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Location, Location, Location: A Critical Factor For Many Feline Functions

A lot of frustrations that people experience with their cats can be solved simply by moving the kitty supplies from one spot to another. Below are some of the location-related details I mention to people most often.

Water

Most of us humans like to put dog and cat water dishes right next to food dishes, but cats prefer for these to be separated. Have you known cats who prefer to drink water out of dishes in the sink, glasses by the bed, water fountains you purchased for their soothing sounds, or even directly from faucets? There are good reasons for this: location of the water source. Nobody really knows why cats prefer food and water to be distant, but there are a number of theories about it.

Water dishes are also best placed away from litter boxes.

(Important asides: Also, water bowls should be washed and filled with fresh water daily. Any less frequently and the dish begins to get icky. Have you ever noticed a water dish that felt slippery? That’s a sign that the water wasn’t fresh.)

Food

Never place food near litter boxes. This can lead to problems because cats (like humans) don’t like to eat dinner right next to their toilets. Putting food and litter near one another could lead to cats looking for someplace else to leave their waste. (It’s sad to think that a cat could get in trouble for looking for a toilet that wasn’t next to his food source. A simple misunderstanding about this need could lead a human to scold or even give up the poor cat who simply wanted his litter box moved to a different location.)

Food dishes are also best placed away from water dishes.

(Important asides: It’s also very important to wash food dishes daily. Fats and oils from food will remain on a dish – even if it’s licked clean – and food that’s added will become rancid even before you see visible signs of grime or mold. Some cats (and dogs) gulp air as they eat, causing them to vomit clumps of recently eaten food. See my blog post about raising food dishes for ideas about putting an end to this.)

Litter boxes

Ideally, litter boxes are kept away from food and also kept away from water sources. Cats do not like to defecate or urinate near their eating places. (Who can blame ‘em?!)

It’s also a good idea to make sure that they can come and go easily without other animals (or humans) ambushing them.

(Important asides: Some cats refuse to use covered boxes – one of mine did – and if you live with a cat like this they might find other places to deposit their waste until you uncover the box. Scooping litter boxes at least once a day also helps ensure that they continue using the litter box as the designated waste receptacle. If scented/perfumed litters bother a cat, he’ll be more likely to look for other places that are less stinky. Older cats and cats with arthritis or joint problems usually prefer boxes that have low sides that they don’t have to jump over, and boxes that are in locations that are easy to get to without going up or down stairs, jumping over baby gates, or stepping through pet doors.)

Scratchers

Cats usually scratch on things that are clearly visible to humans or other pets. If you know cats who sharpen their claws on furniture that humans don’t want them to, try placing scratchers in front of those spots to redirect their focus.

Hiding scratching posts or cardboard scratchers in corners (or worse – in a spare room) means the scratchers will see very little action. Instead, place them in a more noticeable area.

Scratchers also get used more often when they’re sitting closer to the center of the room. Many of us place scratchers closer to walls instead. (I did this when I used less attractive scratchers) If you don’t want to permanently place a scratcher out in the open area, try just pulling them to the center of the room when you go to bed a couple nights each week. My cats enjoy it when their scratchers are moved from time to time anyway.

(Important aside: I have hardwood floors so I use non-skid carpet pads to keep the scratchers from sliding all over the place when the cats are using them.)

My cats love bird watching on this driftwood perch

Perches and vertical space

Set kitty condos or perches in front of windows where cats can watch birds and other outdoor activities. This is prime feline real estate!

One way that cats show their dominance is by getting up higher than other cats in the territory. When cats don’t get along well, it can often relieve tension by adding one or two more vertical spaces for them to perch on.

Homes with multiple cats should have multiple vertical cat places in each room where the cats spend time. As I type this, I’m sitting in my home office, where there are 4 places up high where my cats can choose to survey their territory: on top of a file cabinet, 2 on two shelves at different heights, and on my desk. Often there are at least 2 cats in here with me, and they choose their own vertical places to hang out. In my office, Andy is usually sitting in the highest vertical space – he’s The King in this territory. In my living room, Rumi is usually in the highest places – he’s The King in that territory. In my bedroom, they take turns being the highest guy on the totem pole. Emma only goes to the highest spot in a room (any room) except to groom and cuddle with one of her brothers.

(Important aside: Vertical lounge spaces for cats don’t have to be store-bought kitty condos or window perches. Just put a blanket or towel on an empty a shelf, on top of the fridge, or on the back of a chair near a window sill. Few felines are finicky about their furniture.)

Beds

Andy & Emma love napping by the window

Cat beds sitting near windows get more nap action from some cats. Other cats prefer beds to be in more hidden areas, like in closets or under desks.

(Important note: There’s no need to buy fancy cat beds. One way that I give the cats lots of cat beds that are easy to wash, but without spending a fortune in fancy beds, is by folding fleece blankets and placing them where the cats want to nap. I’d rather toss blankets in the washing machine than vacuum the carpeted perches and kitty condos or dry clean the upholstery. Actually, I don’t even use fleece blankets. I bought fleece from the local fabric store – it’s cheaper than buying blankets. Plus they have an enormous selection of colors so I can coordinate with the décor in a given room.)

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