Toileting is a normal function in an animal’s life. Urination and defection rid your cat’s body of waste products and, together with spraying, they also deposit your cat’s scent around their environment, signalling that the area belongs to them. This helps them feel secure.
Cats may occasionally have toileting issues. For some, this will be a rare event when they are unable to reach the great outdoors or their litter box. For others, this inappropriate elimination becomes a habit.
The most common reasons that cats toilet inappropriately include; urinary tract disease or other illnesses, litter box issues or stress.
- If your cat toilets next to doorways or windows, or sprays on the outer walls of your home, chances are they are bothered by something outdoors. Check for neighbourhood stressors such as other cats, dogs, children or noises.
- If your cat toilets next to their litter tray, it is usually a problem with litter cleanliness. Clean more often or provide more litter trays.
- If your cat toilets around your home when guests are visiting, your cat is probably stressed. Your cat will need to be desensitised to people.
- If your cat toilets on your personal items such as clothing, bags, chairs or beds, separation anxiety may be the problem. Teach your cat to cope with being alone by introducing gradual separation from your cat while you are at home together.
Solutions for toileting problems
Owners need patience while they work on a cat toileting problem. Solutions will depend on the cause of the problem and owners may need to try a combination of veterinary care, litter changes and stress reduction to solve their problem.
Firstly, a vet check is necessary to rule out any medical issues that the cat may have. If your cat is straining to toilet or there is blood in their waste products, take them to the vet immediately.
Litter box issues are varied but some general rules, to increase attractiveness of the litter tray as a toileting spot, include:
- The larger the litter tray, the better.
- The cleaner the litter, the better.
- Some cats prefer covered boxes, some prefer open.
- Most cats enjoy privacy to toilet, so locate the tray in a quiet area.
- Provide at least one litter tray per cat.
- Try a different litter if the cat does not use the one provided.
- Clean the tray regularly, without using harsh cleaning products.
- Clean up toileting 'accidents' using an enzymatic cleaner, as this will remove any scent residues that may attract the cat back to the same spot.
If your cat is stressed, try to remove the cause of the anxiety. If this is due to other cats in your home, you may need to separate them until they can be gradually introduced to one another in a positive way again. If outside stressors are bothering your cat, try blocking views. Extremely stressed cats may benefit from veterinary medication.
About Dr Joanne Righetti
Dr Joanne Righetti is an animal behaviourist, educating the public and professionals in all aspects of the human–animal relationship. Her background is in zoology, with a PhD in animal behaviour and a counselling diploma – qualifications which enable her to work with all sorts of animals – including the human variety! Joanne likes to help pet owners understand their pet's behaviour and solve any pet behaviour problems. She also consults to a variety of organisations including non-profit organisations, commercial companies and councils and is involved in a variety of media including regular spots on radio. Joanne is an honorary associate of the Faculty of Veterinary Sciences, University of Sydney. Find out more about Joanne at www.petproblemsolved.com.au