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Litter Box Tips: How To Keep The Mess Contained

September 12, 2011

Cerebellar hypoplasia cats, no matter what age or severity, can be somewhat of a mess in the litter box. Here are some tips that may help keep the mess to a minimum.

Click here to learn more about which litter box may be right for your CH cat, and brush up on some litter box basics.

Hoods can be purchased separately.

CH kitties are masters at somehow managing to throw all of the litter they come into contact out of the litter box. My CG was such an ace at this, that when he’d go into his litter box, a plume of smoke would puff out at the very end. He was intent on making sure he covered his mess properly – but in the process would also shower our floor with litter.

The easiest way to cut back on “litter storms” is to purchase a litter box with a hood.

If you’re using a non-traditional litter box, try cutting a doorway in a large plastic container, then placing it over your litter box. Although this means your kitty may take a litter shower while doing her business, it’ll cut back on the mess.

A few additional notes on this. If your cat is a storm-creator, do her a favor and take the door (if there’s one) off the front of the box. Sure it may mean some litter will fly out the opening, but it’ll definitely cut back on the amount of dust your cat inhales.

Likewise, your cat may also come out covered in litter dust. If you’re around and have a moment, try to brush as much as you can see off – with a dry towel or with a quick combing. This will help minimize how much she ingests.

But a litter box hood isn’t the only thing you’ll need. Consider placing a litter mat or even a throw rug at the litter box’s entrance. This way, if (OK, when) the litter is kicked out of the box, it’ll be somewhat contained.

If it’s clean, I usually “recycle” it by dumping it back into the pan. Otherwise it’s thrown away with their business.

However, we all know that litter’s not the only thing that can find its way out of the litter box. It’s not uncommon for even the most capable CH kitty to step in his or her own mess before exiting.

If this is an issue with your cat, try limiting her to her own room while you’re out. Cover the floor in old towels, so if she leaves a trail, it’ll be easier to clean up (and won’t get into your carpet or floors!).

When you’re home, try to keep an ear turned toward her litter box. If you hear her in it, walk by to see if she needs assistance getting out without making a mess.

Tarps are no longer just for painters; they’re great floor coverings for messy CH kitties.

Another option, something we’ve done, is placing a canvas painting tarp on the floor. We did this in our guest room when we moved in (pre-Ellie), because it’s where my husband would keep his bike and softball equipment (covered in field dust). It was relatively cheap, and it’s super easy to spot clean, especially compared to carpet.

Lastly, all of this can (usually!) be avoided by keeping the litter box as clean as possible. Kitties are clean creatures and will naturally avoid stepping in their own mess — but what a shame if by avoiding one mess, they step in another! If your cat is having digestive issues, and consequently loose stools, try to be present at as many litter box trips as possible. You may be able to help keep her relatively clean.

Do you have other tips? Please feel free to leave them in the comments or email me!

38 Comments leave one →
  1. Jacquie B permalink
    September 30, 2011 5:01 am

    Thanks for the tips! I sure need them!

  2. Natalia permalink
    October 8, 2011 9:09 am

    My cat pees outside of the litterbox. Is it normal for CH cats to have urinating problems?

    • October 11, 2011 9:08 am

      Natalia,
      Thanks for your question. I’ve emailed you, so hopefully we can discuss this more and find a solution!
      Best,
      Amanda

  3. JacquieB permalink
    October 14, 2011 3:16 am

    Please share all responses with me! As I said before, I need all the help I can get! My CH kitty, Percy, seems to be getting better about his business but here is what we do for him: We have a very LOW SIDED litter box but rarely does Percy actually find his way into it on time(he is a severely affected CH kitty, he does not walk- he flops), so I use the pee-pee pads for him and cover those with newspaper, so I can usually make the pads last longer that way. Percy likes to scratch up the paper (or pads) after he potties like most cats do, but even with all these precautions he still sometimes pees on the carpet. And I keep baby wipes on hand to clean his bottom, legs and tail after his BM’s.

    Consequently, we have an area roughly 5’x5′ with a litter box in the middle in the corner of the living room and it really is unsightly and annoying, I have to clean up his messes several times a day and must keep the newspaper subscription up to date. But Percy is so funny and lovable and such a special little guy that he is worth the extra trouble, so we deal with it. When the weather is good I let him hang out in the yard for the afternoon with the outdoor kitties. Funny though, I think he holds his bladder and bowels for when he comes back in the house cus thats usually the first thing he does when he comes back in!

    Percy is not like any other cat I’ve ever known. He is like a different creature altogether and I truely love that little guy!

  4. JacquieB permalink
    October 14, 2011 3:22 am

    PS…. Percy would NEVER be able to make it into the litter boxes shown up above on this page.

