Family with Five Cats is Living in a Litter Box

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.

SMELLY home
Home smelling like a litter box. Image in public domain.
Until September 7th I will give 10 cents to an animal charity for every comment. It is a way to help animal welfare without much effort at no cost. Comments help this website too, which is about animal welfare.

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.

Sometimes timid cats are bullied by more assertive cats and the timid cat has nowhere to hide. Hiding places should be in place.  Cats need to be allowed to spread out and chill out.  

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”.

5 thoughts on “Family with Five Cats is Living in a Litter Box”

  1. Yes, there were about five years when I had 14 cats where we all shared a 565 square foot house. Meeting the needs mentioned in these articles are what I learned by observance, asking questions, trial and error and dire necessity. To be fair, most of them were harmonious; only three were antagonistic (males) and that wasn’t all the time, but it persisted. And I was pretty much on my own because ten, fifteen years ago (and still) I’d risk ridicule or even condemnation for having that many at once. But I used to run stables and care for a dozen horses at a time, so I agree that if you haven’t some kind of experience like that and are willing to work at it 24/7, you are probably in over your head.

    Reply
    • ALbert, I have a strong sense that you managed very well. It does depend on the person. They create the environment. Even with a lot of cats the situation can be managed with insight, observation and commitment. I sense you have those qualities.

      Reply
      • Thank you Michael, and to make a correction on a typing error, I meant to say if you “aren’t willing to work at it 24/7”. And I admit that at feeding time, I often just counted heads (or tails) to see that every cat had theirs’.

        Reply
    • I salute you, Albert. Some people don’t want to put in the time and then they complain that cat care takes up too much of their time. Makes me wonder why they got a cat in the first place.

      Reply

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