If your cat won't use the
litterbox, you and the cat indeed have a problem! This isn't acceptable indoor feline
behavior! Before attempting to change this behavior, a trip to the
vet to assure that the behavior isn't caused by illness is in order. Once sure
there is no illness, you can proceed to help the cat reestablish normal
As a preventive measure,
it is advised to have the cat spayed/neutered before they are reaching maturity
(generally before 6 months). Whether male or female, a cat can feel territorial stresses
and cause the cat to spray or mark their territory. There are many rescuers
who, based on their experiences in rescuing cats with litterbox problems,
firmly believe that cats might be more prone to having litterbox problems after
being declawed, though veterinarians do not generally agree that this is the
at all possible, we suggest that you refrain from declawing
the cat. There are some things you can do as alternatives to declawing.
If house soiling is a problem, the cat will need to first be vetted to make
sure there isn't any kind of medical condition. There is a danger of FUS
(Feline Uremic Syndrome) which can cause a
cat to deteriorate quite quickly and results from urinary tract blockage.
After vetting, the cat needs to be confined to a smaller room in
order to retrain. The best room would be one without carpeting, such as a
bathroom. Confine the cat to this
room while an enzymatic cleaner can be used to clean the areas in the house where the
soiling has been a problem. It is a good idea to keep the cat confined to this small area
for a week and if there are no problems then gradually increase the amount of space that
the cat is allowed to roam making sure to save the troubled rooms for last. If the cat
begins the soiling again go back to the confining to the small room and start the process
Before beginning to allow the cat back out into the
whole house, the reason for the
soiling will need to be corrected. First check: Are they clean enough (being scooped at least daily)? Some cats are very picky and will
not use a box that has anything in it.
Is the litter fresh but not to fragrant and of a desirable texture?
Are there enough boxes for all the cats in the home? There should be a litterbox for
each cat in the home and there should be boxes on all levels of the home that the cat is
allowed to roam.
It is also important to observe if there are any stray cats outdoors that are spraying by any windows or
doors. Even though this is outdoors, the cat smells this and it may cause the
cat to mark their own territory, also. A multi-cat household may have a compounded problem, but there are
some more steps that can be taken to
deal with it.
Remember always that the key to proper litterbox habits is
keeping the litterbox a pleasurable
place to go. Make sure that the litter is scooped daily at least, NOT
heavily perfumed and a texture that the cat likes. Generally scoopable and regular clay
litters are best. If trying others be sure to leave out the old type and see what the cat
prefers to use. The cat may react differently to covered boxes versus uncovered boxes.
cats won't like to be cornered into a covered litterbox while others prefer the privacy
that these boxes offer. Some cats are frightened by the noise made by the
"automatic" litterboxes as the clean themselves.
Litter should generally be changed (emptying and cleaning
box then refilling with fresh, new litter) twice a week if using clay and once a week if
using scoopable. If multiple cats are using the boxes (or seem to prefer one box) this
will need to be done more often.
Spraying is a territorial response. If your cat
hasn't been neutered and is spraying your first step should be to get him
neutered immediately before the spraying becomes a habit. It can take as long
as 6 weeks for the hormone level to flush out of the system so be prepared
that the spraying won't stop overnight, but the urge to mark territory will
If your cat is neutered and suddenly begins to
spray it may be caused by the presence (odor, view, or sound) of a free roaming cat outdoors
which is triggering a territorial response. Visual contact with an
outside intruder, wafting odor, or the sound of cat calling may trigger territorial spraying in some cats. Close the
blinds for a few days to prevent visual contact and get some cat repellant
from your pet store or nursery to put down around the perimeter of your home
to deter the intruder.
If there is an accidental
When fresh urine comes out of the body, it is relatively clean,
with little bacteria in the acid state. As the urine dries, it turns into alkaline salts, in which bacteria flourish and give
off an odor. You should first treat an old urine stain with an acid solution (such as vinegar and water), which would offset
the alkaline and bring the stain to a neutral pH. You should then apply an enzyme treatment to destroy the bacteria and eliminate the smell.
Since fresh urine is acid, adding vinegar doesn't help: It
actually sets the stain in an acid state. In essence, you have given the urine more power to turn into alkaline state
and smell. Once in alkaline state, the stain will attract moisture out of the air, activating salts and bacteria and
smelling again and again.
Never add vinegar to a fresh urine spill. Instead, blot with
warm water and a towel several times. Follow with a mild dish detergent, one teaspoon per quart of water, and continue to rinse and dry. Finally, add an enzyme treatment to eat any bacteria that may be present. Enzyme treatments are manufactured under many different names and are available in
pet supply stores and catalogs. A remarkable product that appears to work is
called "Kritter Spritz" -
it isn't enzymatic and works on by biodegrading with safe normal bacteria.
Cats will return to previous marked areas where they
pick up their own scent so it is
important to locate and eliminate every singlestain. Ordinary housecleaners won't eliminate the smell to a cat's nose,
even if humans can't smell it. You will need to use a specific enzyme cleaner. Follow directions carefully,
saturate the area and allow to air dry. The stain will smell noticeably worse
when it's damp, but as it dries out the enzymes deal with the source of odor. If
the stains have occurred on carpet, you will need to saturate the area
thoroughly to get into the carpet padding. You may also need to get a flourescent
blacklight to find all the urine stains. Cat urine glows under a blacklight in a
darkened room making it easier to find every stain. A lot of other things also
glow, but when in doubt treat the area in question!
Everywhere but the
Spraying: How to
treat this bad habit
Tract Infections -
Understanding Urinary Tract Disease and it's
role in causing litterbox problems. Note the articles on Idiopathic
Cystitis, thought to be misdiagnosed as a behavior problem.
- This is the definitive Encyclo-Pee-dia! This site covers
almost any litterbox problem including litter aversion, covered vs not
covered, location and surface preferences.
Better With Your Cat
- A terrific article from Larry Lachman, an
When Good Cats Go Bad -
Dr. Roen, DVM
- By Karen L. Overall, VMD, PH.D., Dip. ACVB
Litterbox Problems -
Dr. Mike Richards, DVM
pan or Elimination Problems
- Dr. Mike Richards, DVM
Explanations & Solutions -
from an Animal Behavioralist
Problems in Multi-Cat Households -
From Cat Fanciers Association
Cats With Litter Box Problems
- Dr. Newman, DVM
Woes Often Due to Change in Routine - Great article from the
University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine
- From Dr. Petra Drake, DVM
Good Cats Do Bad Things
- From MarVista Veterinary Clinic
Problems in Cats
- From Indian Hills Animal Clinic
Elimination in Cats
The Feline Advisory Bureau of the UK
Spraying Problems from the Feline Advisory Board
What is the difference between spraying and urinating, and how do you
deal with it?
- From Dr. Mike Richards, DVM
or Squatting? What's the Difference?
Spraying: A Case History
Control Urine Spraying
Marking Behaviors - An excellent article that explains why cats mark, the different kinds
of marking patterns (spraying versus peeing) and how to correct the
use in Cats -
by Dr. Petra Drake, DVM
- From the Internet Vet
- By Karen L. Overall, VMD, Ph.D., dip. ACVB
interesting cautions about using this medication long term from Dr.
Gary Norsworth, DVM
- Dr. Mike Richards