The cat is one of the few pets that can use a particular place to feed, almost instinctively. In this article, the first in a series of three, we will explore the reasons for cats’ ability to litter, why they sometimes use the living room rug, or the bed in place of litter and how to equip them to avoid such damage.
We know that the cat is a territorial animal. What is less known is the fact that it divides its territory into different areas, each of which has a specific function? There is the zone of social interaction, the isolation zone, the hunting zone and, of course, the elimination zone which is called the latrine. The cat chooses this location according to very specific criteria. First of all, it must be mentioned that the cat is able to find its latrine area thanks to two mechanisms. He has an excellent Cartesian memory that gives him a very effective sense of direction. He also uses the odor left by a hormone called felinein that is in his urine to better identify his latrine.
The litter is the bunker of the cat
Her latrine is normally quite far from the hunting area, but not far from other areas. It is often a place back but not totally isolated. The latrine is usually positioned so that the cat can be concealed while being able to monitor his surroundings. There will also be several avenues of escape in the event of a danger.
Why does the cat bury his needs?
The latrine is large enough for him to have his stool and urine in different places and where he has the opportunity to bury both effectively. Why does a cat bury his needs? Because the cat is in the middle of the food pyramid. He has as many predators above him as prey below. He buries so as not to leave any trace that potential predators would detect and not alert potential prey that he could hunt.
Acquired or innate behavior?
Burial is an instinctive gesture in the cat, but the way to do so is often learned. Kittens will look at their mother, siblings or other adult cat and imitate their behavior to bury. This fact may explain why some cats scratch the walls of a litter rather than the sand itself. The reason is simple. It’s a safe bet that these cats were raised in a house with a litter with a lid or whose walls were too high. They could hear their mother or the other adult cats scratching very well but did not see them doing it. As the noise seems to reach the walls, the cats learn then that it is necessary to scrape the walls and not the sand.
Urine to mark its territory
The cat does not urinate just to eliminate. He also uses his urine to mark his territory. To understand better, when a cat makes his mark, we can imagine that he is planting a sign that says “Attention! Private land, forbidden to enter under penalty of reprisals “. However the way to urinate when the cat is doing the marking is quite different than when it eliminates. The marking is done outside the latrine and it is often a small jet of urine projected on a vertical object (less often on a horizontal object) which leaves a particularly nauseating odor.
Contrary to popular belief, it is not just males who can make urinary marking, but females too. In addition, the vast majority of non-castrated male cats will invariably be labeled from the age of 7 to 10 months, whether outdoors or indoors. This is why sterilizing your cat, male or female, will drastically reduce the chances of it marking urine.
Why the bed or the sofa?
Anxiety and fear are other possible reasons that a cat can shed out of bed at home. An anxious or scared cat can urinate in specific places, either the bed or the sofa of his masters to try to reassure himself. Why the bed or the sofa? Simply because it is in these places that the smell of its masters is most present.
How to choose the litter box
Litter in a house replaces the latrine outside. It must therefore meet substantially the same criteria. The place must be big enough. The size of the litter box becomes important. You should be able to get the equivalent of three cats in a litter to say that she is a good size.
With or without a lid?
The litter should preferably not have a lid to allow the cat to be able to monitor his environment when he needs it. He must be able to feel safe as if he had chosen this location in nature according to his needs.
More bins than cats in the house!
The number of bins is also very important. The rule is simple. You need as many bins as there are cats in the house + 1. You have two cats? So you need three bins. Even if you only have one cat, you need two litters. As in nature, the extent of the latrine allows the cat to separate his stool and urine, the fact of having several litter will allow him to do it also at home. It is not uncommon to see a cat using a litter for his stool and the other for his urine. If your cat has a tendency to get stool or urine right next to the litter, it is quite possible that it is because he does not agree to do both in the same litter.
The maintenance of the bins
It also happens frequently that a cat does not accept to feed in a litter where there is already a need of present. In this case, having more than one bin will avoid damage. In addition, the maintenance of bins regularly (once or twice a day) becomes important.
The right amount of litter
How much to put litter grains in a bin? About 3 to 4 inches, just enough so that the cat can scratch almost to the bottom but not reach it.