally. All these things can be read about on this website in more detail by searching for appropriate words and phrases such as “cats stress”, “enriched environment”, “inappropriate elimination”, “multi-cat households”.