If your cat is urinating or defecating outside the litter box, we certainly understand your frustration. Luckily, this is a treatable condition in most cases. A medical exam, as well as a few simple changes can help to re-establish proper litter box use.

The first step includes taking your cat to your veterinarian. Whenever a cat suddenly eliminates outside of the litter box, it’s strongly advised to get a physical exam including urine analysis and in some cases blood work in order to rule out any illness or injury that may be causing the behavior. Once a medical reason for the lapse in litter box use has been ruled out, you want to consider behavioral reasons.

There are two main behavioral reasons for failure to eliminate in an established litter box. One is marking, which is a form of communication. The second one is inappropriate elimination, which is a toileting behavior. Both behaviors may occur for a variety of reasons. See handout for these litter box problems.

No matter the reason there are a few litter box tips that are universally important to all cats.

Tips

If your cat is urinating or defecating outside the litter box, we certainly understand your frustration. Luckily, this is a treatable condition in most cases. A medical exam, as well as a few simple changes can help to re-establish proper litter box use.

The first step includes taking your cat to your veterinarian. Whenever a cat suddenly eliminates outside of the litter box, it’s strongly advised to get a physical exam including urine analysis and in some cases blood work in order to rule out any illness or injury that may be causing the behavior. Once a medical reason for the lapse in box use has been ruled out, you want to consider behavioral reasons.

There are two main behavioral reasons for failure to eliminate in an established litter box. One is marking, which is a form of communication. The second one is inappropriate elimination, which is a toileting behavior. Both behaviors may occur for a variety of reasons and we first need to figure out which category your cat belongs to. In some cases this is not as easy as it seems and you will need a professional to help you.

Answer the following 4 questions:

  1. Is your cat depositing urine on vertical or horizontal surfaces?
  2. Are you finding large or small amounts of urine?
  3. Is your cat still using the litter box or has litter box use decreased?
  4. Does your cat stand or squat when she is urinating outside the litter box?

Recommendations if You Think Your Cat Is Marking

If your cat backs into the wall with her tail up and squirts small amounts of urine onto vertical surfaces such as the wall, front door, or windows, your cat most likely is displaying marking behavior, most often triggered by territoriality or stress. While the triggers may seem benign to us, they can likely be a source of turmoil for your cat. Popular triggers include: a new home, new furniture, or the smell or view of a strange cat strolling through the yard or passing by your front door.

This is a normal feline behavior; some cats use urine as a form of communication. In order to get the marking behavior under control, you need to do a number of things all at once.

  1. Because the odor of urine draws cats back to previously marked areas, you will have to clean all soiled areas with an enzymatic cleanser. You should take a black light to help you locate all the spots in your house; urine will glow yellow-green in the dark. As the amounts are often small you might be missing areas where your cat sprays. Additionally, it is key to implement excellent litter box hygiene, which has been proven to significantly decrease the incidence of spraying.
  1. Then try to identify any new stressors in your cat’s life. Once you have been able to do so, work to change or remove them. This can be done simply by blocking your cat’s view of strange cats with covers on the front window. However, keep in mind that the outside cats might be marking the outside of your door. In this case, you need to deter stray cats from coming near your front door or window, and you will have to clean those areas as well. Deterring cats from coming to your yard of front door can be done with motion activated deterrents. It can also help to initially confine your cat to a separate part of the house where she is more comfortable.
  2. Enrich your cat’s environment by providing more resting and hiding places, multiple feeding locations, scratching boxes and posts, and interactive toys. Meal times can be made more interesting by hiding small quantities of food around the house or using food dispensing toys to keep an indoor cat busy and less worried about things going on outside the home.
  3. A feline facial pheromone, Feliway®, is another option that may help decrease the urine marking.

Recommendations if You Think Your Cat Displays Inappropriate Elimination

Unlike your mother or your roommate, your cat is not worried about your tidiness or lack thereof, even though it may seem that way from the human perspective. However, it is important to keep your cat’s litter box tidy and appealing. Cats are picky and if the litter box is not just as your cat likes it, or where your cat likes it to be, then any clothes you may have strewn either on the ground or inside of a laundry basket may become the perfect litter box alternative.

Once medical reasons have been ruled out, review the following guidelines to help identify the issue:

Tips

 

If you don’t find feces in the litter box there can be a few reasons, and we will help you trouble shoot.

Before attributing this to a behavior reason, we must first consider medical reasons. The medical term for this condition is constipation. The number of defecations can vary, and normally a cat should have 2-4 bowel movements per 24 hours. If it has been more than 48 hours since the cat has defected, the cat needs to be evaluated by your veterinarian.

NEVER use over-the-counter enema solutions designed for humans. Some of them contain substances that can be deadly to cats.

Possible Medical Reasons:

It’s possible that your cat is actually defecating normal amounts, but it’s undetected:

When you are using a non-clumping litter of any kind it can be sometimes difficult to verify how much the cat is actually eliminating. Dump the litter and use fine granulated clumping litter. This will make it easier to actually see the fecal clumps. Then clean the box regularly, removing the fecal balls each time the cat has eliminated. This allows you to assess how many actual bowel movements there are.

The cat is defecating in other places than the litter box provided. Check your entire home to find fecal matter. Then check if the litter box is easily accessible for the cat. Refer to the Litter Box Problems and Litter Box Tips handouts for tips on trouble shooting eliminating outside the litter box problems.

Tips

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