The woes of inappropriate toileting
Updated: Sep 25
Now while we are on the topic of cat toileting issues….
Another behavioural issue cat owners find particularly challenging is ‘inappropriate elimination/toileting’ (urinating or defecating outside of the litter box). This issue is generally linked to problems within the home and can result in your feline friend becoming stressed. Inappropriate elimination can be identified by the cat’s choice of surface to urinate/defecate on, being horizontal (e.g. floors), whereas spraying is done generally up on vertical surfaces (e.g. furniture, walls, etc).
Reasons why your cat is not using their litter tray
Underlying medical issue: Some conditions can affect your cat’s mobility and/or sensory functions which could affect their ability to physically access the litter tray (health issues relating to the cats muscles, joints etc). In this case, the location choice becomes essential, it must be easily accessible.
Conditions including; urinary tract infections/inflammation, stones and crystal formation in the bladder- can often cause pain and an increased need to urinate. Some diseases particularly of the kidneys and liver can cause increase the cats need to drink more and thus urinate more frequently. Additionally, cognitive decline/ endocrine disorders such as diabetes can result in your inappropriately toileting, as can health issues that result in poor bowel control.
Change: Cats generally don’t like change and changes in a routine, environment, loss/addition of a human or pet can all contribute to the cat’s feeling of security. Cats when stressed as a result of change, may resist using their litter trays and toilet where they are not supposed to.
Dislikes another cat: Cats need their space and if your cat has taken a dislike to another feline family member, they may choose to react by toileting where they are not supposed to.
Litter tray aversion: Cats will often avoid the litter tray if it isn’t in precisely the right location. They may also avoid using the litter tray if they dislike the type of tray or the type of litter. Your cat may choose to use their litter tray on occasions, however its use will be inconsistent – depending on how much they dislike the litter tray.
How can I stop inappropriate toileting?
Underlying medical issue: The first thing you should do is consult your vet to rule out whether there is an underlying health issue. If no health issues have been identified by your vet, there are a few approaches you can take help address the inappropriate toileting.
Reduce other cat interactions: If your cat is avoiding the litter tray due to a dislike of another cat within the home, it might be best to try limit and closely monitor/supervise their interactions. Creating safe ‘places’ for your cat to retreat to as needed will also prove beneficial.
Adequate litter trays: Ensuring your cat feels safe and secure when using their litter trays is essential. They may avoid using their litter tray in fear of coming into contact with a cat they don’t particularly like. If you have created safe ‘places’ for your cat, placing litter trays nearby may assist. Ensuring there are enough litter trays is also essential (1 tray per a cat with an additional tray is possible). Placing these in different locations will also assist in preventing conflict.
Litter type: Cats may have a preference for particular surfaces. If they like soft surfaces, a soft/finer litter should be used. If you need to switch brands, do so gradually- adding small amounts of new litter type to the old.
Litter tray type: Just as some cats have a preference for a particular surface and thus litter type, they may also have a preference for the litter tray type. The litter tray/box may not be big enough, it may have too high/low of sides. Some cats don’t like boxes as it restricts their view (particularly if they live with another cat they dislike). You may need to trial different litter tray types/boxes until you find one that your cat prefers.
Litter tray cleanliness: Cats do not like litter trays that are dirty/ overcrowded with urine and faeces. Faeces and urine (if using clumping litter) should be removed daily with a scoop. The litter tray/box should also be frequently cleaned and litter regularly replaced.
Prevent access to the preferred location: If your cat is inappropriate toileting in the one area, prevent access to it. Closing doors or moving objects to obstruct access may help. If you are unable to prevent access to the area, placing plastic sheets or something on the surface they prefer, may act as a deterrent.
Cleaning the preferred location: Cats will have a preference for locations they have previously been urinated on. Thoroughly cleaning surfaces that your cat has urinated on will help deter them going back to the same area. You will need to clean these surfaces with a quality enzymatic, bio-based cleaner. Applying odour neutralisers where your cat prefers to inappropriately toilet may prevent him from using the location again.
Feliway: FELIWAY is a synthetic copy of the Feline Facial Pheromone. This pheromone helps cats feel safe and secure and helps reduce stress related behaviours.
Natural Supplements: There are plenty of targeted supplements that help reduce stress and related behavioural issues. Your vet should be consulted before administering.
Cover photo courtesy of Shutter Paws Photography.