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House Soiling


Mark Hale, DVM

1661 E. Mt. Gilead Road

Bolivar, Missouri  65613





            According to many behavioral experts "inappropriate urination" is the number one behavioral problem in cats.  In the large majority of housecats, litter box training is very easy, if not automatic.  Even with very young kittens, often all that is needed is to provide a box with a suitable litter in an accessible location and Mother Nature does the rest.  But sometimes cats that have been perfect for years will start eliminating (either urine or feces, or both) outside of the box.      Following are some reasons why, along with some ways to try to avoid this problem in the future.

            It is common for cats with medical problems to begin eliminating outside their litter box.  For example, a urinary tract infection or crystals in the urine can make urination painful.  Cats often associate this pain with the litter box and begin to avoid it.  Colitis or intestinal parasites may cause similar actions with fecal material.  All of these problems can be serious.  Dr. Hale will examine your cat and perform laboratory tests in order to determine if one of these medical conditions exist.

            The most common psychological reasons why cats don't use the litter box are an aversion to the box, such as dislike of a covered box, or dissatisfaction with the depth of the litter.  Other causes are unacceptable type and/or smell of the litter, anxiety or stress.  Sometimes a combination of factors is to blame.  Location of the box is also important as most cats prefer some privacy.  Yet it needs to be conveniently located.

            In general, cats prefer a box large enough for them to easily turn around, with at least two inches of loose, soft litter.  Too little litter to adequately cover with or too small of a box can cause problems.  The litter should also be cleaned daily and completely changed at least weekly.  A box should also be provided for each cat in the household so that competition is not a concern.  If you can't stand the smell of the litter box, just think how a cat with its keen sense of smell dislikes it.

            One other behavioral reason can be urine marking due to cats' territorial nature.  Marking can also occur due to changes in the household, such as a new visitor or the departure of a favorite person.  Usually urine marking is done on vertical surfaces, such as the wall or leg of the couch.  However, this is not always the case.  Avoiding stressful situations and the use of pheromones such as Feliway┬« can help with marking behaviors.

            Any area that has been soiled should be cleaned with an enzymatic odor eliminator such as Cat Off┬«.  Any odor that is still present may attract the cat back to that area again.

            In closing, if your feline friend starts having litter box issues, become a detective.  Note any changes that have happened recently as well as where the soiling is taking place.  Then have a thorough examination and consultation with your veterinarian to determine a plan of action.  According to the Humane Society of the United States, behavioral problems are the most common reason for abandonment.  Please don't let your companion become one of them.