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Dr.D, Veterinarian
Category: Vet
Satisfied Customers: 914
Experience:  27 years of small animal medicine and surgery experience.Licensed in Florida and Canada
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My cat keeps going to the toilet outside of her litter tray,

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Hi, my cat keeps going to the toilet outside of her litter tray, this has been happening for just under a year and in that time we have tried a raft of different things from changing her litter, changing the tray and positioning, playing with her more, treating her with good behaviour, rubbing her nose in the mess and putting her in her tray but nothing seems to work and we've come to the end of our list of things to try!
JA: I'll do all I can to help. Strange behavior is often perplexing. I'm sure the Veterinarian can help you. What is your cat's name and age?
Customer: Tiger and shes 2 years old, she is toyger cat
JA: Is there anything else the Veterinarian should be aware of about Tiger?
Customer: The behaviour started when I was pregnant but our daughter is 7 months old now and we include her and play with her when we can, shes never been hostile towards the baby and will often come up.snd sniff her and we encourage play together

Hello there

Thank you for the question

I will try to do my best answer to your question .

Urinating in odd places can mean a behavior problem, a territorial marking problem, or some sort of social or environmental problem, and sometimes the differences are not clear cut. Several factors may be in play and some conditions involve medical symptoms resulting from psychological stress.

There are several medical conditions that can lead a cat to inappropriate urination and these should be ruled out so as not to get on the wrong track. The cat will need to be examined and get some testing. Conditions to rule out in part depend on the age of the cat as young adult cats tend to get different diseases than do senior cats but, briefly, here are some conditions that should be checked out:

  • Bladder infection (common in senior cats, unusual in young adult cats but still needs to be ruled out).
  • Bladder stone (more common in female cats than in male cats, but can happen to any cat).
  • Conditions that lead to excessive water consumption (there are probably a dozen such conditions and they are all more common in older cats versus younger cats but most are ruled out with a basic blood panel).
  • Arthritis (usually an older cat's problem. Often these cats will urinate next to the box or near it because they cannot squat properly or cannot step into a high-walled box).
  • Bladder tumor (not common but still a consideration in older cats especially if there is straining to urinate and/or bloody urine).
  • Constipation frequently leds to the cat passing stool in any number of places and is generally characterized by straining to defecate and small very hard stools.
  • Of special note is the condition currently referred to as feline idiopathic cystitis. This condition amounts to physical manifestations of anxiety where the cat not only may urinate inappropriately but also strains painfully in the litter box, and produces bloody urine. A male cat can actually obstruct his urinary tract, creating a medical emergency. This is a common condition in young adult cats but is uncommon in older cats. Please see the link above for more details on this complex condition.

The following are clues that an inappropriate urination problem reflects litter box aversion.

I hope this helps. Do not hesitate to come back and ask if you have more questions. Please rate our conversation for me to get rewarded for my time.

  • Urination does not involve spraying vertical surfaces.
  • Both urination and defecation occur outside the litter box.
  • Two or more cats share a litter box (the current litter box recommendation is one box per cat plus one extra).
  • A new brand of litter is suddenly being used.
  • The box is covered. A covered bathroom area is highly unnatural for cats as they prefer better lighting for elimination and odors are concentrated in an enclosed area such as a covered box.
  • The box is not changed frequently.
  • The cat has had a negative experience in the box (the cat was captured from the box to receive medication or be disciplined).
  • The litter box is in a heavy household traffic area.
  • A puppy, dog or even a small child is bothering the cat in the box.
  • The litter box is located near a noisy appliance, such as a clothes dryer.
  • Another cat in the household is a bully and/ or controls access to resources such as food, rest areas, or the litter box in a multi-cat household.
  • Cats with litter box aversion frequently require re-training to the box. As a first step, the litter box situation must be made optimal as best as possible. If it is possible, an additional box should be provided. If there are multiple floors to the home, there should be a box on each level. The box should be 1.5 times the length of the cat (not including the tail) or the cat will feel cramped. If possible, the boxes should not be in the same location in the house so that the cat feels a sense of privacy and is not confronted by other cats who need to use it.

    The box should not be in a high traffic area. In a single cat home, the cat may have experienced something unpleasant in association with the current litter box (molestation by a child or dog, loud noise etc.) and needs a new area. It is important not to keep the cat’s food in a location near the box as the cat will not want to use the feeding area as a toilet.

    Obviously, any litter boxes should be scooped daily or even twice daily and kept as clean as possible. Clumping litter should be changed at least monthly and non-clumping litter should be changed twice weekly. The box should be washed with soapy water or water alone with no strong-smelling disinfectants that might be objectionable to the cat.

  • A litter box length should be at least one and a half times the length of the cat (not including the tail) so that the cat will have adequate space to maneuver and cover excrement.

    As the next step, another type of litter can be provided to see if the cat prefers a different brand or type. Signs that the cat does not like the litter include: sitting on the plastic lip of the litter box to eliminate, failure to dig a hole in the litter, and/or shaking the litter off the paws after exiting the box.

    First, the carrier is in the housing area, then a small room such as a bathroom or playpen is allowed, next a large room is added etc. until the cat again has his usual access. Alternatively, the cat may be boarded in an animal hospital as housing in a small cage commonly brings the cat back to the litter box plus the cat can be observed for other problems that might be contributing to the elimination problem.

    If these tips are not effective in restoring the cat’s proper toilet behaviors, a behavior specialist should be called in. Please contact your veterinarian for the best consultant in your area.

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