Feline housesoiling: Sprinkling out of the box (Proceedings)


Many cats lose their homes and lives simply because they eliminate in areas other than their litter boxes. Cat owners are often unaware that treatment is available. In fact, the prognosis for resolving housesoiling in cats is often very good.

Many cats lose their homes and lives simply because they eliminate in areas other than their litter boxes. Cat owners are often unaware that treatment is available. In fact, the prognosis for resolving housesoiling in cats is often very good.

As with the successful treatment of all behavior problems, an accurate diagnosis is needed. This includes identifying any medical conditions that might contribute to the soiling. Successful management of underlying diseases, such as FLUTD, UTI, IBD, diabetes, and renal disease, can improve a patient's litter box habits.

Housecats usually eliminate outside their boxes for one of two reasons. The behavior may be related to a toileting problem. Or the deposits may serve a communication function. Cats can leave messages by marking with either urine or feces. Free-running cats do so multiple times per day. Urine-marking is more common than fecal marking, and less tolerable, since it is harder to discover and harder to clean.

Careful history-taking will differentiate innappropriate toileting from urine marking. If a home visit is not possible, ask clients for pictures and videos of the environment, and of the cat interacting with household pets and people.

Urine marking


Evidence of discord in the relationship of the cat with household residents would support the diagnosis of urine marking.

Changes in the routine, including new work-schedules or feeding regimens, can trigger marking. The timing and location of the deposits should support the diagnosis.

Cats mark in socially significant areas or on significant objects. Unlike toileting problems, marking behavior can occur more or less frequently than normal elimination.


Treatment of marking behavior will include environmental and behavioral modification. It may be possible to eliminate some triggers, or at least minimize exposure. Behavior modification can reduce a cat's reaction to the inciting factors that must remain, and can be used to improve social relationships. Some cases of feline marking benefit from pharmacological intervention.

Inappropriate Toileting


The value of careful history taking cannot be overstated. You can never know too much about the state of the litter box. Cats will boycott boxes if the boxes are dirty, inaccessible, or in some cases, inconvenient to access. Boxes that are too small or too noisy may be avoided. Unacceptable litter type or depth can cause a cat to leave its box untouched.

Inappropriate toileting may develop due to a litter box aversion, substrate aversion, substrate preference, or location preference. By the time the patient presents, more than one diagnosis may be present.


Treatment can actually be simple. The goal is to create the perfect litter box and put it in the perfect spot. Clients are usually okay with the idea of modifying the box. There may be some balking about changing litter type. But be prepared for resistance should there be a need to change the location of the litter box.

Treatment of substrate aversion or litter box aversion involves some testing. Although scientific studies may suggest common preferences, it is always important to ask your patient, the cat in question. A litter cafeteria is the best way to learn. When there is no space for a veritable cafeteria, paired tests can be done. The choices must be provided in the same area however. Litter type and depth as well as litter box size and style should be tested.

The cat that exhibits a location preference may initially need a litter box in that favorite location. If a cat will not travel to the litter box, for whatever reason, then housesoiling will continue. Even while suggesting that a litter box be placed in the formal dining room, try to assure clients that there is every chance to believe that with time, once the cat has begun to use the box regularly,

the box may very gradually be returned to a location that is more acceptable to the family. As the box is moved, placing food or toys in the original location can change the function of that area and facilitate following the litter box out of the area. In some cases, the original location may be made less attractive by applying a citrus scent or double-sided tape.

In general, pharmacological intervention is not indicated for cats that are diagnosed with housesoiling secondary to litter box aversion, location preference, or substrate preference. If there is an aversion secondary to a fear response, then anxiety-reducing medication may be indicated. Prescribing an analgesic would be appropriate for the cat that avoids its box due to physical discomfort. Consider the position that the cat must assume in order to access and eliminate in the box.

The prognosis for controlling feline inappropriate toileting is often very good. The prognosis for controlling marking behavior can be good as well, depending on the triggers. In general, it is more difficult to manage elimination disorders in multi-cat homes. Before drastic measures are taken, be sure to confirm the culprit. Just because a cat has been caught does not mean that he is the only one responsible for the inappropriate behavior!

Most challenging to manage are patients that exhibit both inappropriate toileting and marking behavior. Regular follow-up reports by the client will improve the outcome as adjustments to therapy may be implemented in a timely manner.

Related Videos
© 2024 MJH Life Sciences

All rights reserved.