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Your Questions: Should we take away our cats' litter tray?

Q. After being largely 'indoor' cats for nine months, our two Russian Blues have recently started to explore more outdoors. They seem to love playing outside and it is a pleasure to see them haring around the garden and stalking through the grass. The one problem we have is that they still use the indoor litter tray. I would love to get rid of the tray but am not sure how to train them to go outside. Should I just take it away? Elise, via e-mail

A. Cats are wonderful creatures – curious, intelligent and very loving. It's great that yours can now use their feline instincts outside. However, this comes with a downside. Research shows that indoor cats live longer than cats that go outside, as the latter are more susceptible to fatal diseases and scrapping with other moggies. With the house training, don't take the litter box away at once; you need to do it gradually. If you take it away just like that you could end up with damp patches all round your house. The first thing to do is to choose a place in the garden for them to use as their new loo, preferably not too exposed (if they feel vulnerable they won't go). Dig a shallow hole and sprinkle some of their used litter over that spot. This way they will know where to go. Then slowly start moving the litter box towards the door (but remember not to put it anywhere near their food or water bowl). When the litter box is by the door, let them get used to the new arrangement for a few days. Then, when they are using the garden sandpit more than the litter tray, you can get rid of the one in the house. Remember: with the disposal of cat faeces, do not put it on the compost heap as it can have some nasty parasites in it. Instead, bury it, burn it or flush it down the toilet. Good luck!

Remember that if an animal shows signs of distress or discomfort an early visit to the vet is always recommended