Minnie is a  beautiful tabby who loves nothing better than to be held. She's a lapful, a robust girl with soft sleek orange fur, as big as many male cats. She's athletic too, and loves to climb to the high perches of our cat trees and onto the wide window ledges to look out. Yet with her musical meow and sweet face, she is still very feminine.  As an adult cat Minnie was given up by her first owner to a shelter in Southern Minnesota.  Minnie was then adopted out twice, and each time returned to the shelter. Minnie was fortunate to be at a no kill shelter with kind and caring employees and volunteers but was still facing having to spend the rest of her life in a cage.   

Orange female cats are somewhat rare - an orange cat is more likely to be a male. Females get color from both parents; males get color from mom only. So in order to get a red female, both mom and dad have to have orange coats. For a female cat to be orange, she must inherit two orange genes — one from her mother (orange, calico, or tortoiseshell) and one from her father (who must be orange). A male cat needs only one orange gene, which he gets from his mother (orange, calico, or tortoiseshell). 

Unusual and unique looking, gentle and sweet- how was it that Minnie found herself unwanted and homeless, given up to a shelter when only a few years old?

Minnie exhibits a problem that is very typical for cats that lose their home, and was the reason the shelter could not adopt her out again, and why she lost all three of her homes. Minnie does not reliably use the litter box.  Despite her charming personality and pretty, unique appearance, Minnie could not be adopted into a home again because of her behavior. Whoever declawed Minnie on all four paws all but assured that she would never be able to live successfully in an adoptive home. It is a testament to her love of life and determination that Minnie still climbs cat trees and onto her beloved window ledges despite having four mutilated paws.

Home for Life has found, almost without exception, that cats who won’t use the litter box have generally been declawed. Declawing is a cruel surgery in which the first joint of the sensitive and delicate paws of the cat are amputated. 

There are so many less radical tactics to encourage a cat to use appropriate objects for sharpening claws that there is no reason for this barbaric surgery to be used. The biggest reason NOT to declaw is because it is the leading cause of cats becoming averse to using a litter box. Cats who won't or can't use a cat box will find no options if given up to a shelter or rescue, and are usually either turned away or euthanized. 

Home for Life cannot possibly help all the cats who lose their homes because they won’t use a litter box. We do try to pass on our ideas for helping cats who have developed this problem which might cost them their home and their life- no shelter or rescue can place a cat who won’t use a litter box. Cats like Minnie have been our inspiration for developing strategies to help more of these cats who run out of options:


Home for Life recommends:

  • A Check up with the vet to rule out any health complications that might be causing the problem. For example, a cat with a urinary tract infection can sometimes exhibit litter box aversion. Antibiotics can readily resolve the problem.
  • Cat Attract Litter: a scoopable litter: available at Petsmart. We call it Gold in a box - it really works!
  • Concrete Mixing Pans as alternatives for litter boxes: This is a solution we learned from a staff person at a local humane society. Many cats don’t care for the litter boxes sold at stores: the sides are too high, especially for a cat who is old, arthritic and sore or heavy set. Many cat boxes are also too small for an adult cat. Finally, cat boxes that are covered are not popular with most cats, and many won’t use them at all. A concrete mixing pan, as large as possible and available at places like Lowe’s, Menards or Home Depot make perfect litter pans as they are large, shallow and have low sides.
  • Try shredded newspaper instead of cat litter for cats who are declawed. Cats who are declawed often find regular cat litter - clay, scoopable and pellets- painful to use and so avoid the cat box. But many declawed cats will use shredded paper as a substitute because it's much softer and doesn't hurt or irritate their feet.
  • A Cat Townhouse: a cat townhouse can be a perfect solution for a cat to remain part of the family but to have his own quarters. Where a cat lives in a home where allergies develop among the family, or for a cat who is not reliable about using the box, a cat townhouse, perhaps with a cat door and enclosed outdoor run can be the perfect solution permitting the cat to remain part of the family and not lose his home and probably his life. One of Home for Life’s groomers built a cat townhouse for her cat when her husband developed allergies. Like a potting shed or writer’s studio, the townhouse, about the size of a shed, was insulated and had electricity. It was finished with washable wallboard and linoleum and even had little windows, a cat door and outdoor fenced run. The family added a radio, some lights and old furniture and would use the townhouse for paying bills, reading and so on so the cat received plenty of company and yet had his own quarters. It was the perfect and affordable, life-saving solution, costing only a few hundred dollars to build, and about $10 per month to heat and light even in the coldest Minnesota winter months. Home for Life has compiled a digital file of photos and references for cat townhouse ideas which we are happy to send to anyone interested. Please contact us at info@homeforlife.org for more information.

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