    • ann permalink
      December 31, 2012 11:47 am

      agreed, many CH cats never make it to the litter box and if they do find it very difficult to maintain any traction in the litter. Taking a litter box and lining it with pee pee pads helps a lot

  5. October 20, 2011 8:33 am

    Hi.

    We have Harley, he is a medium I guess afflicted kitty. The litter can be a problem but I agree with the tips here. I have a large- the largest I could find, corner litter. I keep it as clean as possible as he can plop into his own stuff and obviously doesn’t like that, then of course drag it through the house. Sometime he still will go poop outside the litter. I know he tries but sometimes he’s either unable to get in the box comfortably cause he knows he’s gonna fall then maybe into his poop so I think he takes the easy way out and goes next to it. And since I have a super large mat outside he knows it won’t be too bad a clean up for me.
    Thanks for this blog. I very very happy I found it today and will browse through for more info as I’m looking for ways to make him better or things easier for him.

    • October 20, 2011 9:07 am

      Hi!
      So nice to meet you and thanks for commenting! Harley sounds like a great kitty! I agree – keeping the litter box clean definitely helps. We’ve had a number of times when our kitties’ messes have been dragged through the house too. It’s definitely not fun, but they sure are worth it.
      Best,
      Amanda

    • October 20, 2011 9:27 am

      Hi Amanda,

      Ours is Harley, he’s a flame point siamese and the most handsome boy.

      I’ve worked out most of the problems and after viewing through your site realize I’ve experienced and come to the same conclusions as you have. I am looking for info to see if there is anything else I can do for him. I’m learning right now that when he’s nervous he can get worse, and he can feel insecure about it when around others who don’t have the problem. He loves his sister, a lynx point siamese- these are rescues so they are not at all purebreds- and has learned much by being with her. They wouldn’t adopt them apart and I couldn’t imagine separating them. He’s developed nicely but I always worry his bumps and falls do more damage to his head sometimes.

      I’m going to try to figure out ways to safeguard more of the house. He likes to get behind the couch or under it then slams his head about squeezing underneath or against the wall and couch. I don’t know why he keeps trying to go under there or back there but he does. He manages stairs- two shorter flights- to get to his litter ok, and used to come upstairs alot more, but not as much lately after a couple of tumbles. I have steps up to the bed, but may consider a ramp now after your blog. Also I think the raised food bowl is a super idea and will look for it to help him out.

      He is a happy loving boy and actually loves the outside as he can tumble around the grass and takes more time stepping about. He just came back from two weeks at my brother’s home as I was on vaca with my hubby. He has a normal cat and so Sasha, Harley’s sister spent most of the time running around with him. ( I think Sasha also gets bored with Harley sometimes as he can’t keep up with her always), so Harley had a difficult time I think. He got nervous, insecure, and lost some weight. He’s seems even more wobbly now. But he’s so happy to be home and has been purring nonstop when I touch him. So I’m hoping he settles back in and feels better having his sister to himself and will eat more to build up his muscles back to the large boy he was before. I think it does help with his balance. Have you seen CH cats get a little worse depending on circumstance then get better again? I’m hoping he will gain confidence and strength (when he was getting big I was worried but now think it actually helps him), and return to being more rambunctious.

      Thanks! It’s a great blog. Mine is at thingsilove.ca

      Barbara

    • October 21, 2011 9:48 am

      Hi Barbara,

      Thanks so much for the note! You know, I have seen our 2 CHers get worse when they’re excited or scared, too. For example, if there’s a loud noise, or if the back door opens, they’ll run — always a bit more wobbly and all over the place than normal. So I think you’re on to something there.

      I’m sorry to hear about Harley’s vacation; I think our CG went through something similar. I left CG at my mom’s house with her cats while she and I went out of town one weekend. We had a relative visit and take care of them. Something happened while we were gone, and you could tell CG was shaken up. There was tension between all three cats (they used to co-exist when CG would visit, if not be buddies), and CG seemed insecure and needy.

      Once we brought him home, he seemed more in his element, but whenever he goes back to visit “grandma’s”, there’s always a bit of tension between the cats…

      Hope Harvey feels better soon! Sounds like he has a great find in his sister. Would you be interested in having them profiled here? Here’s a link to more info. :)

    • October 21, 2011 9:52 am

      Will do so gladly. Wait til you see them, they melt everyone’s heart in an instant. :)

  6. Triste permalink
    December 8, 2011 2:13 pm

    My CLarende, is a severe CH. He does not walk- but flops and I swear shoots up vertically sometimes like a little rocket……… scares the bijeebers out of the rest of us !!!!! Can not get into a litter box- have tried all different kinds ( store bought/ home made). Now I am using piddle pads and it is ‘hit or miss’. Everytime after he eats, I take him up to his room and put him on the piddle pad and keep stressing “potty”.

