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Elimination behavior patterns of domestic cats (Felis catus) with and without elimination behavior problems

Wailani Sung PhD, DVM1 and Sharon L. Crowell-Davis DVM, PhD2
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  • 1 Department of Anatomy and Radiology, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602.
  • | 2 Department of Anatomy and Radiology, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602.

Abstract

Objective—To investigate the relationship of litter box location as it relates to cats' use of space in the house, elimination problems, and certain behaviors associated with elimination.

Sample Population—40 cats in single-cat house-holds with or without elimination behavior problems (20 cats/group).

Procedures—Camcorders were used to record the cats' behaviors at the litter box and other areas in which they eliminated during a 72-hour period. Use of space in the house was recorded by direct observation during 400 minutes of the 72-hour period. Elimination behaviors and other cat- and litter box–associated variables were compared between groups; litter box location with respect to inappropriate elimination was assessed.

Results—Litter box location did not differ between cats with and without elimination behavior problems. An inverse correlation was found between time spent sniffing and the distance of the litter box from the central core area. Cats with elimination problems spent significantly less time digging at the litter box than cats without elimination problems. There was no significant difference in the time spent pawing in litter box, sniffing, or covering excreta after elimination between the 2 groups of cats.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Times spent digging in litter boxes by cats with and without elimination problems have been determined, and data suggest that actual digging times could be used as a means to test for litter preference and litter aversion. This information may also be used to identify cats with litter aversion prior to the development of an elimination problem.

Abstract

Objective—To investigate the relationship of litter box location as it relates to cats' use of space in the house, elimination problems, and certain behaviors associated with elimination.

Sample Population—40 cats in single-cat house-holds with or without elimination behavior problems (20 cats/group).

Procedures—Camcorders were used to record the cats' behaviors at the litter box and other areas in which they eliminated during a 72-hour period. Use of space in the house was recorded by direct observation during 400 minutes of the 72-hour period. Elimination behaviors and other cat- and litter box–associated variables were compared between groups; litter box location with respect to inappropriate elimination was assessed.

Results—Litter box location did not differ between cats with and without elimination behavior problems. An inverse correlation was found between time spent sniffing and the distance of the litter box from the central core area. Cats with elimination problems spent significantly less time digging at the litter box than cats without elimination problems. There was no significant difference in the time spent pawing in litter box, sniffing, or covering excreta after elimination between the 2 groups of cats.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Times spent digging in litter boxes by cats with and without elimination problems have been determined, and data suggest that actual digging times could be used as a means to test for litter preference and litter aversion. This information may also be used to identify cats with litter aversion prior to the development of an elimination problem.

Contributor Notes

Dr. Sung's present address is the FIRST Regional Animal Hospital, 1233 W Warner Rd, Chandler, AZ 85224.

Supported by the Pet Care Trust.

Presented at the 37th AVMA Annual Convention, Salt Lake City, July 2000.

Address correspondence to Dr. Crowell-Davis.