One of the main behavior complaints we see for cats is inappropriate elimination (urinating and/or defecating outside of the litter box). We recommend an examination to make sure there is not a medical problem first. Things such as arthritis can make it hard to get into the litter box, losing vision can cause pets to have a hard time going down stairs to get to the box, and cognitive issues can cause changes in behavior. Urinary tract infections, urinary crystals, bladder stones, bladder polyps and tumors, feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD), anal gland issues, kidney disease, diabetes, other metabolic issues, neurologic issues, and gastrointestinal issues such as inflammatory bowel disease, lymphoma, parasites, or bacterial imbalances can all also present as inappropriate elimination. Often a thorough examination, urinalysis, stool analysis, anal gland expression, bloodwork, and/or radiographs may be recommended. If these results rule out a medical cause for the issue, behavior is then addressed.
There are a number of things we recommend for litter box issues:
1) Increase the number of litter boxes. The rule of thumb is one plus the number of cats in the household, so for example, if you have 2 cats you should have a minimum of 3 litter boxes. Make sure they are in different locations-two boxes right next to one another are considered one box with a divider to pets. Make sure they are on all levels of the house and are readily available.
2) Clean (scoop) litterboxes daily, and once a week completely dump all litter and wash the box with soap and water. Yearly litter boxes should be disposed of, and new replacements purchased. Plastic tends to absorb odors that we may not smell, but pets can smell about 10,000 times better than we can.
3) Pick up clothes, sheets, blankets, pillows, etc. Make beds so no bedding is on the floor, pick up laundry and place in a covered hamper or a hamper that is in a closet, etc. Do not leave towels on bathroom floor.
4) Limit access to rooms where urination seems to be a problem. Doors, baby gates, and crates can all be used to limit access. Moving a litter box to that room is also an option, with the hope that slowly over time the box can be moved back to a more agreeable location for everyone.
5) Try different products, there are a number of options available. There are litters made from paper, wheat, or pine. There are clumping vs. non clumping, or scented vs. unscented options. The hope is to determine their preference, which can change over time. We recommend that you only change one box at a time. Other options include products such as cat attract, covered vs. uncovered litter boxes, larger boxes, or boxes with low entrances may also be helpful.
6) Clean areas where the pet has urinated/defecated with an enzymatic cleaner to remove all remnants of smell (even if we can’t smell it they often can). Black lights can show cat urine in a dark room if you are having trouble finding it.
7) Assess litter box locations-make sure they aren’t next to the scary water heater that kicks on and makes noise, or that another pet in the house is not guarding the only entrance to the box.
8) We have products meant to help with stress and behavioral issues such as feliway diffusers or behavioral medications. We also have some urinary and GI tract diets that may help with the situation.
Hopefully we can help you get to the bottom of your cat’s bathroom behavior! Give us a call today.