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Your Cat’s Inappropriate Urination & Defecation
One of the most common problems with cat behavior is when a cat suddenly starts to urinate or defecate outside his/her litter box. This problem can have many causes. There are numerous medical problems, (i.e.; urinary tract infections, feline lower urinary tract disease, diabetes, etc) that can cause inappropriate urinating or defecating. When your cat begins to exhibit odd behavior always bring your cat to a veterinarian to rule out any medical causes that can be attributed to your cat's sudden shift in behavior.
Is My Cat Spraying?
You also want to make sure your cat is urinating and not spraying. When a cat sprays, he/she is marking their territory. Usually a cat will back up to a vertical object, such as a wall, and you will see his tail shake a bit as he/she sprays the area. It is more common in males but has been noted in female cats. Make sure your cat is spayed or neutered properly. Oftentimes, the introduction of stray cats in the area will cause an altered cat to begin to spray on areas around the household. He/she is trying to mark the area as theirs and therefore keep the cats outside at a distance. In situations like this, you should confine your cat following the instructions below, and contact your local ASPCA and find out about trap-spay/neuter-release programs they may offer.
What, If Anything, Has Changed in the Household?
Another possible cause is change. New people or animals coming into the home, changing the location of the litter pan or the type of litter, or any changes in the household can cause a cat to modify their litter box behavior. Keep in mind that cats are very routine-oriented and do not like or appreciate change. Any time there is to be a change in the home, even if it seems minor to you, try and keep your cat's comfort in mind. Moving to a new home, a new member of the household, such as a baby, a new life-partner or a new pet can be very traumatic to a cat's daily routine.
Solving the Problem
Confining your cat in a small room such as a bedroom or bathroom can help ease your cat into the changes around him/her. The room should be a calming, low traffic area where the chaos surrounding your cat is minimal if not absent. Keep the litter pan, water bowls and all of his/her toys and beds in that room. Try and make your cat feel as much at home as possible.
You can also 'booby-trap' the area to keep your cat away from it. Double-sided sticky tape, tin foil, or cans of coins strategically placed will all make it an unpleasant spot for your cat. If your cat fancies houseplants, line the pot with tinfoil, and place some soil in the litter pan. This will draw your cat back to the litter pan.
Do not make your cat feel like he/she has been placed into solitary confinement. You want to go in the room to play with and pet your cat, making him/her feel loved and comforted. Try to spend some extra time with him/her during feedings. Be sure to document your cat's litter box behavior while in the room. When all is settled, and your cat seems ready to be let back into the rest of the house, make sure to do it slowly. During the first few times you let him/her out, make sure he/she is always closely supervised, and re-introduce him/her to only small areas of the house at a time. It is normal for your cat to have accidents during the first few tries. If this happens put the cat back in the room and try again in a few days. Remember to take it slow and do not get frustrated. Your cat will need time to adjust and relearn the rules of the household.
Cleaning the Areas/Deter Your Cat from Returning
While your cat is in confinement, make sure to clean the areas where your cat has urinated, or defecated. The best way to get rid of the smell for both you and your cat is to use a 50/50 solution of household vinegar and water. Stay away from harsh cleaning products that may be harmful to your pet. Ammonia based products will attract your cat back to the area because of the similar components of his/her urine. You can even put a small amount of ammonia based cleaner in the litter pan to attract your cat back to the box. If your cat has used piles of clothes left on the floor as his/her litter pan, you can soak them in the vinegar-water solution in the washing machine and then wash them as regular laundry. Oftentimes, the area may need to be cleaned a few times before being fully cleaned.
Location and Type of Litter
Try your best to keep the litter pan in the same location for the first few weeks. If it needs to be moved, do so at a slow but steady pace, moving it only a few inches/day. If your cat is an older cat, you will need to keep the litter pan somewhere that is accessible to him/her. Do not place the box on the fourth floor, or down two flights of stairs. Your cat may not make it in time and may have accidents on the way.
Changing the type of litter can cause a cat to react negatively. Make sure to gradually mix in the new litter while removing the old brand. This will allow your cat to adjust to the new type of litter at a slow, comfortable pace.
Litter Pan Size & Cleanliness
The litter box itself is also an important aspect of litter box behavior. As your cat grows, he/she may no longer fit into the litter pan used as a kitten. Make sure your cat has enough room to turn around inside the litter box. Some cats prefer high-sided litter pans, while others prefer low-sided pans. Closed litter boxes can trap smells inside the box, so if this type is used make sure to keep the box extra clean. The box should be scooped daily, but scrubbed out completely, with a new batch of clean litter at least once a week. Cats are very clean animals, and the cleanliness of their litter boxes will affect how they are using it. If your cat defecates or urinates right in front of the box, he/she is probably trying to tell you something regarding the cleanliness, or size (see above), of the box. Always remember that each cat is different so keep your cat's specific needs in mind.
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