Dirty cats – a house soiling problem4th January 2017
House soiling is one of the the most common behaviour problems we see in cats at Bollington Veterinary Centre.
Why do cats urinate and defecate outside the litter tray?
Your cat may have litter tray issues for any number of reasons, including medical problems, an aversion to the litter tray itself or a perhaps just a preference for doing it elsewhere.
a. Inflammation of the urinary tract is common and can make urinating urgent, frequent and painful. These experiences can force a cat to urinate or defecate outside the litter tray, particularly if associated with pain.
b. Kidney disease, diabetes and hyperthyroidism - these medical conditions will make an animal drink and urinate more frequently.
c. Age-related diseases that interfere with a cat’s mobility and general alertness can also influence their ability to get to the litter tray in time.
Litter tray aversion
An dislike of the litter tray can also lead to house soiling. It could be the size or shape of the tray, the litter material, the location of the tray, or perhaps a combination of all three. You may find puddles of urine or faeces on soft surfaces like carpets, beds, or clothing, or perhaps on hard surfaces like kitchen or bathroom floors.
It’s worth trying different trays (large, small, open or covered). Perhaps use a different litter – some cats prefer wood chip styled pellets whilst others prefer the white absorbent granules.
Try placing the tray in different areas – away from food and away from open exposed places. The corner of a room where a cat will feel safe is ideal (usually!).
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A normal but unpleasant marking behaviour by cats is urine spraying - the deposition of small amounts of urine around the house to say ‘I’m here’. A cat announces his or her presence, establishes or maintains territorial boundaries, and advertises that he or she is ready to mate. This is a very natural behaviour in the wild, but not really tolerated in our homes for obvious reasons.
A spraying cat will lift their tail and quiver as they spray. Cats that spray are usually unneutered males or females and tend to be in households with several cats.
Cats may also spray if they detect a threat to their territory, such as when a new cat enters the home or when dominant outside cats are nearby.
Will medications stop your cat from house soiling?
Anti-anxiety drugs can help to manage some types of inappropriate urination and defecation particularly if the problem is caused by stress, however they can only be part of the solution, and must be used in conjunction with environmental changes. Some treatments can also have potentially damaging side effects, and not all cats are good candidates.
If you are considering treating your cat, book an appointment with our clinical team and let’s discuss all the pro’s and con’s.
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How can I stop my cat from spraying?
Because spraying is different than other types of house soiling, different tactics are necessary to manage it.
Consider neutering - if your cat hasn’t been neutered, call us to discuss the problem. Cats are often driven to spray by hormones, and neutering or spaying will reduce the influence of hormones on this behaviour.
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Identify and remove the triggers
Identify the stimuli that cause your cat to spray. If outside cats are responsible, motion detectors that trigger sprinklers can be used to deter them from coming into your garden. Perhaps you could discourage your cat from looking outside by closing curtains or blinds.
Applying odour neutralisers anywhere your cat has sprayed - it may prevent them from spraying there again.
At Bollington Veterinary Centre we recommend the use of a facial pheromone, available as a spray or diffuser called Feliway. It mimics the scent of a cat’s cheek gland. Most cats won’t spray on areas that have this scent. If you've not come across this product before, speak to one of our team and we'll explain how to use it effectively.
House soiling can be a frustrating problem, but you should never hit, kick, or scream at a cat. Punishments like these are wrong, ineffective and will actually worsen the house-soiling problem. Rubbing a cat’s face in its excrement is ineffective as well because cats are not disgusted by their urine and feces, and they cannot make the connection between the treatment and the mess, even moments after they’ve done it.