    • December 8, 2011 2:19 pm

      Triste, sounds like you’re an amazing pet parent! I’d be interested in what you tried and learned from each litter box/piddle pad experience. Would you recommend piddle pads for severe CH kitties? Have you tried diapering Clarence?
      Thanks for reading!

  7. JacquieB permalink
    December 8, 2011 3:07 pm

    Clarende (or is it Clarence?) ‘shoots up vertically’, just like my Percy! This is the first time I have heard of another severe CH kitty behaving this way. I wondered whether it was a behavior that is typical of severe CH cats. It IS SCARY sometimes, for sure. I am worried he will give himself a concussion or worse sometimes. Thanks for adding that bit of info about Clarence. I am working on capturing a good video of Percy doing the ‘flying kitty routine’, but so far I’m always too late. Guests are always amazed when they see Percy soar through the air. When I get a good video I am sending to you, Amanda!

    • December 8, 2011 3:10 pm

      You’re right, Jacquie! Can’t wait to see a current video. Triste, you should check out Jacquie’s video of Percy: http://bit.ly/tAfYwe

  8. Dianne Brittain permalink
    December 9, 2011 7:47 pm

    Hi, I adopted Fox about 2 months ago. He is a “severe” CH kitty. This is my first experience with one, but I have 7 other “normal” ones. The litter box issue is a real struggle for us. Fox flops to get around. I have a large, 4′ x 5′ metal tray from a dog cage with about a 1″ high side on it. I have an old mat holding it down on top of a no slip mat on the floor. I have put puppy pee pads on it. Fox has finally gotten to where he will flop over to it and pee on the tray….to much applause and hugs from us. But, he still poops wherever he wants in the room. I pay attention to him as much as I can when I am home, but not sure as to what else I can do to help train him. Today he showed his feelings for the holidays by pooping and peeing all over the tree skirt.

  9. December 17, 2011 4:11 pm

    These are all some great tips! Buster dutifully uses his box, but often his pee will “arc” out over the sides! We did try the hooded box but he just didn’t like it..I’ve taken the heaviest gauge shower liner I could find (a vinyl tablecloth works well too!) and have set the box and the litter mat on top…This will definitely impact my chances of ever being featured in “House Beautiful,” but it’s been helpful!

  10. January 26, 2012 3:25 pm

    I find keeping some silicone bead litter around is good for cleaning up pee accidents. My lil dude sometimes falls out when he’s not done yet and leaves a trail! I pour some silicone beads on it and leave it for a minute, it soaks up 99% of the liquid. I vacuum that up and spot clean the floor.

    • January 26, 2012 3:30 pm

      Thanks for sharing! What brand of silicon bead litter do you use?

  11. Andrea permalink
    February 27, 2012 12:26 pm

    My sweet boy Hank had some litter box issues we tried to cure in a number of ways. Using a long wrapping paper rubbermaid container, getting a high sided box, different types of litter, etc. Often times he would poop just outside the box, medically he checked out so it wasn’t a hleath issue. One day I caught him in the act and found that while he was gearing up his stance in the box he would tip and fall right out of the box. Obviously he was too far into the deed to get up and try to get back in the box and I don’t blame him! I felt like a terrible mom… I also noticed he had started to urinate occasionally on various throw rugs we had. It didn’t take too long to decide to move his litter box from the basement to the main floor to help the urinating issue. I think he didn’t want to make the trip on the stairs more than once a day so he would end up holding it. Moving his box helped with the urination issue but he was still falling out and missing the box on occasion. I began placing puppy pads on the throw rugs and one just outside his box. He went on the pads placed on the throw rugs a couple times but at some point became accustomed to the feel of the puppy pads and began using the one I placed by his box. Sometimes he would still get into the litter but eventually he started to use the puppy pads exclusively. I was finally able to get rid of the box and the litter that was all over the floor. I usually put out three pads that overlap each other because he does still drag them around a bit. I need to figure out a more non-stick way to keep them in place. Overall he is very happy with this arrangement. He doesn’t have to worry about stepping in and out of a litter box and falling in the process as he usually did, he just walks over, does his business and walks away. I can then roll up the dirty pad, stick it in grocery bag and toss it out without all the litter mess. Price wise they are comparable to using litter, especially if you have a cat that forces you to change it practically everyday! No more accidents and I feel like I found a solution that makes his life a little easier.

