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, the better your chances of success.

Inappropriate Soiling

Inappropriate soiling involves the act of squatting to defecate or urinate on any 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.

Reasons Why Your Cat Might be Soiling in the Home

  • 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 it 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
  • Diarrhoea or constipation

If your cat is experiencing these signs, take them to a vet as soon as possible.

Is it a Problem with the Litter Box?

Cats can be very fussy about their litter box and you may find that taking a few simple steps helps to remedy the problem. Here are some things you can do to help your cat use their litter box:

  • Clean the litter box more often
  • To help a timid cat, move the litter box from a busy area to a quiet one - somewhere like a utility room or a quiet corner is ideal.
  • In multi-cat households, it may also help to provide one litter box per cat, plus one more
  • Make sure you thoroughly clean any affected areas of your house where the cat has soiled previously. Limiting the cat's access to these areas will help them learn the new rules.

How to avoid spraying

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 their territory is being invaded
  • Your cat becomes anxious
  • Neighborhood cats visit or when there are too many cats in the home

Having your cat neutered or spayed may help to control this urge, but if the problem persists please ask your vet's advice.

Praise Not Punish

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, make a noise loud enough to distract them. Give plenty of praise and treats when they display the correct behaviour.