Feline House Soiling
Tips for Identifying and Correcting Feline House Soiling
Feline House Soiling
For the cat owner, it can be frustrating to live with a wonderful pet who cannot seem to find the way to the litter box. There are many reasons why a cat might not use the litter box. If you take a calm, rational approach to uncovering the cause and treating the problem, your chances for success will be high.
Inappropriate elimination involves the act of squatting to defecate or urinate on any horizontal surface outside the litter box. This often occurs when something about using the box becomes disagreeable. Pinning down the exact cause is very important and may take some careful thought. You need to consider any changes that occurred at the time the problem appeared that can be contributing to the problem.
Some Reasons Why a Cat May Eliminate Outside of the Litter Box
- Medical problems (bladder infection, intestinal upsets, constipation)
- The litter box is not cleaned often enough
- The type of litter (texture or odor) is disagreeable
- The litter box is located in an area with too much traffic
- The cat was teased or frightened in or near the box
- The litter box is too near the food bowl
- Anxiety (long absences by the owner, punishment, new pets, new baby)
Could This Possibly Be a Medical Problem?
A variety of medical problems can lead to house-soiling problems. All attempts to guide your cat back to the litter box are doomed to failure if an underlying medical problem is not diagnosed and corrected.
Signs might include:
- An increase in frequency of urination
- Voiding large volumes of urine
- Straining or discomfort when eliminating
- Blood in the urine
- Diarrhea or constipation
If your cat is experiencing these signs, a visit to your veterinarian for a medical evaluation is very important. The doctor may recommend tests such as a urinalysis, fecal exam or blood tests.
Taking Care of Business
Pinpoint and address the cause of the problem. Treatment of inappropriate house-soiling problems involves three major considerations:
- Remove the cause
- Reestablish the habit of litter box use
- Prevent the cat from returning to previously soiled areas
What to Do if the Problem Is Litter Box Related
- Take immediate control of the problem!
- Clean the litter box more often
- To help a timid cat, move the litter box from a busy area to a quiet one
- In multi-cat households, it may also help to provide one litter box per cat
- Confine the cat to a small area, such as a bathroom, along with the litter box. Most cats seem to prefer eliminating in the box rather than soiling the floor. It is then a matter of confining her long enough for a consistent habit to become established.
- Only allow your cat out of the confined area when you can supervise at all times.
- You can gradually allow more freedom once the litter box has been used in a confined area for one to four consecutive weeks. During the confinement period, remember to play frequently and interact socially with your cat. Let her out often, but only under close supervision.
- You might offer different types of litter to find one your cat prefers. It is best to use another box rather than going through a series of changes in one box.
- Occasionally, some cats prefer actual sand in the box, mixed with a few handfuls of soil. If this is the case, you can gradually replace the sand mix with cat litter after several weeks.
- Removing the odor from the affected area is important. Use a good commercial product that is specifically formulated to work on feline stool and urine odors. Most products need to make contact with the urine or stool. Use as directed by the manufacturer's instructions.
- To be effective on carpeting or other porous surfaces, you may need to apply an ample amount as opposed to lightly spraying the surface. If nothing else is available, a 50:50 mixture of white vinegar and warm water will do a satisfactory job.
- Safeguard previously soiled areas by placing motion-detector alarms, food bowls, bedding or toys on them. Plastic, foil or double-stick carpet tape can also be used to protect these areas.
- If your cat has developed a preference for the bathtub or sink, an inch of water in these locations will curb elimination there.
- Moving furniture or closing doors will deny the pet access to previously soiled areas. In some areas, such as in the corners of rooms, you may consider placing a litter box where the cat has been soiling.
Spraying: This Land Is My Land!
Spraying occurs when a cat backs up to an upright surface and directs a stream of urine toward it. This is a marking behavior. Marking may occur when:
- Your cat feels her territory is being invaded
- Your cat becomes anxious
- Neighborhood cats visit or when there are too many cats in the home
Discouraging Stray and Neighbor Cats
Outdoor cats can often be the stimulus for spraying. You should discourage stray and neighbor cats from visiting your property by removing anything in the yard that might attract them. Items may include bird feeders, garbage or food.
- Call your animal control officer to pick up stray animals.
- When you cannot keep outdoor cats from visiting your property, you should take steps to prevent your cat from seeing them. Keep your cat out of windows or rooms where outdoor cats are visible.
- Move furniture away from windows, close drapes or modify window sills so there is no room for your cat to perch or watch outdoors.
- Clean urine odor from around doors and windows, both inside and outside.
- If other pets in the household are contributing to the problem, separate them from your spraying cat.
- If your male cat has not been neutered, consider having it done. Most males stop spraying following the surgery.
- For difficult cases, medication may be required to stop your cat from spraying. If you are having a tough time controlling the problem, consult your veterinarian. Medication may not work for every cat. However, for some cats, it may be the only thing that does.
What Not to Do
Punishment is rarely effective and can make problems worse, especially if it is harsh or delayed. Under no circumstances should you swat or physically punish your cat. For example, rubbing your cat's nose in the soiled area is ineffective and can heighten the problem. Any rough handling of your cat followed by placement in the litter box may lead to a negative association with the litter box.
If you catch your cat eliminating in an inappropriate area, you may squirt her with a water gun or make a noise loud enough to distract her. Try not to let your cat know that you are the source of the correction.
If these suggestions do not help, talk to your veterinarian about seeking the help of a qualified pet behavior consultant in your area.