  12. JacquieB permalink
    February 27, 2012 6:25 pm

    Well it sure is nice to know I’m not the only one dealing with these potty issues! Sometimes it really gets to me and I tell Percy “You sure are lucky that I love you so much I am willing to deal with your messes everyday!”

  13. Jen permalink
    March 29, 2012 9:02 pm

    My kitty has every symptom of a CH kitty, without a definite diagnosis from my vet. He wobbles so bad, that he can’t stand in the litter box. When I first adopted him, he was completely normal with perfect balance. His box came with a top, but he would not use it with it on. With his newly developed sway he likes to support his body on walls. I’m curious if anyone else experiences this, and if a skinnier litter box with supportive walls would make his “job” a little easier.

    • March 30, 2012 9:24 am

      Jen, I have to share. My kitty we thought had CH, and after an MRI and spinal tap it was determined he has degenerative brain disease- medspeak for- We don’t know what it is but his cerebellum will degenerate. CH kitties abilities do not decline or get better. They stay the same and the kitty usually learns to adjust and work with it. If he was completely normal at first and now is not, I’m sorry to say he will probably get worse. The good news is the experts cannot in any way tell you when or how long. Our boy Harley, has slowly gotten worse- doesn’t do stairs or jump anymore- but he could slowly degenerate over, weeks, months, years. We are betting to have him for a long time.

      For the litter- I got a corner unit, with tall walls that are covered. After two blockages over Dec Jan, I now will take him to the front, he will use his front paws to get in, slowly followed by his back and I will keep my hands to his sides to prevent him from falling over. He will squat down and go (I was just so happy when he finally flowed). Getting up is difficult as he can step in it or fall into it, and since they are so clean he hates it and it was what contributed to him avoiding the litter in the first place which then lead to the blockages. So I help him immediately when he’s done to keep his legs away and helping his body so he doesn’t fall into it, I’ll scoop some litter over it as he doesn’t bury, so as he walks around, using the walls to support him he will scratch at the walls- his way of burying- and when he’s done that he’ll use his front paws to climb out and I’ll just steady him for his back paws so he doesn’t summersault out and bring out a bunch of litter with him.

      I do this twice a day. It has helped him be more confident and relaxed about going, and he will go if he really needs to- getting messy sometimes if he falls into it- but otherwise is fine waiting til I get home to help him. With his condition I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to save him from the blockages. Going to the litter became such a stressful thing. Didn’t help getting him past the blocking. But he’s young and I have every faith that he will get better actually. He is happy alert and playful and has a lot of time ahead of him.

      Try different things and realize they learn alot slower than normal kitties. It’s been almost four months and only now do I relax about him. But keep at it, show him patience and care and anything is possible.

      Barbara

    • April 4, 2012 12:52 pm

      Hi Jen,
      As Barbara said, your kitty definitely may have something else going on — I’m actually posting on this in a few days — but either way you definitely need some help with the litter box!

      Since he likes the high sides, but not the lid, perhaps you could transform a rubbermaid container into a pan. I’ve read how folks have cut out an entry on one side (one of the shorter sides). You can find out more here: http://lifewithchcats.com/ch-topics-tips/litter-box/

      Good luck!

  14. Jen permalink
    April 6, 2012 7:48 pm

    Thank you Amanda and Barbazon for the responses. Dookie recently went to a neurologist and she said it was not CH unfortunately. He has some sort of degenerative disease like you suggested. We are hoping and praying that some of the medications he is on will improve his abilties. He is not only losing control of his hind legs, but also his front and his neck movement. At first the loss of movement was expedited, but has recently slowed which is good. Barbazon- your cat that you are talking about with the same condition, what was the prognosis? Do you have any tips or suggestions?

  15. Lauren Cooper permalink
    May 15, 2012 3:36 pm

    I figured this was probably the best place to ask this. Are loose stools a common occurance with CH kitties or should I be concerned? He’s seeing the vet tomorrow for a recheck and some boosters but I just wanted to ask here first. I’ve noticed a lot of people talking about having to clean poop off of their kitties that’s why I ask. i guess my logic is, if it’s solid, it shouldn’t need wiping. He LOVES his canned food and I know that that’s the first thing that a vet suggests for loose stools: stop the canned food. I love to spoil my pets (and other peoples pets, strays, and animals in pet stores lol) so the thought of taking away his canned food breaks my heart. Just thought I’d check here so I can be armed when I go to the vet tomorrow.

    • May 16, 2012 8:31 am

      Hi Lauren,
      I think all kitties go through bouts of loose stools (especially if you changed something in their diet recently), but it’s probably a good idea to get him checked out just to make sure he’s fine. My Ellie had loose stools for several weeks as a kitten. The vet suggested changing her food (multiple times), but that just made it worse. In the end, we just added a tiny bit of white rice to her wet food each meal and that helped pull things together. You may also want to try plain, canned pumpkin.

