For over ten years, my family and I have had several cats sharing our home with us. Our first kittens, Tiger and White Sox, came to us from a friend whose own two cats had produced a litter simultaneously and she was in desperate need to find good homes for them. Next to arrive was Bonnie, whom I brought home after seeing some young kids tormenting her. Then Brat Cat joined us; her mother was a stray who decided our backyard was a good birthing place.
And then there was Morgana. She was rescued from the Animal Shelter when she was still quite young.
By the time Morgana moved in, a little over a year ago, my husband and I thought ourselves “old hands” regarding litter box training. With all our previous felines, we’d had little or no trouble adjusting them to the litter box. At that time, White Sox and Brat Cat were the only two living in the house. Bonnie had passed on and Tiger refused to be a house cat, preferring to live outdoors.
Morgana was a challenge.
When she first came to us, she was about six weeks old, newly-weaned. We kept her in our bedroom the majority of the time for the first month for two reasons. First, since that is where my husband and I spent most of our time, it was easier to train her to use the litter box which was kept in our bathroom. Second, we wanted to give White Sox time to adjust to the new kitten, as she is rather old and doesn’t like changes.
We had a large covered litter box in our living room which our other cats shared. For Morgana, we placed a smaller, uncovered box in our bathroom. It took about three weeks before Morgana was consistently using the litter box, which was longer than it had taken our other cats but we weren’t overly-concerned.
The trouble began once we moved Morgana into the other parts of our home. Since she was still too little to climb into the larger litter box, we put the smaller one in the living room also. But after she became large enough, we put the smaller one away. And then Morgana rebelled. She began leaving little “surprises” for us all over our living room furniture.
We thought she just needed to be re-adjusted to the larger box, so we began our training over again. But none of our tried and true techniques worked this time. Whenever we’d put her in the litter box, she would jump right back out. And if we tried to keep her there, we would get several scratches for our trouble.
My husband and I didn’t know what else to do; we talked to other cat owners we knew to see if they might know a reason for her strange behavior. One friend mentioned that cats sometimes act out when their environment undergoes a change, but I couldn’t see how anything had changed – other than her being around the other cats more often and she seemed to enjoy that. White Sox didn’t much care for the frisky kitten and did her best to stay far away from Morgana. But Brat, being younger, loved to play with Morgana.
Another friend suggested Morgana’s behavior might be caused by not keeping the litter box clean enough to suit her. Of course, we knew that cats would often not use a dirty litter box, and so we would scoop it out every couple of hours. But now we began to clean the litter box more often; every time we saw White Sox or Brat occupy it, in fact.
But still Morgana refused. I looked around on the internet, trying to find some advice on this problem, and discovered it’s recommended to have one litter box for each cat and a spare. Sharing had never bothered our other four cats, but we went out and bought three more large, covered litter boxes anyway.
Morgana was not impressed by our consideration for her cleaniness. Her “surprises” continued. Then it occurred to us that, perhaps, she was adverse to sharing a litter box with any other cat. So we removed the large, covered litter box into our bathroom where only she would have access to it. That didn’t work either.
My husband and I were just about at our wits’ end. We had no idea what else we could do, short of making her an outside cat. We’d tried every suggestion from friends and the internet we came across and nothing helped.
And then our son gave us the clue we needed. He was playing with the cats one day, and he tossed a blanket on top of Morgana. She went wild; hissing and clawing until she got out from underneath the blanket. We realized our little Morgana had a fear of being enclosed, as she was inside the covered litter box. I suppose this derived from her time spent in a cage at the shelter with so many other kittens.
However it began, we now knew what to do. We took off the cover of the litter box for Morgana and it took no time at all before she was happily visiting it all the time.
Mary Arnold holds a B.A. in literature and history and is a confirmed cat lover. Her writing portfolio (and pictures of her cats) may be found at www.Writing.com/authors/ja77521