In spite of the cats reputation for cleanliness, inappropriate elimination (house soiling) is the most common behavior problem of cats. The number one reason given for relinquishment and euthanasia of cats in animal shelters is this frustrating behavior problem. There are numerous issues that may contribute to a cat having “potty” issues. Because of the variability in causes, any kitty with recurrent inappropriate elimination (IE) should be examined by a veterinarian to determine if the cause is behavioral or medical. Laboratory tests will need to be performed in many cases to help make this distinction. A few common causes are discussed below:
There are numerous medical conditions that can lead to IE, and should be initially ruled out to make sure that treatment is not required. Some conditions that may be associated with IE include: inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), colitis, kidney disease, diabetes, thyroid disease and cystitis. Some medical conditions cause pain during litter box use, or may make it difficult to access the litter box. A few such conditions are anal sac disease, loss of vision, arthritis, FLUTD, and some forms of colitis. Diagnosing and treating these medical conditions will often alleviate or resolve IE.
In cats of all ages, stress may be a factor contributing to inappropriate elimination. Identifying and reducing these stressors, and attempting to decrease their impact on the household may benefit your cat (and you, too!). A safe and easy to use product called ‘Feliway’ was designed to help reduce anxiety in cats, and often decreases episodes of inappropriately urinating. Although published research studies are mixed with regards to effectiveness, many pet owners report significant improvements.
Litter Box Preference
Many cats will develop a dislike for the litter box itself or the substrate (material used in the litter box to absorb excrement). This is especially true of litters with perfume or antiseptics, as the odors may be unappealing to the cat. Some cats have preference to litter box location as well. If a box is located too close to their food or water, or an area that they don’t feel they have enough privacy, they may avoid entering the box. In addition to offering various substrates, it’s also worth placing several extra boxes around the house to see if a new box location improves affinity towards the litter box. Animal behaviorists recommend providing at least one more litter box than the number of cats present in the household. Some litter pans should be shallow, others deep. In general, cats do not like covered litter boxes as much as uncovered boxes.