You may recall that we recently did an article on bladder infections in kitties.  One of the symptoms of urinary tract issues in cats is that they will find places, other than the litter box, to relieve themselves.  Cleaning up messes is never fun, but when there is a legitimate health issue, it’s easier to understand kitty’s behavior.  Some pet parents, however, have a feline friend who doesn’t just refuse to use the litter box when she has a bladder infection.  Instead, they are dealing with an entirely different issue all together.  This week, Wisconsin Pet Care will be focusing on inappropriate elimination in cats.

The first thing you will want to do, if you notice that your cat is leaving a mess outside of her litter box, is to make an appointment with your veterinarian.  It is important to rule out any underlying medical issues such as diabetes, chronic kidney failure or even arthritis (making it difficult for kitty to get to her litter box in time).  If the doc has cleared your cat of a medical reason for inappropriate elimination, it likely boils down to a behavioral issue.

So what are some reasons why kitty would want to avoid her litter box?  After all, she’s been litter-trained for quite some time!

1) She doesn’t like the litter you bought.  Whether you use the new scoop able crystals, recycled newspaper, or even just your basic clay litter, your cat definitely has a preference.  If your kitty isn’t fond of a particular litter, it’s okay to try another one (and another – until she finds the one that encourages her to use her litter box again). Wisconsin Pet Care recommends The Worlds’ Best Cat Litter.

2) Her litter box.  Litter boxes are to cats what beds are to Goldilocks.  Some cats prefer a big litter box, others like a small one.  Some cats like to have a cover over the top to offer some privacy, and others prefer to have full view on any oncoming prey.  This may take a little experimentation, but kitty will let you know when her litter box is “just right”.

3) Location, location, location.  Where your kitty’s litter box is located, is just as important as what kind of litter box she has.  Maybe your cat likes to have her litter box completely out of the way and hidden.  Others like to have room to scratch around, so they like to have a more open area to do their business.  If you notice that your cat is consistently making a mess in the same spot, you may have found a new residence for her litter box.

4) How often and how many?  Cats sometimes prefer to have two litter boxes instead of one – and sometimes they would like them in different spots in the house.  Maybe an older cat, for example, would benefit from having one box located upstairs, and one downstairs.  And if you tend to be a bit neglectful on the scooping and scrubbing, kitty may be telling you to refresh her litter a little more often.

Still, inappropriate elimination in cats can sometimes be triggered by something much more serious.  Anxiety in cats often triggers “marking” of their territory.  It’s possible that the “most wonderful time of year” is the most terrifying time of year for your cat!  The holidays can introduce hustle and bustle that makes your cat a little uneasy.  Perhaps you just welcomed a bouncing, bundle of joy into your home.  A new baby, crying at all hours of the night, doesn’t just leave you seeking silence to quell your nerves.  Another life change that can put stress on your cat is a move to a new home.  Unfamiliar surroundings, new smells and boxes everywhere can be a very unsettling experience.  If there is a change in your kitty’s environment, just try to make the transition as easy as possible.  For example, when guests are over for the holidays, you might place kitty in a room that has no traffic (along with her food, litter box and toys, of course).  Or, if your cat is having trouble acclimating to the new baby, you could arrange a “get to know him” session during a time when baby is calm.

No matter how you approach this topic, one thing you will want to keep in mind: Do not “punish” kitty for soiling your carpet.  You won’t get very far by “rubbing her nose” into the mess – and in most cases, these types of reactions can actually cause kitty to become even more anxious.  Instead, be open to experimentation, and don’t be afraid to consult your veterinarian (or a behaviorist) for some help with the matter.

Next week, Wisconsin Pet Care will be discussing the great cat debate (outside of declawing, that is!): Should Mr. Housecat be allowed to go outside?