Cats Training Wellness Wednesday

Wellness Wednesday- Using Positive Reinforcement to Retrain Cats with Litter Box Problems

I learned what it was like to live with a cat with litter box problems with my  adopted  Persian, Maurice who first showed his problem by urinating on my bed.  I went through the list of things to try but nothing changed the situation.  I resorted to keeping him confined when I couldn’t watch his every move but living like this became extremely frustrating.  When Maurice passed away I hoped this was a problem I wouldn’t have to deal with again.

Then came Pyro.  He was fined for the first two months he lived here, then he started having digestive problems and began not using his box.  We got his digestive problems under control with diet but the litter box problems continued.  I again went through the list of things to do with no success and because my life was so chaotic at the time I resorted to just living with it, cleaning up the messes as they were made.

One day it hit me that there was something I hadn’t tried.  With one of my dogs I would’ve worked to get them used to whatever was bothering them and for some reason it didn’t occur to me to do this with my cat.  I decided I was going to work on getting him back to being comfortable with his litter box with the goal of him using it again.

I started a whole training routine involving the following steps:

  • I picked a litter box that was easy for me to access since I would have to kneel by it.  I made sure it was clean and had plenty of litter in it.
  • Randomly throughout the day I picked Pyro up and put him in the box where I would gently hold him while petting him and occasionally giving him treats. I would keep him in the box for anywhere from a minute to 5 minutes. If he started to get out of the box, I nicely moved him back into the box.  I wanted to be the one who ended the session by letting him to leave, not let him end the session by leaving on his own. I did this routine several times a day.
  • I would also keep an eye for any signs he needed to use the box.  If he started looking like he had
    Pyro, my 2nd litter box issue cat

    to go I would pick him up and put him in the box and start the above routine.  Because this litter box was in a small bathroom if he hadn’t used his litter box after a few minutes I could close the door in hopes that he would use the box. If he did, I rewarded him as quickly as I could trying to give him the treat while he was in the box.  This way he was being rewarded for being in the box not getting out of it.

  • After a while he started to understand that using the box meant he got a reward and I found he became more likely to use the box during our sessions. Once he was using the box more during these sessions, I only gave a treat when he used the box.
  • After  a period of time, he began to make an effort to go to the box himself to use it. I kept an ear out for him using it and once he was done I would go in and give him a treat (I tried to move quietly and go into the room after he had started because Pyro got easily distracted and all he could think of was the treat so he stopped).

One funny side effect of the training was when Omar, one of my other cats, caught onto this whole deal and he would try to invade the litter box so he could get a treat for using it. Pyro, didn’t care, but keep in mind another cat might be bothered by this especially if there reason for not using the box is another cat being territorial.

It’s been about 4 years since I started the training, and I feel a little weird but I  get a feeling of pride when I hear someone in the box and peek in to see Pyro in there. Since he began using the box consistently, he’s only once not used the box. I still occasionally give him a treat just to keep up the reinforcement.

Poughkeepsie, who joined our family last fall, began not using the litter box a few months after coming here. I started him on this routine and have been having good results. I will admit I haven’t been as dedicated with him as I was with Pyro, but even so we are at a about 99% for urinating and 90% for pooping in the litter box.

This is not a quick solution. This is a couple months of work. And I can’t guarantee it will work with all cats. But so far it has worked with my cats and the results have been so worth it.


Have you had a cat with litter box problems? How did you overcome it?


Cats Wellness Wednesday

Wellness Wednesday- Helping a Cat with Litter Box Problems

Litter box problems. It is the most common behavior problem in cats and probably the most frustrating. I’ve had 3 cats that had problems so I am very sympathetic to anyone who is living with it. It was with my 2nd litter box issue cat that I found something that worked for him and has been helping my 3rd.

When a cat starts not using their box there are several things that should be reviewed that may help get them back on track.

1. First thing, get a thorough exam from your vet.  It’s important to rule out health problems that could cause your cat to avoid the litter box.  Not taking care of a contributing health problem can make eliminating the problem impossible.  For example, a cat with undiagnosed diabetes will have to urinate a lot.  They may not be able to get to the box in time.  Getting the cat’s diabetes under control would be the first step in trying to stop the litter box problem.

2. Clean the area where the cat has been going to the bathroom thoroughly.  You want to get all the waste removed and eliminate odor to prevent the cat from returning to the same spot.  Clean the area by removing all the solid waste and getting as much urine up.  To remove the urine from carpeting, stack several paper towels and then place a heavy object or stand on them until no more urine is soaked into the paper towels (You may need to replace towels to get as much urine up as possible).  Once you have done this you will need to use a urine neutralizer.  This will help neutralize the urine odor.

* It is important that you don’t use any cleaners on the area before doing this.  A cleaner can push the urine deeper into the carpet and may cause the neutralizer to not work.  Follow the directions on the neutralizer which usually has you soaking the area and letting it dry on its own.  You want to make sure you soak the area thoroughly so that it gets into any padding.

3. Have plenty of litter boxes.  The general rule is to have one litter box per cat plus one additional box.  So for one cat you would have two boxes, for three cats you would have four boxes.

