Can You Crate Train a Cat?

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The following is an excerpt from Petfinder.com’s FurKeeps Kickoff live Facebook Q&A.

Q: I have a 5-year-old male Maine Coon who was dumped on my front porch four years ago. He has become an amazing cat, really sweet and cuddly. He comes when his name is called, sits and waits patiently for his food or treats.

Can You Crate Train a Cat?

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The problem is he is always peeing in my house. It doesn’t matter how many clean litter boxes I have, or whether or not they’re electric, he still pees in my house. I want to keep Rift because he’s stolen my heart, but I can’t handle the urinating all over my house.

What can I do?

A: Feline elimination problems are the No. 1 most common cat issue. It is estimated that one out of every 10 cats will have lapses at some point in his life.

So what can you do to try to change the situation, especially if he’s been having accidents for years?

First, get a vet check to make sure he is healthy. All the behavior help in the world cannot fix a problem that is medical in nature. Some cats have chronic issues, so if you treated something a few months ago, it doesn’t mean the cat isn’t sick again.

Second, if he gets a clean bill of health, I would use a two-week confinement program with him. Here’s how:

  • Keep him in a cat crate, dog crate or small powder room with no carpeting and nothing absorbent outside of his litter box and a bed. If he pees in the bed, he loses that as well for the two weeks.
  • During that time, play with him, groom him, love him up, but if you are not directly engaged with him, he should be confined so he has no opportunity to go on anything upholstered or carpeted. You are building up a new habit, so I strongly recommend sticking to the two weeks and not cutting corners.
  • If he’s happily urinating in the corners, outside of the box, then you might do what we did with one Persian: He was confined to a cattery cage that had two resting platforms, one with his food and water and the entire floor surface was covered by two or three different types of litter boxes with different choices of substrate. He virtually had no choice but to use a litter box.
  • After two weeks, he was let out of the cattery for an hour or two after he used the box. We slowly lengthened his time outside the cattery cage, and knew we had accomplished what we set out to do when we observed him running into the cattery himself to use the box. (We had reduced the boxes to the one he used most by then.)
  • Lastly, don’t forget while he’s in confinement to clean every inch of everywhere he has ever gone within an inch of its life using a good odor neutralizer as directed. You may need a black light to show you where urine deposits remain. If you don’t clean it all up, it is incentive for some cats to freshen up the spots with more urine.

Good luck!
Jacque Schultz, MA CPDT-KA
ASPCA Community Initiatives
New York, NY

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