Piddle in the Middle

If your kitty is missing the litter box, never fear. There are simple solutions that will get kitty back on the right track.

Two different things that can be going on when your kitty is not using the litter box. Cat behavior experts have terminology for each of these behaviors – inappropriate elimination and marking. It’s important to determine which it is so you can address the behavior successfully.

If the cat is inappropriately eliminating, they will urinate or defecate on horizontal surfaces and the kitty will be in a squatting position.

Cats that urine-mark will urinate mostly on vertical surfaces. The cat will usually be standing and back up to the object, lifting and often quivering the tail, and treading with the back feet.

Here are some typical reasons and remedies for inappropriate elimination:

– Even a perfectly healthy cat can have the occasional accident. To prevent this, be sure that the cat has access to the litter box at all times. For example, the only litter box should not be in a bathroom where the door might be shut during use. An older cat with arthritis may need a box with a lower side to gain access.

– Many cases of house soiling in cats are related to a minor underlying medical issue. Urinary tract infections are not uncommon in cats. Anyone who has ever had a urinary tract infection can understand the pain and feeling of urgency they create. Fortunately, your veterinarian can treat an infection with antibiotics. Once the pain is gone, kitty will happily return to the litter box.

– Thoroughly clean up any urine using an odor remover (available in pet supply stores) or mild solution of bleach and water. Residual odor in the inappropriate areas can attract some cats back to that area.

– Cats prefer a clean box. Be sure that you are scooping often enough, that the box is large enough for the cat (many cats do not like hooded boxes), and that there are enough boxes available for the number of cats. The ideal number is one per cat, plus one. Some cats prefer some litter over others. You can segregate the offending cat in a room with at least three litter boxes, each with a different type of litter including the litter that you are currently using. Whichever one the cat selects is going to be the best one to provide.

– Cats don’t like to be disturbed while in the litter box, so put the boxes in quiet, less trafficked areas. Be sure that the cat is not being ambushed by other cats when they try to use the box. Keep the cat’s food and water away from the litter box area, as this could cause cats to avoid using the box.

– Lastly, consider if there have been other changes in the household that could be stressful to the cat. A cat may begin marking when they feel that their security in the home is threatened. New pets, new people, even changing the cat litter suddenly can upset some cats. Sometimes simple adjustments can help. In other cases, behavior modification strategies or drugs can help.

One last word: If you catch your cat in the act of eliminating, don’t punish the cat by yelling or rubbing their nose in it. The cat will only learn to fear and avoid you. Indirect punishment, such as a squirt gun, is only mildly effective since you need to consistently apply with every occurrence. Since these conditions are difficult to achieve, it’s best to focus on finding solutions to the underlying problem than on punishing the cat.

If you need further help with your kitty’s behavior, please contact the Nevada Humane Society Animal Help Desk at animalhelp@nevadahumanesociety.org or 775-856-2000, ext. 200.

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