An opinionated feline in Edmonton, Canada who lived with a retired cat behaviourist, Greyce provided behavioral advice to cats in need until her death in July 2014. Because her entries are useful even today, the blog remains posted.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Moving Food Bowls & Litter Boxes to Different Locations

Dear Greyce,

Now that we are back to being friends, (see Cat Companions are Back to Being Friends  4/27/11) we need more help. Precisely, how do we return to using our regular food bowls and regular litter boxes, now that we no longer have to time-share space? For some reason, Themselves are not pleased with the thought of permanent installations in the master bedroom.

In the olden days, we used two litter boxes: 1) upstairs in the hallway bathroom and 2) in the main floor bathroom. The first box was moved to the bathroom in the master bedroom when we were time-sharing (since we both needed toilet access at all times). Our litter box on the main floor never moved.

In case you need to know, we have a spare box which is use in rotation, so Themselves have the chance to clean one of our soiled boxes and let it dry without disturbing us too much.
Let us know what you think.

Yoshi and Taro

Dear Boys,

Moving things back to where they were poses some interesting problems. So let me reply in detail.

Food Bowls
I assume you have food bowls in two locations at present - one probably in or near the master bathroom (where one of you was sequestered while the other roamed about) and one elsewhere. Do you share food bowls?

Probably the easiest way to do this is to s-l-o-w-l-y and systematically reduce the amount of food available in the bowl(s) in the master bedroom, while keeping the one(s) elsewhere nicely topped up. You will then get used to where the good supply is located and act accordingly. This, of course, assumes that you free feed.

If you are fed at specific times of the day, switching locations would be even easier - because you would naturally gravitate to the sound of kibble being poured or the can opener revealing the scent of wet food - and happily eat where the food was placed.

Some of us decide that a new location (like that bedroom one you now have) is ideal and don't give up easily. Purrhaps you are the kind that enjoys a midnight snack while the folks are asleep and appreciate the convenience of grazing nearby? If so, then there are two possible solutions: 1) place a small treat (a few treat kibbles) in your bedroom bowl just before bedtime (and not at any other time); or 2) place a small bowl in the hall outside the bedroom door (so you don't disturb the folks). Just make sure it isn't in a location they will trip over!

Litter Boxes
Thank you for being so precise in describing your litter box situation. As you know, changes in territory (and where you pee and poop are definitely territory-related) can be stressful. And we want to minimize that, while satisfying Themselves.

Here is what you have going for you:
1) Your main floor litter box location has remained the same throughout. No change needed. Yippee!
2) You are used to using the 'spare' box in rotation, so putting it to further use should not be stressful in the least - because you are familiar with it already.

Here is what I suggest: Have Themselves install the spare in the hallway bathroom. Then they are going to have to move the box in the master bathroom s-l-o-w-l-y in the direction of said bathroom. The slow pace enables you to get used to the new position.

Here is how to do it:

Week 1: Move the box in the desired direction at the rate of about one inch (2.5 cm) per day. Although this will seem like a very small distance to a human, it is a lot for cats because we are very knowledgeable about the placement of each piece of furniture in our territory and security of territory is paramount.

Week 2: If you are okay with the change so far (and continue to use the box without incident), increase the distance it is moved to about 6 inches (15 cm) per day.

Week 3: Increase the distance again (probably to 9 - 12 inches or 24 - 30 cm) per day, by which time you will likely be pretty close to the final destination.

If at any time during the process one of you is uncomfortable with the change, move the box back to the previous location (the last one you were okay with) and wait a week before resuming with the moving of it. And re-start the moving of it using shorter distances (for example, if you got the willies at 9 inches per day, re-start at 6 inches or less).

When the box is about a foot apart from the one in the hall bathroom, Themselves can remove one of the boxes and keep the remaining one in the desired location. Then you will be down to using two litter boxes (one on the main floor and one upstairs, again).

Given your history, start with changing the food bowls and when you've adapted to that change then start to work on the litter boxes. Trying both at once would just be more complicated and would likely stress you out.

Let me know how this works for you both.