MJ Wixsom: Dealing with litter box issues

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 31, 2023

There is nothing more frustrating, than the mysterious world of inappropriate cat behavior.

As any seasoned veterinarian will tell you, one of the most common and frustrating concerns among cat owners is the enigmatic issue of feline house soiling. But we do have some guidance on how to deal with it.

House soiling in cats is more than just a messy inconvenience; it can be a sign of underlying health or behavioral issues.

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Cats are meticulous creatures by nature, and when they begin to urinate or defecate outside their litter box, it’s often a signal that something is amiss.

Let’s delve into the key reasons behind this vexing issue and explore how to address it.

Cats are masters at hiding discomfort or illness, so the first step in addressing house soiling is a thorough veterinary examination.

Conditions such as urinary tract infections, bladder stones and diabetes can cause pain and discomfort, leading to inappropriate elimination.

By ruling out medical issues, we can start on the right path to a solution. Arthritis can also mean it is difficult to get to the litter box and start the elimination in the wrong place.

Cats are sensitive beings, and changes in their environment can trigger stress and anxiety.

Now stress to a cat is not the same stress as for humans. New family members, pets or even home renovations can disrupt their sense of security. Creating a stable, cat-friendly environment with quiet spaces and enriching activities can help alleviate stress.

Cats can have strong opinions about their litter box. The type of litter, cleanliness, size, and location can make a significant difference. Experiment with different options to determine your cat’s preferences. We recommend that kittens be exposed to as many types of litter as possible in case we have to change it later.

House soiling can also be a behavioral problem. Spraying, territory marking, or conflicts with other cats may lead to this behavior.

Behavioral modification techniques and, in some cases, consultation with a feline behaviorist, can be highly effective in resolving these issues.

Unneutered male cats are more likely to spray, while unspayed females may be more prone to house soiling. Having your cat spayed or neutered can help reduce these behaviors.

If your cat has soiled inappropriately, it’s crucial to clean the area thoroughly to remove any lingering odors. Cats have a keen sense of smell, and if they can detect their scent in a spot, they’re more likely to return to it.

They can even think they are supposed to pee there. And remember a litter box for every cat and one extra in the house.
Reward your cat for using the litter box. Positive reinforcement can go a long way in encouraging good behavior.

Remember, solving the riddle of feline house soiling may take time and patience. Each cat is unique, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution.

Working closely with your veterinarian to determine the cause and tailor a treatment plan is key to success.

Feline house soiling is indeed a perplexing issue, but with the right approach, it can be addressed effectively.

By understanding your cat’s physical and emotional needs, you can help them regain their litter box manners and create a harmonious living space for both you and your feline companion.

Until next time, take care of your furry friends and keep those litter boxes clean!

MJ Wixsom, DVM MS is a best-selling Amazon author who practices at Guardian Animal Medical Center in Flatwoods, Ky. GuardianAnimal.com 606-928-6566