If your cat is not using the litter box, the first step should be an exam with your veterinarian. To rule out medical problems your veterinarian will start with a urinalysis. If the urinalysis is abnormal, your veterinarian may want to do additional testing such as a urine culture, blood work, and possibly x-rays of the urinary tract system. Treatment for medical problems will depend on the diagnosis, and recommendations will be made by your veterinarian.
In most cases we will collect a urine sample from your cat. We usually do not ask you to do this on your own!
If the urinalysis is normal, behavioral issues are likely. Behavioral issues can be complexbut there is hope and treatment! Often simple modifications in your cat's environment can help resolve the problem. It is important to realize that cats do not do this behavior out of spite! There is usually something causing distress, our job is to be kitty detectives to discover what might be causing anxiety about the litter box.
Before we get started, we want to share some important information on Litter Box Hygiene to keep both your kitty and your family safe from infectious disease. Click this link to a great handout on Litter Boxes from the University of Guelph's Worms & Germs Blog.
To prevent litter box problems we recommend the following to provide ideal toileting and litter box situation:
Cats prefer a very fine unscented clumping litter, you may need to experiment to find your cat's favorite
Cats prefer a very large box without liners or hood
Scoop boxes at least twice daily
Clean boxes completely once or twice a month with a mild unscented soap.
The general guideline for box size is 1.5 times the length of the cat, with shallow sides.
Consider adapting a larger clothing storage box to use as a litter box.
This renders essentially all commercially available cat litter boxes too small for the average sized cat.
The box should be easily accessible but private with a minimum of two entry and exit points.
The number of litter boxes in the home should at a minimum equal the number of cats in the house plus one!
There should also be at least one box on every level of the home.
These criteria help prevent litter box problems by providing accessibility and prevent guarding of boxes in multi-cat homes. The boxes should not be placed near appliances or utilities that could suddenly turn on or make a noise such as laundry machines or water heaters.
Below are some great handouts with more information on how to handle and solve your cat's behavioral elimination problems.
Cornell's Feline House Soiling Handout The web site from the Cornell Univerisity Feline Health center explains what causes cats to not use their litterboxes and offers multiple ways to modify this behavior.
House Soiling From the International Cat Care Website this information comes with the European perspective on feline elimination problems.
Cats International House Soiling Articles This unique website has an entire collection of articles to help pinpoint the cause of your cats litter box problems and offers suggestions on how to resolve them.
CatStop Outdoor Cat Deterrent If your cat is stressed and stimulated to urine mark indoors by seeing or smelling stray cats outside of a window or door, consider this humane product to discourage strays from coming to that area with an ultrasonic sound.
Why are all commercially sold litter boxes in pet stores too small? Because cats don't have credit cards and don't get to vote at the cash register!! Humans with buying power tend to like small boxes hidden in out of the way places like the basement! But with number of cats around who potty out of the litter box, it is time to think about what our cats want!!
Our colleague Dr. Sally Foote has made the video above of a homemade litter box that is much preferred by cats! ... If you want a cat to use a covered litter box it has to be LARGE! The nice thing about this box, is that you can let your cat choose, cover or no cover!! Listen to you cat, what does he desire? And by all means keep it super clean and odor free and that may mean removing the top!!
Litter Box Solutions an informative website dedicated to solving every Litter Box Problem imaginable has been developed by Dr Tammy Sadek. Dr Sadek is Board Certified by the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners in Feline Practice. This website provides additional coverage of this complex feline issue. Dr. Sadek is one of the authors of the house-soiling guidelines document that is linked below.
Pheromone therapy with FELIWAY for Cats can have great benefits for relieving some of the stress causes of inappropriate urination, urine marking behavior, and Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD). Click the link below to learn more!
Feliway is a synthetic copy of the feline facial pheromone, used by cats to mark their territory as safe and secure. By mimicking the cat's natural facial pheromones, Feliway creates a state of familiarity and security in the cat's local environment. If your cat is feeling the stress of a multicat home, or stress from other changes in the home, Feliwaycan be used to help comfort and reassure your cat. Pheromone therapy with Feliway is a great adjunct to other behavioral modifications to solve your cat's elimination problems and distress.
Plug the Feliway Diffuser in the room where the marking is taking place.
If the cat is marking in several different rooms, you may wish to place another diffuser in one of the other rooms.
Leave the diffuser in place for at least four weeks. Replace the refill as required (every four weeks).
For best results, use the Feliway Spray in addition to the diffuser to treat a particular area where marking persists.
Clean the marked area and allow to dry. Then apply the spray daily, to both the site and nearby prominent objects.
Stop site treatment when the cat marks the area with his or her own facial pheromone (is seen to rub the site with his or her head).
Feliway is available at Deer Run, ask us more about it!
If your cat is urinating out of the litterbox, removing the urine smell is a crucial step in treatment. Anti-Icky-Poo is our BEST recommendation for a product to remove urine odor.
Anti-Icky-Poo Anti Icky Poo by the MisterMax Company is the absolute best odor eliminator on the market. There are probably more animal behaviorists and veterinarians recommending Anti-Icky-Poo than any other odor eliminator available today. Anti-icky Poo can also be purchased at Deer Run Animal Hospital or online! Ask us about this product!!