Litter Box Blues: an Overview of Feline House Soiling

It’s every cat owner’s worst nightmare: the cat who decides he’s no longer going to use the litter box. In some cases, it’s a long-term issue – maybe you’ve struggled with it since the day of your cat’s adoption. In other cases, a cat who has dutifully used the litter box all his life may one day start soiling outside of it, seemingly out of nowhere. Regardless, it’s a frustrating issue that can cause stress, costly home damage, or even surrender or euthanasia. Read on for some insights on feline house soiling and what you can do about it.


Litter Box Problems | ASPCA


A Common Problem

Feline house soiling can consist of either urine or feces, and it’s one of the most common issues cat owners face. One study found that of cats that were relinquished to a shelter for a behavioral problem, 40% were for house soiling. It’s also the #1 reason adopted cats are later returned to shelters.


Potential Causes

Feline house soiling can be separated into categories of medical problems, toileting, and marking. If your cat is a kitten or a senior, a medical problem is more likely to be a contributing factor to going outside the litter box. Young cats may suffer from bladder or kidney stones or anatomical abnormalities such as ectopic ureters, while older cats are more likely to be affected by urinary tract infections, kidney failure, or metabolic diseases. No matter your cat’s age, it’s important to start with a visit to the veterinarian to rule out potential medical issues before behavior is addressed.

“Toileting” means your cat has found a new place to use the bathroom – and he prefers it to his litter box. Factors such as litter type, cleanliness, or location can affect toileting – we’ll discuss these more below. Marking, on the other hand, is a method of communication used by cats. In contrast to toileting, cats that are marking are more likely to release a vertical spray while toileting cats will release horizontally. Fecal soiling is also more indicative of toileting, as marking is almost always urinary. Cats that prefer one “substrate” over others (i.e., your bed) are more likely toileting than marking. Interestingly, there’s no difference in the volume of urine released in toileting vs. marking, although many people think cats release just small amounts of urine when marking.


Why is my cat sleeping in the litter box? | Litter-Robot Blog


Treating Toileting

Treatment of a toileting cat focuses on making the litter box as enticing as possible. Litter boxes should be placed in quiet, accessible, well-lit areas, as many cats will avoid noisy laundry rooms, crowded bathrooms, or basements only accessible via stairway. Common knowledge is to have one litter box per cat plus one extra – buy the biggest litter boxes available and keep them clean (scoop daily, empty and scrub monthly). While studies have shown that most cats prefer a clumping clay litter, it may be worth offering several litter boxes with different types of litter in each so you can observe which type your cat prefers. Clean up any soiled areas outside the box immediately, and make these areas unattractive to your cat. : CitiKitty Cat Toilet Training Kit (One Pack) : Litter Boxes :  Pet Supplies


Treating Marking

Treatment of marking cats focuses on reducing the need for your cat to “communicate” with others. If your cat is intact, spaying or neutering is the first step to a cat that isn’t desperate to get his “message” out to his peers. The next step is to get rid of any potential triggers for marking. If multiple cats in the household are fighting, institute full or partial segregation and put a belled collar on the aggressor so the other cat can avoid him or her. If other cats out the window are the trigger, remove outdoor attractants and work on blocking your cat’s view outside.

Creating an “environment of plenty” is another important component of treatment. Perches, scratching posts, puzzle toys, even bags and boxes are all good distractions and ways for cats to release some pent-up energy. Short bursts of playtime (i.e. 5 minutes of play followed by 5 of rest) are ideal. The pheromone product “Feliway” has also been shown to reduce marking, and comes in several formulations (plug-in diffusers, sprays, etc.).

Medications are a last-resort option, but often necessary for difficult cases that may be resistant to behavioral therapy. The treatment of choice is fluoxetine (Prozac), given as a daily oral medication. While this can be an incredibly useful tool for some cats, most cats do return to some level of marking when the drug is discontinued.


Cat Spraying & Marking: How to Stop it | Purina


We Can Help!

While feline house soiling can be challenging to treat, you’re not without options – and with a little work, most cats can be managed at an acceptable level. Your veterinarian will guide you through diagnostic and treatment options and help create a plan for your cat, so you’ll be able to put away that carpet cleaner in no time.

Why are Vet Offices SO busy during COVID?

Why is Your Veterinarian So Busy?

 If your pet has visited the veterinarian within the past several months, you’ve most likely noticed some changes – one of which may be longer wait times. A visit to the veterinary E.R. will make the difference even more jarring, with wait times reaching 8 hours or more during peak hours. Here in the clinic, we’ve noticed the difference as well, with appointments being booked out months in advance. While we don’t have all the answers ourselves, here are a few thoughts on why your veterinary clinic may be busier than ever.



Curbside Service

To start with the obvious, you’ve probably noticed that your furry friend must go to his or her
appointment unaccompanied. With curbside service, you’ll call the clinic when you arrive so that a technician can meet you at your car and collect any relevant information about your pet. Once your pet is escorted into the clinic and their weight and vitals are collected, the doctor will examine them and call you with their findings, as well as diagnostic and/or treatment recommendations.

Not only do we miss shaking your hand and seeing your face – this process significantly increases the length of our appointments. Instead of discussing exam findings face to face and receiving immediate feedback and conversation, your appointment is now broken into segments: exam, phone call, diagnostics, phone call, treatment plan, etc. While this is the best way for us to provide care for our patients while keeping our staff and clients safe, it’s not without its frustrations.


New Furry Family Members

With more time at home (and for some of us, the need for a fun distraction), we’ve seen a sizeable increase in new puppy and kitten adoptions. Trust us – we’re as obsessed with your cute new furry friend as you are! However, new puppies and kittens require much more frequent visits to the vet during their first few months of life. The average new puppy will need to come in for three to four visits by the time they are four to five months old – and this translates to a busier schedule and appointment spots that fill up faster.


More Time at Home

Another phenomenon we have noticed is with more clients working from home, many have become more on top of their pets’ medical care. If you used to spend 8 hours a day away from your dog but now stay with him 24/7, you’re much more likely to notice that slight limp or that new skin lump. Or maybe you never noticed your dog licks her feet all day long until you were around to see it. Whatever the reason, we’re seeing an increase in pets here to get that lump or those itchy ears checked out when in the past, it may have taken months to notice the problem. We are ecstatic that so many people are being proactive and seeking care before a problem gets worse! But again, more appointments mean that we book up faster and may not have as many available slots as we have in the past.


What You Can Do to Help

There are a few things to keep in mind that can help your appointment run smoothly and efficiently. Arriving a few minutes early to your appointment is always a good idea. Bring your cell phone and something to do. If you have multiple concerns you would like addressed at your pet’s visit, writing down a short list can help keep you (and us!) organized. When calling to schedule annual or routine exams (or those puppy/kitten vaccine appointments), calling three to four weeks in advance is best. If your pet is running low on a prescription medication, calling 24-48 hours in advance will ensure we have plenty of time to get you the refills you need. Above all else, we so appreciate your patience during this time. We are working hard to get as many pets the care they need as efficiently as possible while keeping everyone safe.