Last week we looked at why some cats may be either urinating or defecating in places other than their litter box. This week, we’ll explore ways to prevent it.Methods for prevention of house-soiling
- Scooping the litter box daily
- Changing soiled litter daily
- Letting your cat decide which litter or box he/she likes by doing different trials
- Avoid negative conditioning; not only is it unlikely to work, but it can also be counterproductive by causing new problems
- Recognize negative scenarios that may upset your particular cat (children or other pet harassment) or stress
- Clean all soiled areas in the home appropriately and thoroughly to decrease attraction of soiled areas as established toilet places
- Provide sufficient number of litter boxes for the household; The AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) recommends 1 or more litter boxes than there are cats in the home
- Place the litter box/pan in area easily accessed by all cats
As a last resort, some cats need to be “retrained” to reuse the litter box using a crate or small room. This can be done through the advise of your veterinarian.The final category of behavioral inappropriate elimination is commonly known as urine marking—the “you are mine” mentality. This can be urination on objects, beds, shoes, clothes, stove stops, etc and can stem from what we humans can relate to as “emotional” causes, such as: inter-cat aggression, anxiety (owner leaving on vacation), frustration (outdoor cat becoming an indoor cat), and hormonal (if cat is not fixed.)
Besides the methods recommended above for prevention of urine marking, other methods of deterrents against marking are using an upside-down carpet runner, double-sided sticky tape, and aluminum foil. Alternatively, using these areas positively (i.e. cat gets fed, played with) may also work well. Lastly and probably more importantly is addressing the feline’s underlying cause (anxiety, stress, inter-cat aggression, etc).With all that said, despite owners and veterinarian’s efforts to use environmental and behavioral modification to treat inappropriate urination, there is a small percentage of cats that require a medical approach rather than changing the environment to solve unwanted house-soiling. As a last resort, there are stress-relieving medications that can be used safely that can be discussed with your veterinarian.
Sadly, house-soiling is the number one cause of relinquishment of cats to shelters. Understanding normal feline behavior, preventing inappropriate elimination coupled with diet, exercise and environmental enrichment may be the best solution. Much research has been poured into this complex condition, and there is still a lot to be learned, but existing solutions are almost always effective.