No Meowing, No Litter Box Use – Help!

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Hello. I’m Dr Jane Matheys from The Cat Doctor Veterinary Hospital and Hotel in Boise, Idaho. I’m going to be answering a couple of questions today from the Facebook page of Pets Best Insurance.

The first question is from Sharon. She writes, “Why does a cat not meow and it is normal? Do many cats have that problem? I have a one-year-old cat that I adopted that does not meow.”

That definitely is very unusual for kitty-cats. I’m a little bit unclear as to whether he is meowing but nothing is coming out or if he’s just not even bothering to try to meow. If he’s meowing and nothing’s coming out, on rare occasions a cat could be born with an abnormality of his vocal cords or elsewhere in the throat area, so he may not be physically able to meow even though he’s opening his mouth and trying to.

Certainly, on rare occasions there are cats that just don’t meow. Sometimes some of the breeds, like the Persians, tend to be on the quieter side, but even they will make noises now and again. You just might have a very unique cat who doesn’t feel the need to voice his opinion, and it’s nothing that I would worry about

The second question is from Hope. She has a very common question. She writes, “What makes a healthy neutered cat refuse to use a clean litter box? He will go all over the house but not in the box, no matter how clean it is. The vet says he has no health problems.”

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This can be a very common problem that we see in kitty-cats and unfortunately also a very common reason why many of the kitties end up in the Humane Societies. The first thing to check out is whether he is truly healthy. It seems like your doctor has ruled out any medical conditions, so then we tend to think it’s a behavioral issue. We want to take a close look at the setup of your litter boxes in the home situation.

The litter boxes that we provide in the homes are not at all like what the kitties would choose if they were outside in the natural environment. The goal is to make sure that his litter box is as attractive as possible so that he doesn’t choose other areas to go. Attractiveness to the cat includes cleanliness, convenience, and safety. There are some general rules that we can apply to try to make sure that the cat is using the box and finding it an attractive place to go.

You definitely want to have a minimum of one litter box per kitty-cat and you also want to have at least one box on each level of the house. You want to places these boxes in different areas around the house so that he has options. You definitely want to pay close attention to the type of litter that you’re using. Most cats like the scoop-able litter because it feels softer to their paws. I would choose one that’s unscented and preferably low in dust.

You want to make sure that you’re not placing the litter boxes near any loud appliances or air ducts because that might frighten the kitties away. Cleanliness is extremely important. It sounds like you are doing a good job already, but there’s usually room for some improvement. You want to scoop the box at least once a day but perhaps even more than that. Occasionally I’ll see a cat that will not use a box even if there’s just one soiled area already in it, so you may need to scoop out the box two or three times a day. You also want to dump out the entire contents of the box at least once a month, sometimes maybe more, and then wash out the box with good old soap and water. Don’t use any disinfectants as they may leave a smell that the kitty doesn’t like.

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Covers or hoods on the boxes and plastic liners cause a lot of problems. The kitties don’t necessarily like the feeling of the liners, and hoods can trap in ammonia odors and also make the kitties feel like they’re being trapped. I do not recommend any of those. Make sure you remove them. You also want to offer the largest litter box possible. Oftentimes they don’t even use litter boxes, per se, but I especially like the see-through plastic storage containers. They can work very well for kitty-cats.

What we’re trying to do is set up a situation so the cat can actually try to tell us what his preferences are and what he likes. I will often recommend that we set up kind of a cafeteria style type of littler box situation in the home. Make sure there are a lot of different litter box types, different litters, and different locations, and let him choose which he likes. Once you’ve figured out what his preferences are you’re more likely to be able to provide that for the kitty and then he’ll use those boxes.

Something else you definitely want to do is make sure you are properly cleaning the areas where the kitty soiled. An enzymatic cleaner is going to do the best job of actually breaking down the odor rather than just covering it up with a fragrant scent. If you’re having trouble finding exactly where the kitty eliminated, especially with urine, a black light can make the spot stand out so that you know where to do the proper cleaning.

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If you’re still having trouble after trying these tips and advice, definitely talk to your veterinarian. The longer these types of problems go on, the more likely they will actually become more of a habit and more difficult to correct.

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