My cats are fabulous companions. They have a curious nature that cause them to be interactive and playful. An afternoon nap wouldn’t be complete without one or more purring, kneading felines. I couldn’t imagine life without my cats, but I’ve taken steps to ensure harmony in my household. When an owner is experiencing negative feline behavior, it can take the fun out of cat ownership. Inappropriate house soiling is an issue some cat owners have experienced. There are steps that can be taken to stop bad behaviors before or after they’ve started.
When a client presents with their feline companion to our hospital for inappropriate house soiling, we first rule out a medical issue. Urinary tract infections can cause increased urination urgency and frequency. Inflammation of the urinary tract results in painful urination. Urgency can cause a cat to urinate wherever they are, but some cats develop an adversity to the litter box due to the pain of urination. Kidney disease and diabetes mellitus are other health issues that can result in inappropriate soiling. Felines who develop certain diseases will consume excessive amounts of water and therefore have to urinate more frequently. Many older cats have arthritis and using stairs may be more of a challenge than in their younger days. Placing litter boxes on multiple levels of the house can be beneficial. Once your veterinarian rules out a medical issue, there are steps you can take to address your felines bad behavior.
Many cats have specific preferences when it comes to their litter boxes. First, do you have the appropriate number of boxes for the household? You should have one litter box per cat, plus one box. For example, if you have two cats, three litter pans should be available. Litter pans must be kept clean and a routine cleaning schedule should be implemented. The location of boxes is also important to your feline. Your cat may like a private location, or prefer a carpeted location over a tiled floor. If you notice your cat is soiling only carpeted areas, place a carpet remnant in the litter pan with a finer brand of litter. If they show preference for tiled surfaces, place tile on the bottom of the litter pan. If your feline is marking one spot over and over, move a litter pan to that area. In a multi-cat household, litter pans may need to be placed in different areas of the house. Litter brand and type of litter pan can play a role in cat soiling. Scented versus unscented litter, the size of the litter granules, the size of the litter pan and covered versus uncovered boxes are all details to consider if your feline stops using their box. Trial and error may be needed to find the perfect litter, box and location for your fickle feline.
If you’ve found the perfect location, boxes and litter, but your feline is set on going in one area, there are other steps to take. It is important to thoroughly clean the inappropriate soiling area. Use an odor neutralizing cleaner, such as Nature’s Miracle, and follow cleaning with a synthetic pheromone called Feliway. Cats may be less likely to soil in an area with the pheromone odor. Try covering the soiled area with plastic sheets or furniture to prevent access. Cats tend to eliminate in one area and eat in another. By feeding and playing with your cat in the area they are soiling, you can rewire their thinking in that location. Have a water gun ready and if you catch your cat in the act of inappropriate soiling, give them a squirt. The goal is to startle your cat, not scare them. An unpleasant, but not overly stressful, experience in that soiling area may cause your cat to shy away from eliminating there in the future. Never let your frustration in the situation be taken out on your pet. Scaring or stressing your cat can cause the behavior to worsen. It’s more productive to find the litter box set up and location to suit your cat.
Inappropriate cat soiling may be easy to stop, or can take some detective work. Have patience, use our veterinarians as a resource and put the above information into practice. For more information on cat house soiling and other feline topics visit http://www.vet.cornell.edu/fhc/health_information/. Owning a cat should be rewarding and with a little work, your household can be harmonious!