“Inappropriate elimination”…the politically correct way to say Fluffy thinks your entire home is a litter box. When bringing a newly adopted kitty home, some will hesitate to use a new litter box. The Internet is filled with articles on the subject. Most concentrate on three major categories: Medical issues, Litter box preferences and Environmental concerns
Fortunately, cats adopted from us should be in good health when they leave for their new homes. If your newly adopted bundle of fur comes home and doesn’t use the litter box, it is unlikely to be a medical issue. You can double check with your foster parent before investing big money in veterinarian expenses. Your foster parent is an invaluable resource and one advantage of adopting from a rescue program.
The more likely causes are either differences in litter box or the new environment. Have you ever used a toilet in rural Asia or Africa? Even if you don’t host a PBS travel show, I think you get the idea. Cats like familiarity. Start with the same litter material used in the foster home. Double check with the foster family on what they were using. Most cats accept plain unscented, clumping clay litter. If you want to use something different, remember you aren’t the one using the litter box, but you are the one cleaning the carpet. Start by duplicating what the foster family used and then make the transition slowly. For example, if your foster family wasn’t using silica gel litter in a motion-detecting, auto-cleaning litter box, then don’t start with that. Get things working first; then get fancy later.
Even if you use the same litter and the same size pan, one factor I’ve seen overlooked is litter depth. The instructions on the sack of litter often say to pour three inches into the pan. That’s fine if you’re selling litter, but some cats don’t like sinking into the litter or having particles stick to the fur around their feet. If you see kitty with her front paws on the edge of the pan, or trying to balance precariously on the edge of the pan that’s a fair indicator she doesn’t like the way the litter “feels.” Several people had success by grading, or sloping, the litter lengthwise in the pan. One end of the pan is bare bottom and the litter gets deeper as it gets to the opposite end. The deep end should be about two or three inches deep. The sloped litter gives kitty a choice of where to stand. This technique works best when kitty has her own litter box and requires a lot more owner attention, but it’s easier than cleaning up the carpet, the closet, or the bed….
If that doesn’t help, then it is time for all the Internet articles about how many litter boxes to have, making sure the box is in an accessible but secluded area, properly introducing kitty to the rest of the family, both human and four-legged, reducing stress, etc. You can spend days reading all the litter box articles on the Internet.
Most of the “new home” litter box issues are solved by making sure kitty has familiar litter material, box size, and “feel”. Remember my overseas toilet analogy. When it comes to wanting things familiar, most suburban American cat owners aren’t that different from their cats!