Inappropriate urination or defecation by cats is a very common and disturbing problem that faces many of our clients. There are two types of issues that can lead to this problem; medical or psychological. When trying to treat this problem, our veterinary team have to rule out physical problems with a series of tests that can include urine or feces tests, x-rays, ultrasound and blood tests. If there are no medical problems found, we must look at psychological issues to cure the problem. Unfortunately, interpreting the psychology of a cat can be very difficult. Commonly, issues surrounding the litterbox play a role in inappropriate elimination. The following table lists the factors to be considered:
Frequency of Cleaning:
Many cats will reject a soiled box. New scoopable litters give a false sense of cleanliness. Often times the bottom of the box becomes urine soaked. Bacteria break down the urine to form ammonia which can be offensive to the cat.
Number of Boxes
A minimum of one litterbox per cat should be available to ensure cleanliness and reduce interference among cats.
Remote sites (e.g. basements, attics, upstairs) may be inaccessible to an older or infirm cat.
Bathrooms and laundry rooms may be associated with excessive noise or odors that may be offensive or frightening.
High traffic areas may be rejected due to noise and lack of privacy.
Covered litterboxes may be too small for large cats to move around in comfortably. The covered box may allow other cats, pet dogs, or children to target the cat as it exits.
Some cats don’t like edges on boxes.
Preference tests indicate that most cats prefer unscented, fine-grained (clumping) type litter. Scented litter is more frequently associated with housesoiling than unscented litter.
Cats may be averse to odors that humans consider attractive.
Number of Cats
In multi-cat households, there is a greater likelihood of heavy litterbox use, possibly resulting in an excessively soiled litterbox. Another cat may interfere with the problem cat as it approaches the litterbox, either through odor cues or physically.
The following recommendations may help you deal with the problem. Often times, these management changes may take weeks to months to be successful. It may help for you to keep a log and track when the accidents are happening to find out if your efforts are reducing the problem.
- Try confining the offending cat in a small room remote from the sites of housesoiling. Provide a litter box, food and other necessities. When regularly using the litterbox, s/he can be let out under supervision for increasing lengths of time.
- Clean all sites of elimination with Anti-Icky Poo (enzymatic cleaner). Be sure to treat carpet padding. Use a black light to locate sites of urination.
- Use a citus deodorant spray or double-sided tape to discourage the cat from visiting the problem areas.
- Use an electronic sound alarm or electronic mat to deter a cat from a problem area.
- Scoop out the litterbox daily. Clean it thoroughly once weekly. Do not use scented cleaners or deodorants in or near the litterboxes
- Provide at least on litterbox per cat and distribute them in more than one location. Be sure they are not located in a high traffic or high-noise area
- Move food bowls away from the litterbox
- If the litterbox is a covered type, provide an additional large, uncovered box without a fitted rim to determine the cat’s preference.
- Offer unscented, fine-grained, clumping type litter in the alternate box
- o not use a liner in the alternate box because the odor of the plastic may be objectionable
Inappropriate Elimination Sites
- Place an alternate litterbox of the sites of “accidents”. Once the box is being used regularly, it can be moved several inches per day to a site more acceptable to the owner.
- Use deterrents at the site of inappropriate elimination. These can be unacceptable substrate such as aluminum foil or plastic sheeting or odor deterrents such as citrus spray. Pinecones may be placed at the base of houseplants to physically deter elimination there.
Positive Reinforcement: Try giving favorite treats to the pet when the litterbox is used appropriately
To be humane and effective, punishment must be of appropriate intensity and must follow within 1 second of the offensive behavior. Because this is rarely possible, punishment is rarely effective.
Counter conditioning: Try feeding or playing with the pet in the areas of inappropriate elimination.
Drug Therapy for Alta Loma, Rancho Cucamonga, Upland, Ontario, Claremont, Fontana, and the Inland Empire
There are certain mood modifying drugs that may help in the control of this problem. However, they rarely work without working on the issues above first or at the same time. Feel free to discuss these drugs with our veterinarians and call (909) 980-3575.