Saturday, May 9, 2015

Cats and Crap

Hello, and welcome to Caturday! Today I'm going to highlight one of the less glorious parts of cat ownership...

if this picture was a person it would be lewd

"That's gross," you say "why do you even think this is a good idea?" you ask nobody in particular, as you contemplate not reading the rest of this post even though there will be cute cat pictures in it.

Well, you see, cats are adorable and do tons of super cute things, but they also definitely have to poop, in fact I'd say most likely daily, if not more often. It's a reality that is important to acknowledge if you want a happy cat, and understanding cat bathroom habits can help your cat caretaking skills immensely.

There is actually a buttload of information regarding cats and their poop boxes. You could write a full length novel about it. Luckily, you don't have to do that, and you can just read this post. So, let's get right into this crap!

I didn't mean litter-ally.   get it ahahah

So, of course, if you have a cat, you know you have to have a litter box. A litter box seems simple. Put it in a discrete corner, get some clumping litter, toss it in there, and scoop it periodically. Done!


stop right there

Let's start with something serious. Until cats are about four months or older, clumping litter can literally murder them. If they ingest it (sometimes intentionally, sometimes accidentally through grooming their paws), it can clog any of the various small tubey parts of their digestive system, cause infections, and kill them. Brutal, I know, but a real possible threat.

Once cats get older, they can safely ingest litter (if your cat purposefully eats litter a lot, it may have a disorder or other significant problem) and it will pass harmlessly through their larger, more mature, various digestive tubes. They also tend to not accidentally ingest as much litter as they get a little more clever with age.

those summer school programs helped a lot too

So, your cat is not a kitten anymore, and you can use clumping litter. Great! There's nothing else wrong with it and the choice between clumping and non-clumping becomes far less life-or-death after four months old.

If you don't know the difference, here is a super brief run-down on the differences between the two choices...

Clumping litter absorbs cat pee (or any liquid) into solid chunks that can be easily removed. This allows the litter to be used longer without having to do a full litter change, but should still be cleaned at least once a month. Non-clumping litter is usually cheaper and tends to allow for much better odor control, but needs to be changed very regularly, at least once a week or more with more cats.

Note that there is no such thing as never having to clean out the litter box. Clumping or non-clumping, the litter will still get soiled with smelly, dirty bacteria that cannot be scooped out no matter how hard you try. Non-clumping is cheaper, but it requires much more frequent cleaning, so I'm unsure how much money you'd truly save.

and that's just his weekly allowance

When you do a full litter change, I hiiiighly recommend cleaning the physical boxes, not only to attempt to keep bacteria at a minimum, but it helps with the smell immensely. One of the biggest causes of a smelly box is simply a dirty box. If you're upset that it smells, honestly, it's probably your fault. Scoop it and clean it.

or your cat might just be super trashy

Aside from ingestion death, the choice between different types of litter is yours to make - or your cat's. If you have a particularly picky cat, you may have to get a different kinds of litter, or even use different amounts of litter. Since you can't talk to your cat, guess and test. If you want to do a scientific study, use different kinds of litter in different boxes until you can discern which your cat prefers.

I only use the finest blends of litter to make my poopies

So now you know how to make sure your month old kitten doesn't die, how to keep your litter clean, and that you should clean all your boxes regularly.

You do have more than one litter box, right?

Generally you should have one box per cat, plus one. If your cats are not bros, you should absolutely have more boxes than cats in different places in the house to allow them the most freedom and choice and keep them from being afraid of using "someone else's" box. Cats who are bros tend to have few territorial related problems, but they still won't want to use a dirty box.

Note: if your cats groom each other, they are almost certainly bros. There are other ways to tell if your cats are bros, but this post is not about that.

pictured: bros

The reason for this is not only because the cats won't like to use a full litter box, but rather that cats who aren't cool with each other will not want to use the same box, even if it's hours apart. The smell of the cat they don't like will deter them from using the same box as them, and they will find some other place in your house to go.

Furthermore, your litter box placement has to be mindfully done, as well. You have to make sure the boxes' location has more than one direction to approach and depart from. A fully covered litter box with only one entrance for example is a terrible box to use, especially if you have more than one animal in the house. A dominant high school jock cat will actually bully other cats from not using "his" box by cornering and intimidating them or blocking them off. It doesn't matter to him that the other cat will end up pooping somewhere else in the house, as long as it's not in his territory.

TIL winston churchill had a cat named Jock and requested that a similar cat
should replace every previous cat and that they should all be named
Jock and live comfortable lives in his estate
(but I'm not changing my joke)

Location still matters even if your cats are besties. You can't pick spots where there is consistently loud, startling noises or an area of the house that the cats don't like to go into. If it's constantly very cold or damp and gross, that's a bad spot. Hopefully there are no areas like that anywhere in your house, but just for example, if your house is connected to an unfinished basement and there is an area with concrete floor where it's always cold and uncomfortable... I mean, would you want to poop there?

your cat wouldn't use this toilet either

Cats share some similarities with people in their bathroom habits. Other than the obvious dissimilarities, cats like clean, comfortable places to do their business. Imagine if your toilet was hard to get to, or if it was hard to stand up in your bathroom.

