Litter Box Troubles: Part 2: Smells are Loud!

This is part two in a 5-part series, to help you solve the problem of your cat not using their litter box.
You can start your journey here: Litter Box Trouble

To recap- your cat is not mad at you. Your cat is trying to solve a problem with one of the only tools she has: her bodily fluids.

Your cat, environmental activist

One of the most common problems that cats encounter is a change in their environment.

Cats spend the vast majority of time in a smallish space, your house.

Environment is very important to them. I can’t stress this enough.

Cats have an incredible sense of smell

Your cat has two olfactory organs. One is her actual nose and the other is located in the roof of er mouth. It’s called the vomeronasal or, Jacobsen’s organ.

If you’ve seen your cat panting (while his eyes bug out a little), you’ve seen her really trying to smell something.

A cat’s sense of smell is similar to our sense of hearing, in that it’s very hard to ignore and has a big impact on our ability to concentrate and feel peaceful. In other words…

Smells. Are. Loud.

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Have you ever had a bad housemate?

Let’s say you were listening to a music you really like, something comforting, something you were used to.

Your housemate comes in and says, Ugh, we are never listening to that again, we’re listening to this! And then she proceeds to play something strange and awful, something you’ve never encountered before and that you don’t want to hear again.

You’d be upset, right?

This is what happens when you introduce a new smell into your home. A new smell can be loud music to a cat. And they just want it to stop.

Of course, some cats are very calm about smells. They do not care. But many cats can’t. Their environment, the place they hold so dear, has been violated by something loud and unsettling.

Your cat turns down your music by making a music of her own: urine.

Your cat does this because the smell of her urine is comforting. Her urine drowns out the smell she doesn’t like, and it also sends the message to you that she is not liking this new situation. She’s not mad. She’s just disappointed in your choice.

Great. you’re thinking, My cat doesn’t like a smell. Awesome.

Never fear. You can have your new lavender candle.

Like a noise you hear all of the time, so often that you stop hearing it, a smell that cat smells all the time will fade into the background. You can bring it in gradually, and unless it is truly awful, your cat will get used to it.

Some of the most common new smell culprits are candles, cleaning products, personal care products, and new furniture.

If you want to change your cleaner, do it gradually. Start with a room that’s not near the litter box room, or near the bedroom, places your cat has designated as safe. Just like how the gradual addition of a sound doesn’t bother us, the gradual addition of a smell is less likely to bother them.

New furniture requires a transitional object. Take a well-loved cat blanket or towel and put it on your new couch. Or if your cat is very sensitive, rub the furniture with the blanket and keep the furniture in your garage until your cat has had a chance to smell the furniture on the blanket and seems non-reactive.

The smells that your cat is used to are comforting smells. Abruptly getting rid of a smell can be nearly as upsetting as abruptly introducing a new one.

Signs a cat is finicky about a smell:

1. They go potty where the smell has been recently used.
2. They go potty very soon after the smell has been introduced.

Remember, not all cats are finicky about new smells. Be sure to explore the other problems your cat may be trying to solve.

Cats are particular about their bathrooms, just like we are.

Let’s say you go to your bathroom, and you find that your housemate has carpeted the bathroom floor.

She also made a carpet cover for the toilet lid. It’s shag.

Where did your beautiful tile go? The one that felt so cold and clean on your feet?

Your cat’s litter box is like your bathroom. If she is using the box, she likes it.

Don’t change her bathroom.

Don’t buy litter on sale. Stick with the brand she loves. This saves so much heartache.

Also, make sure you use an enzyme product like Nature’s Miracle on the places that she’s already hit. You don’t want to remind her how she solved her problem before.

Your cat is your friend trying to live in a world that you impact.  You can solve her problem.

Will you let me know how this goes for you?

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