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I got an interesting email in my “Ask a Behavior Consultant” inbox last week. Someone’s 1.5 year old cat was forcefully moving her litterbox around the house. The cat – a tortie – used to flip her water bowl. But now she’s shoving the box around.
This, understandably, is driving the owners crazy – so they asked me for help. Here’s what I think.
Our reader asked,
“Our cat is forcefully moving her liter box around the room from where it has always been and she has never had a problem with it before now. I keep it clean so I’m not sure why she is moving it.”
– Sincerely, Crazy Cat Problems
I have to say, I’m not quite sure why this cat is doing this. It’s a bit odd. The owner also mentions that the cat used to have a problem with flipping water bowls. The owner also notes, “She has always been a bit aggressive. She will be playing nicely and calm one second and the next she gets crazy look and will shred you.”
Whenever I try to solve a behavior problem, I want to try to figure out WTF: What’s The Function?
My only guess here is that the cat is bored. Perhaps moving the box around gives her something to do, and that’s enough. Perhaps getting attention from the owner (scolding) is exciting, so she keeps it up.
That’s my best guess right now. So let’s go with it. Assuming I’m right, here’s how to fix this behavior:
Give your cat something else to do instead.
Your cat needs some fun activities that aren’t litterbox-pushing or waterbowl-flipping.
- Give her puzzle toys! I think this cat might really benefit from a rolly puzzle toy – she clearly enjoys pushing things around. Throw out her food bowland put it into a puzzle toy instead, especially one she can push around.
- I already have a ton of kitty puzzle toy recommendations in this post. You can also find top suggestions above.
- If you purchase using the links from my site, I get a few dollars (that’s how I fund the free Ask a Behavior Consultant service) – and it doesn’t cost you anything!
- Increase playtime and “kitty cardio.” I think this cat would really benefit from some good, hard playtime. Get a “da bird” toy and really go to town with her a few times per day – perhaps even until she’s panting.
- Avoid laser pointers, as there’s some anecdotal evidence that laser toys can increase frustration (aggression) in our pets.
- Give your cat more vertical space. This cat already has a cat tree – great! Giving her more hidey spaces and things to climb and run all over might help a lot! Cats are very 3-D creatures, so don’t be shy about adding boxes and shelves for your cat to climb all over. Check out this video below of how far you can go with this.
With those three tips, you can probably fix this behavior. You might also want to try making it harder to move the litterbox using barriers – but make sure you’re giving your cat plenty of other fun options!
Don’t just make it hard to move the box.
Kayla founded Journey Dog Training in 2013 to provide high-quality and affordable dog behavior advice. She is a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant who’s worked with hundreds of private clients, thousands of shelter dogs, and dozens of working detection dogs. Kayla’s dog and cat behavior advice has been featured in NPR, the Chicago Tribune, and Pet MD. She’s an avid adventurer who is currently doing #vanlife on the Pan-American Highway with her two border collies and a cat. Aside from running Journey Dog Training, Kayla also runs the nonprofit K9 Conservationists, where she and the dogs work as conservation detection dog teams. You can get 1:1 advice with a Journey Dog Training team member here.