Problems in the Cat House

April 16, 2016

The most common behavioral issue reported by cat owners is...........inappropriate urination.


And the solution to the problem is as unique as your cat.


So why does your cat eliminate outside the box?

There can be a number of reasons - including medical conditions, aversion to the litter box, or a location preference.


Medical Problems

There are multiple medical conditions that will interfere with a cat's normal bathroom behavior - which can cause litter box issues. Inflammation of the urinary tract can make it painful to urinate and increase the frequency and/or urgency of urination. Digestive tract problems can make it painful for defecation or decrease your cat's control over defecation. Other possible medical issues include kidney or thyroid diseases, and diabetes mellitus. Age-related diseases that interfere with your cat's mobility or cognitive functions can make getting to the litter box in time more difficult for your cat.


Site Preferences

While your cat may dislike something about his litter box, it could also be the location. Your cat may have a preference for a particular type of surface or location. Cats that prefer certain surfaces and/or locations generally stick with that choice. For example: a cat the frequently uses soft surfaces such as clothing will likely not use a tile floor (or even a litter box placed on a tile floor). Cats that prefer an alternative location often have an aversion to the current litter box location. Just like other litter box aversions, you pet may still use the litter box, although inconsistently.

Litter Box Aversions
House soiling can also be due to an aversion to the litter box. Aversions to the litter box can be due to the litter box itself, the litter, the location of the box - or even all three! If your cat has an aversion to the litter box, she will likely eliminate on a variety of surfaces. You may find that your cat uses either soft bedding, carpets, clothing, etc or hard surfaces (tile, bathtubs, etc). Depending on why you cat wants to avoid the litter box and how badly, you cat may continue to use the box but only inconsistently.

Urine Spraying

When cats rub against objects (and people) they are depositing their scent and claiming "territory." Another equally normal (but far less pleasant) marking behavior is urine spraying, the deposition of a small amount of urine to make his/her territory. Spraying is used to announce his presence, establish/maintain territory, or advertise that he (or she) is ready to mate. Generally when cats spray, it is on a vertical surface like a wall. When spraying, your cat will generally stand, lift their tail and quiver, then spray a small amount of urine onto several locations. It is difficult to determine if you cat is spraying or having inappropriate elimination issues unless you catch your cat in the act. If your cat is spraying, your cat will not squat and may even lift a leg, similar to a dog. If your cat is inappropriately urinating, he/she will squat down to pee.


While it is very common that unneutered males spray, both males and females spray to mark their territory. Cats may spray out of frustration (diet change, insufficient playtime, new furniture) or if they perceive a threat to their territory (new cat in the house or outside - even if your cat is inside only).

What can you do?

Address the problem ASAP - the longer the behavior persists, the more likely it will become a lasting habit. If you have multiple cats, you may need to separate the cats to determine which one is having issues.  You also need to determine if the urine puddles are a result of inappropriate urination or spraying behaviors.


Once these answers are found, take your cat to your veterinarian for a comprehensive physical examination and appropriate diagnostic testings to determine if there are underlying medical problems. Because cats are masters at hiding illness, many times, your cat may not act sick and yet have an underlying medical condition.

Identify the Non-Medical Cause
If medical conditions have been ruled out by your veterinarian, the hard detective work must begin.


Do you have enough litter boxes and are the spread out enough? Are the litter boxes big enough? Is your box clean? Have you recently changed litter types? Does your cat prefer a certain location or a box without a cover?


You may need to add more litter boxes or relocate them to a more preferred spot. Young kittens and older cats need boxes with lower sides to make it easier for them to get into the box. While humans prefer covered boxes to help with sights and smells, most cats like open boxes so nothing can sneak up on them. Always provide as many litter boxes as there are cats in the house with at least one extra box. This decreases the competition to the boxes and therefore can decrease the stress.





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