Articles Main Page  
    Inappropriate Elimination Habits In Cats  

Cats will sometimes start urinating or defecating around the house outside of their litter box. Occasionally, inappropriate urinary elimination is caused by bacterial infections (cystitis). Sometimes the cat will decide it likes the feel of carpeting or plastic better than the litter, developing a behavioral problem called a surface preference. Inappropriate defecation may be due to diarrhea, when he/she just can't make it to the box, aging processes, such as senility or a physical problem as with colitis.

Urinary Habits
Most cats learn at an early age to use the litter box. Cats being cats still seem to find a variety of reasons not to use it as they age.

First, rule out any medical condition by visiting your veterinarian. Cystitis can be a common cause and is a serious condition in young male cats. Cats developing a urinary infection often urinate on the floor or in a sink or tub. They urinate frequently, in small amounts. Sometimes blood can be seen in the urine or it may have a stronger than normal odor. Many times these infections can be taken care of with antibiotics and a special diet. Some male cats will need surgery to cure the problem.

If your cat does not have a medical condition, the inappropriate urination is probably a behavior problem. Unfortunately, these issues can be harder to deal with than a physical problem. Since many cats are fussy, ask yourself if anything has changed. Did you buy a new litter or change from clay to the clumping form? Is the box kept clean (nobody likes a dirty bathroom!) and changed regularly and often? Did you change the litter box itself? Many cats dislike hooded boxes. These litter boxes trap in more odor, which the owners love but the cat may hate. Is the box in an area of the house that is always accessible? Do you have one litter box for every one to two cats? Did you recently bring a new cat into the household?

Cats have a keen sense of smell and are bothered by litter box odor. If you have recently purchased a hooded box, try taking the top off. If your litter box is several years old, the plastic itself may have adopted a urine or ammonia odor and your cat might love a new box of the same type. Perhaps your cat has found a corner on the carpet and is marking there regularly. To the cat, this area now has a big sign reading "Restroom." Clean the area well; the padding underneath can hold the odor for a long time, so saturate the entire area with a stain and odor remover (you'll find many available and some work better than others). Let it sit, then blot well or go over the area with a carpet-cleaning machine. If possible, cover up the area with a plant or piece of furniture so it becomes inaccessible, then maintain a scrupulously clean box to prevent urinating in another area of the house.

Spaying and neutering cats, avoiding overcrowding and having plenty of clean litter boxes available are the keys in preventing urination around the house.

Defecation Outside the Box
Once again, a veterinary exam is the place to start. Take along a fresh stool sample for a parasite check. Does your cat go outside? Could she/he be hunting or getting into something? Is the cat chewing on houseplants? Could your cat have eaten something like string, a rubber band, ribbon or another inappropriate item? Are there physical diseases (colitis, kidney failure) due to aging?

If the cat is fine physically, think again about changes in the household: a new cat, dog or baby, a new litter or litter box, changes in routines. Clean up any diarrhea very well, using a stain and odor remover. Even if it looks clean, the cat will probably be able to detect the odor in the future. Normal feces may not leave any obvious odor or stain like diarrhea but clean up those areas as well. Try providing another box and blocking any area that seems to used on a consistent basis for defecation.

Occasionally, some cats will need to be "retrained" by keeping them in a crate or small bathroom with a litter box until they become used to using it again. If these simple suggestions do not help, speak with your veterinarian or consult an animal behaviorist.

This article is provided as a general overview of the topic. Always consult your veterinarian for specific information related to diseases or medical care for pets.

back to Articles main