One of the many challenges cat explorers can face is going to the bathroom while exploring beyond the house. Read on to check out our experience with this.
How Do Cats Prefer to "Go"?
Indoors, most cats have been normalized to have conditions be perfect as they "go". This often means no distractions and that the same "potty" is in the same spot every time. Litter boxes are also placed in remote areas away from any high traffic locations throughout their living spaces (often because of the smell) and so, our kitties can therefore "go" in peace.
Our review on the New Simply Clean® Automatic Litter Box pointed out that there is actually a design of litter boxes cats actually prefer (feel free to read it here). In fact, before receiving this litter box to review, the cats I've had have always been given litter boxes with lids on them. Really, this is to help mask the smell of all the waste as often they come with filters and cover up the smell for us (but not for them - it contains the smell which is a lot for their strong noses!). You can read more about why cats prefer open litter boxes in this article. Anyways, having a lid on their litter box prevents them from being able to watch for any potential threats coming their way. While there are often no dangers inside the home, it is still a cat's instinct to be on the lookout in case something were to be of a threat to them.
Understanding feline bathroom behaviour and being reminded of a cat's primary environment and what they're used to will help to understand why it can sometimes be difficult for a cat to be comfortable in using nature's potty right away!
Cats are pretty routine so when you introduce something new it can take them some time to adjust. I mean, can you blame them on this one? I know a few of my friends who can't even GO in public washrooms because they don't feel comfortable doing so. Eventually, your cat might end up preferring to go outside where there is no "lid" but with all the distractions go on, they might take some time to feel confident in finding a place to go at first. Allow them to become familiar with the neighbourhood or area you're bringing them to at the beginning so that they know this is a place of no threats (or at least they can find spots where they can position themselves to see them)! Maintain a routine for visiting the outdoors as well and it will help them to plan their times to go.
"Going" With Gibson
When I first started bring Gibson beyond the house, I began with trips in the car to friend's places. First, he learned how to use his travel litter box in unfamiliar environments. We use the Petsfit Portable Collapsable Cat Litter Box and love it. It's a perfect litter box to use when we travel to indoor locations (especially in the winter). Getting him used to going in another house and in his litter is at least similar to going at home so this is how we chose to start! For the car we use a top entry litter box by Petmate (click here to see). We just feel that there's way less mess with this style of litter box. Again, the idea is to bring some normalcy around him as he's learning to be comfortable with "going" beyond the house.
On May 30th, 2019 Gibson had his first harnessed adventure beyond the house and while I don't recall the exact date he first went pee outside, we do have a photo of him going on June 19th, 2019 (see photo above). This does seem pretty accurate, though, as I don't recall Gibson being comfortable enough to go right away! He ended up going on some dirt and leaves. Peeing was somewhat easy for him to do but pooing outside took some time! You'll laugh (but also completely understand if you are a fellow cat mom of a cat explorer) but I remember the day. On September 26, 2019 I was the proudest ever cat mom as Gibson had his first adventure poop. I had told cat dad to snap a shot of me walking to the garbage to dispose of his first ever poop bag to capture this moment. It took him nearly 3 months to do it and I convinced that going to nature's biggest litter box, the beach, helped! Sand is a perfect spot to go if they feel comfortable going to a beach. Your cat being comfortable and confident to go beyond the house is a HUGE deal and if you know me well on Instagram I am one of the biggest cheerleaders when I have friends who's cats finally went on-the-go!
Our final advice would be to just be patient and don't pressure them to go because they'll go when they are ready.
"It's important that you don't rush through the process," says Dr. Sophia Yin, a former vet and now animal behaviourist.
Keep going outside and the right time for them will come! We have friends, such as @ziggy.and.charlie and @chronicles.of.loki, who have adventure kitties that took a while to "go" but they did (and best believe we celebrated with them)! One thing I try and do is when I notice Gibson peeing in his litter box I say, "good job pee-pee, Gibson!!" so that when we are out and I can sense him looking for a spot to go, I tell him to go pee-pee and I swear he knows that I know. Don't @ me about this, ha! I truly do feel that it gives him a sense of security in knowing that I'm watching out for him as he goes.
I'd love to hear about your cats being able to "go" on the go, ha! The things we cat parents talk about...
xx Sarah & Gibson