Feline Inappropriate Elimination

Aug 07

NW Vet Staff

Feline Inappropriate Elimination

by NW Vet Staff

Why do cats eliminate outside of the litter box?

Medical Problems
Inflammation of the urinary tract may cause painful or frequent urination, inability to urinate, bloody urine, and crying during urination. An affected cat is likely to eliminate outside the litter box if he comes to associate the box with painful urination, or if he has an increased urgency to urinate. In addition, kidney, liver, and thyroid diseases often lead to increased drinking and urination.

Site Preferences
Your cat may develop a preference for eliminating in a spot other than the box.  Another surface is more desirable for elimination.

Spraying announces a cat's presence and establishes or maintains territorial boundaries. Cats may spray when they perceive a threat to their territory, such as when a new cat enters the home, or when outside cats are nearby. New furniture and carpet smells can prompt spraying as well.

How can we help?
The longer the behavior persists, the more likely it is to become a habit. If you have more than one cat, you may need to separate them until you can identify the responsible party. Setting up a video camera when you are not at home may help deterime the issue.

Once you have identified the house-soiling cat, it is best to come in for a thorough physical examination and appropriate diagnostic tests to see if there are underlying medical problems. Remember, urinary issues can be painfull and serious. If your cat cries, refuse to bury his waste, perches on the edge of the box without touching the litter, or eliminates right outside of the box, it may be a sign of a problem.  

How can I stop my cat from spraying?
Because spraying is different than other types of house soiling, different tactics are necessary to manage it. First, because there are often hormonal components to spraying, any intact animal should be neutered or spayed. Next, identify the stimuli that cause your cat to spray. If outside cats are responsible, motion detectors that trigger sprinklers can be used to deter them from coming onto your property. Increasing the amount of playtime for an under-stimulated cat may also help ease frustration.

Spraying can also result from territorial disputes between cats in the same household. They may need to be separated and reintroduced slowly, using food treats to reward and encourage peaceful behavior.

Applying odor neutralizers anywhere your cat has sprayed may prevent him from spraying there again. We can supply you with a useful  product such as Feliway®, a synthetic pheromone that, when applied to household surfaces, mimics the scent of cat cheek gland secretions.

What can I use to clean my cat-soiled carpet, couch, and other household items?
Cats will re-soil and spray areas previously impregnated with their scent. Therefore, cleaning up your cat-soiled belongings are important, not only to undo the damage, but to break the cycle of elimination. A cat's sense of smell is far keener than ours; therefore odors must be neutralized, not just deodorized. Avoid cleaning products containing ammonia or vinegar—they smell like urine and can be irritating.

Helpful hints for preventing litter box problems

1. Choosing an appropriate litter and box

  • Most cats prefer unscented, finer-textured litter, at a depth of one to two inches.
  • Young kittens, elderly cats, and cats with mobility problems need boxes with low sides.
  • Overweight and large cats need bigger boxes.
  • Most cats prefer an uncovered box that lets odors escape and allows a 360-degree view of their surroundings.
  • Have as many litter boxes as cats in the house-plus one.

2. Choosing a good litter box location

  • Most cats prefer a location that is quiet, private, separate from their feeding area, and easily accessible 24 hours a day.
  • Do not locate the litter box up or down stairs if your cat has trouble climbing.
  • Place multiple boxes in different areas of the house.

3. Keeping the box clean

  • If you use clumping litter, remove feces and clumps daily and add clean litter as needed.
  • A liner may help keep the box cleaner, but many cats don't like them.
  • To clean the box, scrub it with a gentle detergent, dry it, and refill with clean litter. Litter should be changed often enough so that it looks and smells dry and clean. The more cats using the box, the more often this will need to be done.
  • Replace old boxes that smell or are cracked.

Our team is well trained to answer any of your concerns.  Contact either our Seattle Veterinary Clinic or Everett Veterinary Clinic locations.

Northgate Veterinary Clinic - Seattle (206)363-8421

Broadway Animal Hospital  - Everett (425)252-8266

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