Additionally, hopefully similarly to people, cats don't like to poop where they eat - keep the litter box and feeding areas separate. Even well behaved poopers may become stressed by having to eat next to their bathroom, choosing instead to take creative license in where they think their bathroom should be.

some cats take creative license with everything, though

One myth, however, is that cats prefer privacy. They really don't care. They may share some similarities with people, but they are in fact cats. Your cat will use a litter box in the middle of the living room. In fact, he may think that location is amazing.

not pictured: a private area

Another dissimilarity is that cat's don't want air fresheners and dusty perfumes coating their boxes and surrounding areas. If you clean the box regularly, smell will not be a huge issue, but if you must use any sort of scent augmentation, use a subtle deodorizer, as in, a smell neutralizer that doesn't create a new smell but just eliminates the existing smell. Your cat has a sensitive nose and doesn't want the litter box to smell like apple cinnamon spice or Hawaiian sunset. Pro-tip, cats actually highly dislike citrus. Put citrus smells near the litter box and you may as well be shooing them away each time they try to use it.

the horrified face this cat makes is priceless

Another thing that may create bathroom issues for your cat is declawing.

Personally, I'd implore you to not ever declaw your cat, but note that a cat without his claws may find difficulty and displeasure in using certain types of litter or in covering his business. A cat that has been newly declawed will always have significant trouble using a litter box because of the tenderness of all the toes, along with possibly getting severe infections on his paws due to the surgery. If you do declaw your cat (please don't), the location doing the surgery will hopefully inform you of the bathroom difficulties your cat will start having to face for the rest of his life so that you can accommodate him.

you know, after you mutilated him

There are other things about litter boxes and cat poop to consider that are relevant to your own health. I'm sure most people have heard about that dreaded, terrifying disease toxoplasmosis. I've read my fair share of fear mongering, click bait articles with titles like "Your Cat Is Unintentionally Murdering You and Your Entire Extended Family." Toxoplasmosis does indeed result from an infection from a parasite that only reproduces inside of cats. Bummer, truly.

oh well

The truth of the matter, though, is that becoming infected with this parasite and disease is not only actually not super likely directly from your cat, especially if it's an indoor cat, but it's fairly harmless to an average, healthy person. Your immune system will fight the disease and the parasites will become inactive in your body, actually making you immune to getting the disease again. That's a lot less scary than Buzzfeed and other nonsense websites made it out to be, huh?

Not only that, but the parasite toxoplasma gondii can be found anywhere in the world and be contracted through dozens of other methods. In fact, simply cleaning your cat's litter box regularly like you are already supposed to will help prevent it, as the passed parasites in the feces don't become infectious immediately.
In the United States, people are much more likely to become infected through eating raw meat and unwashed fruits and vegetables than from handling cat feces.

more toxoplasmosisey than your cat

If you've read about toxoplasmosis from a viral 'news' publication and are worried about it, read some actual information about it. I've done half the work for you, here is an article from a veterinary university regarding the parasite and its relationship with your cat, and here is actual medical information about the disease.

Aside from possible parasites, the cleanliness of the box is still important. If you don't regularly clean and disinfect the entire box, bacteria will build up in the unwashed areas. I'd recommend regularly cleaning and disinfecting the floor of the area around the boxes, if that wasn't already obvious, as well. No matter what you do, litter will get tracked around the house, so vacuuming and cleaning are necessary to keep the place tidy.

trying to get your cat to vacuum for you usually doesn't work

If your cat is having bathroom issues, it could very well be related to something you have no idea is wrong, including some sort of physical malady that causes actual pain revolving around the litter or the box itself. If you know the boxes are in fact totally dirty when you notice your cat's poop in an unacceptable place, he's probably not acting out to spite you and he's probably not in physical pain - he just said "oh hell no," after looking at the litter box.

you MUST be joking

I've barely covered everything here, so if your cat is in fact having bathroom issues, take him to the vet or just try to do some simple research.

Of course, any idiot with a blog that you're currently reading can write words on the internet, so if you just google something, not everything you read may be true. If you need a good, trusted source to start with, I'd recommend Jackson Galaxy.

cat lover, cat behaviorist, tv show host, hero

Jackson Galaxy has his own litter box tips and tricks sections on his site, but nothing I've written in this post contradicts his suggestions. I will admit however that I personally don't follow his suggestions entirely, but that's because I have young, easy going cats who don't mind sharing litter boxes and don't ambush each other while they are pooping. Generally, most litter box situations are fine and the deeply intricate details of cat behavior related to litter boxes is used to help fix problems. Making your house a bathroom heaven for your cats can be tedious and stressful - drastic changes are probably not necessary to your situation if you are not experiencing problems.

I only have three boxes for my three cats and they're all in the same area. I'm very lucky because my cats are not picky about their boxes and share them without altercations. The only issues I've had in the past were because I was lazy and didn't clean the boxes regularly enough. If your cat has "accidents", you may be surprised to learn that they were actually "on purposes" and it's entirely your own damn fault. Clean your boxes.

Sorry for the crappy (hahah) Caturday post, but I hope you enjoyed it and maybe learned a thing or two. Have a great weekend!

bonus picture of toona being a fluffy fatass

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