Cat Elimination Problems

Cat Elimination Problems are the most common problems cat owners face. Too often, this problem is automatically labeled as feline marking or feline spraying. We must make sure the problem does not have an underlying medical cause such as feline cystitis (cat urinary problem). If we assume that feline urinary problems are intentional ("spite" is the word I often hear), then we are doing a great disservice to our kitties.

Mary Jo is experiencing Cat Elimination Problems. Her 11-year-old house cat, a beautiful, angelic-looking kitty in the photo above, has always been a treat to have around. She gets along with the dogs. However, lately she walks about the house meowing all day and she is constantly trying to sneak outside.

If she does not get outside, she continues meowing and will urinate on Mary Jo's things. If she does get out, she will come back before dark and then she is fine. Mary Jo is understandably confused and annoyed with the constant noise and smell.

orange long haired kitten
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Bob lives in Iowa and has a really handsome 9 month old kitten as you can see from the photo. The kitten looks as if he could never do anything wrong, but he is having accidents on the floor and on Bob's bed. Occasionally the kitten uses the litter box, but far too often he defecates outside the box. Box is hoping his cat elimination problems are something he will grow out of, but is getting impatient.

Ashley lives far away from Bob in Georgia. She and her boyfriend recently adopted two kittens. They are both the absolute best pets anyone could hope for except for one thing....they love to scatter their feces and litter everywhere! The litter box is kept in a bathroom corner and Ashley is constantly having to clean feces and litter off the walls, the toilet, and the floor. She is also confused and frustrated. She has had cats before, but never saw any behave this way. She is wondering if this is a cat behavioral problem or normal cat behavior and is asking if there's a way to stop these cat elimination problems.

What do these three stories have to do with each other? Many things!

Cat Elimination Problems are the most common problems owners have with their cats. Sometimes it's feces; sometimes it's urine. Sometimes it's an older cat; sometimes it's a kitten. Sometimes, the damage is on the bed; sometimes it's on clothes on the floor; sometimes it's right beside the box.

The answer in all cases is the same. We must make sure the behavior is just a behavioral problem and not a medical condition, such as a cat urinary tract infection. When we assume that feline urinary problems are intentional, from "spite", because of the dog, because the grandparents came to visit ...we are doing a great disservice to our kitties.

cat in litter box
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Cat urinary tract infections, cat parasites, feline metabolic diseases and many other cat illnesses can cause a cat to eliminate outside the litter box. We don't want to miss one of those things and not treat it by assuming the cat only has a behavior issue. Not only will your kitty continue to be uncomfortable and perhaps suffer permanent injury to organs, but your cat elimination problems will not be solved. Underlying medical causes have to be ruled out first in all cases of cat elimination problems.

My advice in each of these cases and my advice to anyone who is having a similar experience is to go to the vet at once. Only after you have explored medical causes can you decide it's a cat behavioral problem and treat it.

So.....the first thing...- see your vet. if there is a medical reason for the problem, your vet will discuss with you the treatment.

- If underlying medical causes are ruled out, then you can try some of the following suggestions for helping your cat learn to "Think Inside The Box"!

(1) If your cat is over 4 months of age and isn't neutered, that could easily be your answer. Neuter your cat.

(2) If you only have one litter box, you need to have one more than the number of cats you have. Example: if you have 3 cats, you need 4 litter boxes.

(3) The litter boxes must not be placed in the same room, lined up next to each other. They should be in various parts of the house. If you have a 2 story house, there should be litter boxes on both floors. If you have 2 stories and a basement and attic the cat is allowed in, then there must be litter boxes on all 4 levels.

(4) Many cats do not like lids on the litter box. If you are having problems and your boxes have lids, take them off.

(5) Likewise with liners. If there's a problem and you have cat pan liners, get rid of them.

(6) Keep all litter boxes METICULOUSLY clean. That means scooping at least once daily if not more and changing the litter completely every one to two weeks as needed.

(7) If your litter boxes are in noisy, "scary" places where the cat can be startled, move them. Hot water heaters, furnaces, children, busy areas of the house....these can all startle a cat while it's in the box and create an aversion to going back in the box. This is the original cause of many cat elimination problems.

(8) NEVER use negative punishment with a cat. IT DOESN'T WORK. If you yell or stomp or clap or throw something, aggressive cats become more aggressive, timid cats become more timid, and cats that go outside the box will still go outside the box. This means that if you are sitting in a room and see your cat walk up to something on the floor and begin to urinate on it, you need to just grit your teeth and wait it out. No reaction at all on your part. When you see your kitty use the box, after she exits, give her lots of praise and a treat or two. Reward good behavior; ignore bad behavior.

(9) In general, extra attention can always help. If you've been really busy at the office or having a child or worrying excessively and your cat hasn't been getting enough of you, try to create some time for extra attention and treats and fun, loving time together.

(10) Many of my clients have found Feliway spray and plug-in's to be helpful.

(11) It's possible your kitty doesn't like the type of litter you are using. Try putting a different type in one of the litter boxes.

There's so much more I could write. This subject of cat elimination problems is practically endless and it won't all fit here. These are the key points however. I wrote an e-book on the subject that is much more thorough. You can find it at Litter Box Problems near the bottom of the page.

More specifically, Mary Jo, your cat is of the age and exhibiting behavior that would make you want to take her to the vet absolutely to find out if she has a urinary tract infection or hyperthyroidism or some other medical reason for her actions. Her cat elimination problems SEEM to be directly related to her wanting to go outside and not being able to. However her crying and increased interest in going outside make me think of two things in particular --- deafness or hyperthyroidism.

Bob, if your cat isn't neutered, do it right away. It could solve all your problems. Also, if you haven't had a fecal sample analyzed recently, have that done. In fact, even if you have, have it done again and consider deworming even if nothing is found.

Ashley, if your kittens are really kittens (less than a year of age), their behavior may just be how they are. (and they very likely could grow out of it). However, it sounds as if they want to dig deeper, so add more litter if you are only putting a small amount on the bottom of the litter pan. In your case, I would say if you're not using hoods on your pan, that might help enormously. Also, neuter them early.And, again, get more litter boxes. You need three and they need to be in various parts of the house. Hoods and a mat underneath may make this more tolerable. Also, there is furniture made now that conceals litter boxes. Cabinet-like furniture with the box inside. They're all over the internet if you haven't seen them. That might be helpful to you.

Good luck to everyone with cat elimination problems. They CAN be solved!

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