Talking to clients about feline elimination problems


Cats that begin urinating outside of the litter box can be a challenge. Here's how to help pet owners deal.

Cats that begin urinating outside of the litter box can be a challenge. Identifying the cause of the inappropriate elimination can be difficult f or veterinarians . And no solution is fast enough for pet owners who become quickly frustrated with the day-to-day realities of the problem. Therefore, it's important that you help them understand the complicated nature of the problem as well as their role in solving it.

Inform clients that a cat's elimination disorder can be behavioral or physical. Explain that behavioral elimination disorders are complex and can involve any of a dozen issues such as a new hierarchy in the household, a change in the type or brand of cat litter used, a litter box that is too small, or a temporary disruption that prevented the cat from using the litter box and caused the cat to establish a new elimination site.

Also discuss how easy it is for clients to miss subtle changes over time due to physical problems such as arthritis and obesity or changes associated with aging such as cognitive dysfunction. These conditions can result in elimination problems that seem to appear suddenly and seem to be related to improper behavior. If an overt medical problem such as idiopathic cystitis, a bacterial urinary tract infection, a polyuric disorder, or a bladder tumor is identified as the cause of the elimination problem, make sure clients understand that behavior challenges can still occur even after the medical problem is resolved.

Help create realistic expectations for clients. Let them know that they can't expect immediate results and that they play an important role in solving home issues (e.g. by providing more, larger, or easily accessed litter boxes or addressing odor elimination) so inappropriate elimination doesn't persist after managing medical issues. To achieve a successful outcome, cooperation, persistence, and dedication are needed from pet owners and you and your team members.

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Angela Elia, BS, LVT, CVT, VTS (ECC)
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