Good Morning
Good Morning

Cats and their litter-box habits

There's likely just one reason a cat stops

There's likely just one reason a cat stops covering its waste, but it's one of many possibilities. Credit: Oksana

Q My 4-year-old male cat, Max, has developed an unusual habit. While he always uses the litter box, he no longer bothers to cover his poop with litter. Have you heard of this before, and do you have any thoughts as to why this might be happening?

— Martha, Long Beach 

A Cats usually cover their waste and don't need their owners' help. But it's not uncommon for a cat, especially a male cat, to suddenly stop covering its poop in a litter box. It's likely just one thing, but it can happen for many reasons.

For example, if a cat is in pain, has a painful elimination, a urinary infection, or even a tender paw, he may not feel like covering his waste.

If the litter box is too small or is located in the wrong place, a cat may be eager to get in and out of the box quickly.

If there is more than one cat or a new cat in the house, the cat may leave the feces uncovered to communicate dominancy. But the behavior could also be because the cat no longer likes the texture of the litter.

If there is no health problem, then change one thing at a time to see what works. Start with a new, slightly larger litter box to give him more space to move around. If that doesn't work, then relocate the litter box to a place that feels more secluded. Next, try adding a second litter box or adjusting the depth of the litter. If all else fails, change the litter type but do so slowly, mixing portions of old and new litter until you are eventually only using the new litter.

Just know a single sunbeam coming through the window and hitting the box at just the wrong angle could change your cat's litter box habits. You will have to play detective to figure it out.

Q In a recent column, a woman from Illinois complained about her neighbor having her dog loose out in the front yard when she was walking her dog. The dog would come up to her dog. I Googled this issue because I have problems with my neighbors' six dogs running around in their front yard. It's caused a lot of problems with everyone on the block. Neighbors don't listen unless you explain the law. There is a leash law in Illinois that says no dog may run loose. This includes front yards. When she goes up to the neighbor's house, she should point this out.

— Tammy, Long Island

A One of the most common complaints between neighbors has to do with a neighbor's off-leash dog. While the neighbor may say their off-leash dog is friendly, if the unleashed dog approaches the leashed dog, there could be a fight since the leashed dog may be dog reactive and/or think he must protect its owner. At the very least, unleashed dogs cause stress for the dog walker, who doesn't know if the approaching dog is friendly or not.

In Chicago, like on Long Island, unless the dog is being used as a rescue dog, service animal or law enforcement dog, the dog must be kept under restraint by a leash or lead when outside of one's property line. This means a dog owner may keep a dog off-leash on his property, so long as he maintains control.

If a dog runs off the property, however, then the owner is not maintaining control. Talking to neighbors about animal ordinances requires diplomacy and doesn't always result in happy neighbors. Unless you are already friendly with your neighbors, you may worsen tensions if you try to talk to them. In your case, and with so many neighbors affected, I recommend calling animal control and letting an animal control officer talk to your neighbor about leashing his six dogs when off his property.

Q I must have the strangest cat in world. I take out nail clippers, call him and he comes running. He lets me cut each nail and for some reason loves to eat the clipped nails. Maybe that is the distraction?

— Jeff, Henderson, Nevada

A You not only have one of those rare cats that comes when called, but you also have a cat that makes nail clipping easy. As for eating the nail clippings, I have never heard of a cat doing that, so I agree, you might have the strangest cat in the world.

More Pets