Treating cats as if they’re dogs
It’s hard to imagine a cat playing fetch, or a dog spending its waking hours preening, so why would we expect the same behaviours from our fur babies when it comes to housetraining? According to cat behaviourist and author of The Cat Whisperer, Mieshelle Nagelschneider, a “one-size-fits-all” approach to raising four-legged friends can have disastrous consequences. “We can end up creating cat issues – and making a lot of existing issues worse – by treating them like dogs,” she says. “Cats are a little bit more wild – they’re not fully domesticated, and still have many of their wild cat instincts.” These instincts help explain some of the more curious behaviours exhibited by housecats, including perching high (a means of keeping an eye on potential predators) and fussily refusing to drink day-old water (they’re hard-wired to be wary of bacteria).
Only providing one litter box
It’s not just fresh water that felines tend to fuss over. It turns out they also prefer having more than one litter box to choose from. “In nature, cats like to separate their urination and defecation behaviours,” explains Nagelschneider. “In the home, having just one box where there’s both urination and defecation can cause a cat to urinate outside of the box.” Her rule of thumb is to provide one litter box per cat, plus one more. “For example, if you have two cats, you need three boxes,” she says.
Putting all of the litter boxes in one room
Nagelschneider stresses the importance of distributing litter boxes throughout the home. “Multiple locations actually trump the number of boxes,” she says. “If you have five cats, but can only have three boxes, it’s essential that those three boxes are located in different areas around the house.” Why the need for separation? According to Nagelschneider, it goes back to a cat’s territorial instincts. “It’s like 10 roommates trying to use one bathroom in the house. After a while, you’re going to start getting irritated with them,” she says. Competition over household litter boxes can cause lasting damage, even causing cats to unfriend each other over time.