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Does previous use affect litter box appeal in multi-cat households?

J. J. Ellis, R. T. S. McGowan, F. Martin

WHEN a cat is eliminating outside the litter box, if there is no underlying medical cause, it is usually recommended to try to make the litter box as appealing as possible to the cat. Understanding the factors influencing the association between inter-cat relationships and out-of-box elimination could be key in developing solutions in affected multi-cat households.

This study investigated the relationship between previous litter box use and the identity of the previous user, type of elimination, odour and presence of physical/visual obstructions in a multi-cat household scenario.

Four-day preference test scenarios, in which each cat was provided with two litter boxes each presenting a different treatment condition, were set up to assess if previous litter box use affects box preference; if odour alone influenced litter box preference; and to assess if obstructions alone influenced litter box preferences.

Cats preferred to eliminate in unused litter boxes over used litter boxes. However, this did not appear to result from signals communicated chemically, as the identity of the previous user had no impact on box use. The preference to eliminate in unused litter boxes also …

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