      The conversations you’ve seen about people having to wipe poop off their CH cats is because the cats often step, lay or fall into the poop. It’s not necessarily because it’s loose.

      Hope this helps and good luck at the vet!

    • Jacquie B permalink
      May 17, 2012 5:10 am

      Since I have a number of cats, all of them except my CH cats are outdoors. Unfortunately I have found that regular corn based cat food causes loose stools. I cannot afford to buy all my kittys the expensive non-corn based food. But my indoor kitties, the CH kitties get the more expensive non-corn foods and their stool is always firm and does not make a mess. At first I bought the very expensive science diet food, but I have found a better product that is less expensive: ‘4health’ is the brand name and I have to buy it at our local farm supply store, It is about half the price of the science diet brand. You can buy a 15 lb bag for about twnety dollars. It also comes in smaller bags. Hope this helps.

  16. Jacquie B permalink
    May 17, 2012 5:16 am

    Also, I’d like to add that the 4health dry food is VERY palatable, all the kitties love it. I have a litter of feral kittens and a feral momma indoors right now (yea, I’m a fool for felines), as well as the CH kitties and they ALL prefer it to the cheaper food. They love it!

  17. Kristen R permalink
    July 20, 2012 6:13 pm

    Hi! We adopted a kitty named Annie with mild cerebellar hypoplasia. She has the usual issues with stepping in her poop sometimes, falling over in the litterbox, etc. She is almost 12 weeks old, and she is still having trouble with thinking to GO to the litterbox, you know? If she’s in the same room as her litterbox, she uses it. Otherwise, she starts sniffing around whatever room we’re in with her. Consequently, we always have to be on alert. Is this normal for kitties like her?

  18. November 12, 2012 1:22 pm

    Wow, so glad I found this blog!! I’ve been fostering through the ASPCA since February, and on Thursday we picked up our first CH cat. He’s 3 1/2 months old, and severely affected. What an adventure jumping in without knowing anything! The ASPCA vets are great, and they sent us home with lots of tools and a plan for his therapy to help him learn to cope, but the litterbox messes have made this a challenge. So great to get advice from someone who’s been there. I just wrote a post about Kenny and his condition on my blog, and I was so glad I stumbled on your blog in time to link to it there! Hope I send some traffic your way!!

    ~em

  19. Jodie permalink
    September 20, 2013 12:25 pm

    I work at a Humane Society and we currently have two CH kitties. One with mild/moderate (Arnold) and the other moderate/severe (Tabitha). They are not from the same litter, Arnold is about three months and Tabitha is about six weeks. These are great tips and since I’m currently fostering Tabitha I can’t wait to try some of the ways to keep her from flinging litter across my home. I do have a question about Arnold though.

    Arnold was using the litter box when he came in, now he seems to eliminate when someone puts pressure on his belly or while he is on his side lying down. He is in currently in a cage at our shelter. Is this normal and is there anything we can do to help get him back to using the litter pan?

    • September 20, 2013 7:42 pm

      Hi Jodie –
      Thanks for commenting. I think the vet visit is the best idea – the problem doesn’t sound like it’s related to CH. Good luck! Hope he feels and acts better soon!

  20. Jodie permalink
    September 20, 2013 1:13 pm

    I should also have mentioned that Arnold does have a vet. appointment this afternoon to rule out anything serious.

  21. Jason McCormick permalink
    February 21, 2014 3:04 pm

    I was pointed to this website by my Aunt. We have a four month old Siamese who just recently started exhibiting the signs of CH. My vet is not sure what is wrong with him, all of his blood work turns up great, so I took to the internet to see if anything matches his behavior, and it looks like CH is what he has, probably under the moderate level. The whole litter box thing is what troubles me since he is so small 3.2 lbs, and we have wood floors, I worry if he will get to it in time. But I mostly wanted to say thank you for this site, it has been helpful.

    • Andrea permalink
      February 21, 2014 6:15 pm

      Kittens typically exhibit signs of CH at a very early age since they are born with the condition, they usually don’t develop it suddenly, you may want to seek a second opinion just to verify it’s CH. There is a great Facebook group Cerebellar Hypoplasia Cats and Kittens. They’re all very knowledgeable and have great advice, it’s a wonderful resource!

Trackbacks

  1. Should Your Special Needs Cat Wear a Diaper? « Life with CH Cats
  2. Meet Stevie « Life with Cerebellar Hypoplasia Cats

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