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Dear Christopher Cat

Our 6-year-old cat, who weighs 21 pounds, uses the litter box to urinate, but she won’t use it to empty her bowels. Instead, she goes on the basement floor near the box. How can we get her to use the litter box?

Christopher Responds

First, let’s address routine solutions to inappropriate litter box use.

You should have at least one more box than the number of cats in the family, with at least one box on each floor of your home.

So, even if you have only one cat and live in a one-story home, you still need at least two litter boxes. That’s because some of us cats are so fastidious that we prefer one box for urination and another for defecation.

Offer more than one type of litter. Most cats prefer soft, unscented litter, so try one that’s made of clay and another of pine, corn or wheat.

Make sure your boxes are large enough to accommodate your overweight cat. If her litter box is too small, it’s possible that her rear end protrudes over the side, even though she stands in the box when she defecates.

If these ideas don’t solve the problem, make an appointment with your veterinarian to determine whether your cat has a medical condition that causes painful defecation, making her associate the litter box with discomfort.

Common examples in overweight cats are impacted anal sacs and back pain while posturing to defecate.

Or, if your cat defecates less frequently than once a day, she may have mild constipation that causes painful straining in the litter box.

With a little investigation, you’ll find the cause of your cat’s inappropriate defecation -- and the right treatment for her.

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