In the past, I’ve discussed reasons why your cat is not using the litter box and instead eliminating in other parts of your house.  It could be because the litter box is unattractive to your cat or perhaps there are medical issues.  The other reason cats deliberately avoid the litter box is behavioral issues.

When cats are stressed or unhappy, they may “mark” with urine.  This can be vertical spraying or horizontal urinating.  Behavioral urination is frequently associated with the introduction of additional animal or person (even a new baby) in the household, or some other type of change to the cat’s environment.  Multi-cat households have a much greater risk that one or more of the cats will urine mark.

Try to determine the source of stress, and eliminate or minimize causes of stress if possible.  Do not punish a cat for urine marking; this will only encourage the cat to mark when you are not around.  NEVER hit a cat or try to rub its nose in excrement; this type of response only further stresses the animal and makes it afraid of the guardian.

Give the Cat Private Space

Try to give the animal extra attention and even “private” space if possible; it is not cruel to segregate a cat in an office or bedroom if that is what the cat prefers.  Sometimes environmental enrichment can help reduce stress.  Cats like vertical hideaways, and you can dramatically increase their options by adding cat perches, walkways and tall furniture.  In addition, some cats really enjoy having access to safe, outdoor enclosures.  There are several commercial products available that allow your pet to be outside without the normal risks faced by free-roaming felines.

Clean Areas Where the Cat has Marked

Thorough cleaning of any surfaces marked with urine is critical to minimize the chance the cat will be drawn back to the same area by residual scent.  First remove as much urine or other organic material as possible using just water; use a steam cleaner/extractor on carpets and upholstery.  Then thoroughly saturate the area to be cleaned with an enzymatic cleaner such as Nature’s Miracle, Urine Off, etc.  The enzymes break down the urine to remove all odor.  Do not use soap or detergent when cleaning, as these will leave residue that will inactivate enzymatic cleaners.  Reapplying the enzymatic cleaner for several days will help minimize the chance that there will be any lingering odor that your cat can detect, even if you can’t.

If urine marking cannot be eliminated, discuss possible segregation, pheromone therapy and/or medication with your veterinarian. Ultimately, if a thorough medical workup has ruled out any physiological cause, and the spraying behavior cannot be controlled, it may be better to allow the cat to go outdoors than to surrender it to a shelter or have it euthanized.

Final Words: Recurrent urinary issues are one of the most common health and behavioral problems among cats.  Resolving these issues requires patience, perseverance, a bit of detective work and flexibility on the part of caretakers and veterinarians.   People regularly make significant concessions to address the medical or behavioral issues of family members.  Hopefully more and more pet guardians will make the same commitment to their furchildren.

This article is the last in a 3 part series from Cat Network member Cindy Hewitt.  She shares her tips for determining why your cat is not using the litter box and how to solve the problem. For more information on litter box issues, please see Cindy’s other articles in the series:
6 Reasons Why Your Cat May Be Avoiding the Litter Box

Medical Issues May Be the Reason Your Cat is Avoiding the Litter Box

Photo credit: betancourt