Inappropriate elimination means that a cat is urinating and/or defecating in the house in places other than its litter box. One of the most common issues, especially in male animals, is territorial marking, or spraying. If your animal is not spayed or neutered, that is probably the first step to take in controlling spraying.
This can be caused either by medical problems or a behavioral disorder. Behavioral causes of inappropriate elimination fall into two general categories: 1) a dislike of the litter box or litter box aversion, and 2) a stress-related misbehavior.
The first thing to rule out in a cat that stops using the litter box is a medical problem such as a urinary tract infection. No amount of training will work if an underlying disease is not addressed.
The most common medical problem causing inappropriate urination is a urinary tract infection. Bladder infections in cats, as in humans, cause a stinging/burning sensation during urination, which the cat may associate with the litter box, leading to avoidance. Bladder infections can also cause urinary urgency, so the cat may not have time to make it to the litter box when they need to go. Your veterinarian will collect a small amount of urine and examine it under the microscope, looking for bacteria and inflammatory cells. Most bladder infections are quickly resolved with antibiotics.
If your cat is male, and urinating small amounts in multiple places, especially if the urine is bloody or gritty, or he is straining to urinate and not passing a good stream of urine, this is an emergency situation. Crystals that form in the urine associated with urinary tract infections can block a tomcat's narrow urethra, causing the bladder to overfill and potentially rupture or leak urine into the abdomen. Do not wait if this is occurring! Call your veterinary clinic immediately.
Defecating outside the litter box may be a result of diarrhea, again causing urgency and an inability to get to the box on time.
Either inappropriate urination or defecation can be a result of injury to a leg, making it uncomfortable to climb into the litter box or squat in the normal position for elimination. Arthritis of the hips or knees may also result in difficulty positioning, discomfort, and litter box avoidance.
The first step in treatment of any inappropriate elimination is diagnosis! Call for an appointment to have both cat and urine examined to rule out a medical cause for the mess. Remember, you cannot train away a disease.
The two most common reasons for a litter box has become objectionable to the cat are because it is not cleaned frequently enough or because the cat does not like the type of litter in it. The latter is called substrate aversion. It can occur because the litter was changed to a new, objectionable type or because the cat just got tired of the old litter.
There are probably hundreds of these, but the more common ones are as follows:
No. Many people are very proud of their home and feel that way. Before giving up your cat, you should discuss the problem with your veterinarian since there may be a simple solution to manage the behavior.
Yes, in most cases. However, the treatment is more likely to be successful if several of the following are true:
Most successful treatments rely on a combination of behavior modification techniques and drug therapy.
They can be described as aversion therapy and attraction therapy. The former repels the cat from the inappropriate location, and the latter encourages the cat to choose an appropriate location.
The purpose of aversion therapy is to make the area of inappropriate urination or defecation undesirable for the cat. There are many ways to do this, but the following steps have proven successful in a high percentage of cases:
The purpose of attraction therapy is to make the litter box more desirable than the inappropriate site. The following are usually successful:
In general, there are three categories of medications that are used to treat these problems:
This client information sheet is based on material written by Ernest Ward, DVM © 2005 Lifelearn, Inc. Used with permission under license.
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