4. Pick a location for your litter box that is best for your cat.  While we may like a place where the litter box odor won’t bother us this might not be the ideal spot for your cat.  Find a place that is out of the flow of traffic and is easy to get to.  It is also good idea to have a litter box in different areas of the house.  This can be important especially if you have multiple cats, as some cats can be territorial about their boxes and drive your other cats away.

5. Choose a litter box your cat will use. People tend to like covered litter boxes, but many cats don’t. They hold in odors which turns your cat off (think of how much you like using a porta-potty). Cats with mobility problems like arthritis might find a box with high sides hard to get into.

6. Pick a litter that your cat prefers.  Most cats prefer an odorless clumping a litter.  While scented litter might make us happy many cats don’t like it and we want to make the litter box as inviting as possible.

7. Use several inches of litter in the box. This is important especially with clumping litter. Urine tends to spread and becomes hard to clean when too little litter is used.

Any one or several of these things can affect are cat’s litter box habits.  You may want to try changing one thing at a time to see if it makes a difference.  If you find that none of them work then you may want to talk to your vet about trying medication that helps reduces your cats’ anxiety about the box.

I got to the point where none of the solutions were working and I was reluctant to start medication.  What I did try that ended up making huge difference was using positive reinforcement to recondition my cat to using his litter box.  I’ve had good results doing this with my cat Pyro and have been seeing promising results with my cat Poughkeepsie.  I’ll share how I did this in next week’s Wellness Wednesday’s post.

Birds Cats Dogs Ferrets My Pets Pet Care

What’s the Story Behind Your Pet’s Name?

When I adopted my first dog, I wanted to name her Ham.  Not because I’m a big pork fan, but because I felt animals took after their names.  I thought a dog named Ham would end up being a big clown.  But my mother decided she was not going to yell “Ham come” out the back door, so I settled for Whitney, after Whitney Houston.  Fortunately, she didn’t take after her namesake and was the best first dog a person could have.


I love deciding what to name my pets.  Sometimes I come up with a name right away other times it takes a few days to decide just the right one.  I like names so much I even keep a list of potential ones to use.  You never know when one might fit or a friend is looking for suggestions.

Names can tell a lot about the pet and their people.  Often there’s a  story behind  why a name was chosen.  Here are some of the stories behind how some of my zoo crew got their names.



His original name was Toby, but a friend’s dog had that same name and it didn’t seem like a good fit. I like to rename my adopted pets giving them a new start with a new life and a name that has no negative connotations. I had chosen the name Chaos off my name list, but when I picked him up after he was neutered at the shelter, it didn’t seem right. There was a country music band named Ricochet and that seemed like a perfect name for an on-the-go Jack Russell.



I had no intention of adopting another cat when the head vet tech came back in the the treatment area with a 4 week old kitten someone had found and brought to the Emergency Vet Hospital I worked at. She held her out and showed us the cutest kitten.  I knew I was in trouble when the name Charm popped into my head, but I didn’t need another cat. I spent the rest of my shift hoping the other tech would take her home, but that didn’t happen.  She ended up coming home with me after all with her new name.



I found him on Petfinder.  His post was pretty much like all the other ferrets until I got to the end where they had added “he might have something wrong with his legs”.  That didn’t seem right so I went to the shelter the next day to check him out and ended up adopting him.  I’m not sure what they thought might be wrong with his legs, I couldn’t find anything wrong and he moved like a normal ferret walking around the getting acquainted room at the shelter. As I was watching him in the room, I decided to name him Amblin since he seemed to be having fun ambling around.

Eco, my Senegal Parrot



Eco’s name was easy. He joined my household on Earthday and he was green(part green anyway) so something to do with the environment seemed right.



Yes, I’m a kind of a Gleek.  In the pilot episode they show a sign that said “By its very definition, Glee is about opening yourself up to joy.”  I loved that quote and felt it was a perfect description of what it felt like when pets shared your life. When I adopted a bunny a few months after seeing the quote, it just seemed right to name her Glee, especially after watching her do bunny binkies.


What’s the story behind your pet’s name?

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Cats Christmas Countdown Do It Yourself

Christmas Countdown Day 12- Kitty Toys to Make



Looking for something to make for the kitties of the house?  These felted wool balls are easy to make, easy for your cat to paw around and easy for them to pick up.



-Cheap plastic cat balls

-wool roving.  You can find wool at many craft stores including Joann Fabrics. I used about 1 ounce of wool to make 2 balls. I used wool I had on hand.

-nylon stockings


  1. Wrap wool around the plastic cat toy ball so no plastic shows through.  Add more wool for a cushier toy. Use different colors and make patterns.
  2. Place wool wrapped toy into stocking and knot the stocking right above the ball.
  3. Throw stocking into washer with a load of laundry, hot water will help them felt faster. (If concerned about color leaking wash with something you aren’t concerned about.  It doesn’t need to be a full load).
  4. Throw into dryer.
  5. Repeat washer and dryer steps.
  6. Carefully remove from stocking as wool fibers may be coming through the nylon.
  7. Optional: Place in a bag of catnip to make them even more enticing.
  8. Let kitty enjoy.
When the toy gets looking a little rough for wear, just run through the washer and dryer again and it’s ready for more play!
Visit 7 Yaks Design for more detailed instructions and picutes.



Cats Christmas Countdown

Christmas Countdown Day 11- Chip the Christmas Cat


Guess there is no saving this wrapping paper to re-use.