Inappropriate Elimination In Felines

Inappropriate Elimination In Felines

By L Johnson

For cat owners, feline inappropriate elimination (urinating or defecating outside of the litter box) is the most common behavior complaint, according to leading vet authorities. This behavior can be extremely frustrating; however, it is one that can be solved with time and effort. It is important to remember that vets may assist in remedying this problem but this type of behavior may not be fixable overnight–especially if it has been occurring for several weeks or months.

According to vets, the first thing to do in a case of feline inappropriate elimination (FIE) is to rule out underlying medical causes–such as a urinary tract infection or other disease. If this is definitely a behavior problem, there may be many reasons why this occurred.

In cases of FIE, it is important to evaluate the cleanliness and placement of the litter box. Perhaps the location is unacceptable to your cat. Vets tell us that cats often like the litter box location to be a private and quiet place if at all possible, where cats will not feel stressed out. If the location of the litter box is not likeable to the cat, example, perhaps it is in the laundry room and the washer went off balance one day, the cat will probably not use the litter box. Sometimes access to the box is a problem. An older, arthritic cat may not like to climb up and down stairs of the basement.

Also, if there are other cats in the household, perhaps the litter box may have become a dominance issue and the lower-ranking cat does not feel safe using that litter box. In this case, move the box to a more secure location. A corner in the room may make the difference–so the cat doesn’t feel exposed. If the cat still eliminates in the same area outside of the litter box, move the box to that location and that may solve the problem. If the location is not convenient for you, place the box in that location and try to move it a few inches a day until the location is okay with you and the cat.

If the cat refuses to use the litter box completely, or will only use it when the litter has been recently changed–this can occur for many reasons. One reason is that the litter box may need to be cleaned more often. Vet professionals state that a good rule of thumb for litter boxes is to have one more box than number of cats—if you have one cat, than two boxes may be appropriate. The litter should be scooped every day and changed completely one to two times per week. The box should also be cleaned with warm, soapy water.

A cat may associate the litter box or the type of litter with pain. The cat may have just recently had a urinary tract infection. In this event, the cat will be hesitant to use the litter box because it is a reminder of the pain. Perhaps changing the cat litter to an unscented, fine grain, clumping litter could be effective. Also, if the cat seems to prefer one type of litter, such as carpet, you can try putting a carpet scrap in the litter pan. Once your cat is consistently using the pan, gradually replace the carpet in the pan with litter.

Vets state that if a cat is spray marking or non-spray marking, this could be in response to some form of stress. However, this is not truly a form of FIE because it is a marking behavior, which can be just as troublesome. A cat that performs marking behaviors is showing a different posture than a cat that is eliminating. A marking cat stands and has a vertically positioned twitching tail. Spraying marking occurs on vertical surfaces such as the walls, couches, etc. Non-spraying marking occurs on horizontal surfaces such as the floor. Both male and female cats perform these behaviors, and almost all of these behaviors can be controlled by spaying or neutering the cat. If the behavior continues, however, the underlying stressors will need to be identified and eliminated by consulting with your vet. This behavior can often involve another cat. There may be a neighborhood cat who “visits” at the window or there might be a dominance issue between multiple household cats.

With cases of FIE, the most appropriate method to treating the problem is to make the litter box accessible and attractive, and to make soiled locations unattractive and inaccessible when possible. If cat owners do not know where to begin with treating FIE, try changing one to two things about the litter box and wait a few days to see what happens. Repeat this process if the behavior continues by changing two other factors. FIE is a treatable condition but it can be frustrating. Vets can help us with FIE; cat owners should be patient while trying to decrease or eliminate FIE behaviors.

About the Author: Author lives in Illinois; loves animals—especially cats, dogs; and is a home entrepreneur. See information on author’s business at:
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