Why do cats inappropriately eliminate?
Reasoning can vary greatly, most commonly it is due to a medical issue of some sort from UTI, crystals, FIC to even pain being caused by something unrelated to the bladder. The first step to dealing with inappropriate urination in a cat is to see your veterinarian. They will run diagnostics and determine whether we should be moving towards a behaviour control approach or a medical one.
First and foremost, we must have the right litter pans, litter, placement, amount of pans etc. Cats are very picky about where they eliminate.
- You should have one litter pan per cat and then one extra (ex. You own three cats you should have four litter pans).
- Cats are about texture so do not change between different types of litter regularly. It could make them eliminate all on their own. If you have used sand litter from the time they were a kitten, keep using that. If you adopted as an adult, you make need to trial a few kinds. In that case, you can buy small bags of each and fill different litter boxes. After a day, see if they favoured some types over others. Use that type.
- “Research indicates that house cats without elimination problems will dig in their litter boxes longer before eliminations, whereas cats that dig for four seconds or less prior to elimination may be candidates for elimination problems.” Cats need to have at least three inches of litter in their pan at all times so they can dig appropriately. They want to be able to hide their eliminations.
- Size and style of litter pan are important. If you have an older, arthritic cat, they may opt to eliminate inappropriately because they cannot get into the litter box due to the height of the sides. Some cats feel uncomfortable in covered litter pans, remove the cover. Cats tend to prefer a large litter pan, using a large “under the bed” rubbermaid bin as a litter box often helps encourage them to use it.
- Placement is also key – you should have space between all litter pans. If you have them grouped together, it’s essentially like having one big litter pan. Cats want to have a choice in where they can eliminate. Try to place the pans far enough away from each other (i.e. if you have them in your basement, try to place one in each corner of a large room).
- Placement continued – Make sure you have the litter pans in low traffic, quiet areas. If something happens to deter them from the area around their litter pan, they may inappropriately urinate because they are uncomfortable going back to that area. There is a lesser chance of this if it is in an area of the home that most people don’t go to. Other animals should be blocked off from the litter area. Children and adults should not be near the cat(s) when they are in the litter box, nor should they pester in the area.
It is something that often goes forgotten, but is so important. Cats are naturally clean animals and want to eliminate in a clean area. Litter pans should be cleaned at least once daily, sometimes twice daily.
So what is normal?
Cats eliminate in 3 ways:
- Squat Urination – This is when they squat to urinate, and the elimination is a puddle in the litter.
- Urine Spraying – Though we as humans tend to find this appalling, it is normal behaviour for some cats. It is not the norm for most cats and is typically seen in cats who are not spayed or neutered, and is more prevalent when in estrous.
- Defecation – This is done in a squatting position. The average housecat defecates once daily.
What other tips are there?
So you’ve followed all of the above rules for a clean and inviting elimination area for your cat and you are still having issues. Here are some other things that you may need to try:
- Pheromone product such as Feliway or Feliway Friends.
- Block off the areas of the home that they are most commonly inappropriately urinating in. Ensure you have also cleaned these areas thoroughly with an enzyme eliminator.
- If you use liners in the litter box currently – remove them. Same with additives like baking soda.
- Using catnip to encourage the use of the litter box can be helpful in some cases.
If you have any questions, please give us a call at 902.434.0700.
Written by: Blair Lutes, Site Coordinator