ELIMINATION PROBLEMS IN CATS
Urine marking outside of the litter box (in a crouching or sitting position) occurs in sexually intact or neutered male and female cats.
A sexually intact cat that has begun to urinate inappropriately should be neutered without delay. The hormonal influences related to reproduction may motivate urine marking.
A cat's failure to urinate appropriately in the litter box may have several causes. A dirty litter box may cause a cat to avoid the box. Individual cats have different levels of tolerance to an unclean litter box. One cat may faithfully use a box that is only cleaned once or twice a week, while another cat may avoid a box that has been used just once. Do not scold or startle a cat in the vicinity of its litter box. A negative experience associated with the litter box could result in avoidance.
Urine contains odours that identify the individual and mark a cat's territory. The location of food, water and safe places to rest are linked to a cat's sense of security within its territory. If these are disturbed or if a sensitive cat is distressed for any reason, it may reaffirm its territorial claim and relieve anxiety by urine marking.
Litter training is further complicated in households with more than one cat. An easily offended cat may avoid a box that has been used by a housemate, while another may be attracted to use the box in order to cover the odours left by the others. Territorial conflict between cats in multi-cat homes may cause problems relating to use of the litter box. One cat may wait near the litter box to ambush another cat when it attempts to use the box. An increased level of anxiety could lead to inappropriate elimination.
As a guideline, provide one litter box for every cat in your household. Choose a variety of locations in quiet corners of your home to see which box attracts the most use. A cat that is harassed by others, even in play, should have an alternative box to use.
The longer urine marking is allowed to continue, the more enduring the pattern may become and the more difficult it maybe to resolve. This behaviour is self-reinforcing, increasing the likelihood that the cat will do it again. Inappropriate urination may continue because of environmental factors that have little or nothing to do with the initial cause, which may never be determined.
A cat can develop preferences for a certain target surface, such as carpeting, and eventually mark similar surfaces throughout your home. Certain sounds or even certain times of day may trigger marking. The problem can rapidly become complex. Regardless of the initial trigger, inappropriate elimination may reappear in times of stress because the act immediately relieves anxiety.
It is always important to investigate a possible medical problem associated with inappropriate urination. Among the more common conditions are bladder or kidney disease and diabetes mellitus. Virtually any illness may cause inappropriate urination. See your vet regularly so that physical problems can be detected early. Consult your vet when you detect a problem.
Defecation also functions in territorial marking and relief of anxiety. Inappropriate defecation may stem from a dirty litter box, medical problems, stress, anxiety and even fear. A cat may display its displeasure by depositing urine or stool in inappropriate areas. Inappropriate defecation and urination should not be viewed as intentional acts of malice or revenge. The same solutions apply to both types of elimination.
The litter box
Most cats prefer a quiet out of the way place for urination and defecation. Too much noise or activity nearby can discourage a cat from using the litter box and drive it to another location. Moving the litter box to a new location can also upset some cats. If the litter box must be moved, do it gradually.
Move the box a few inches each day toward the new location, even if this is slightly inconvenient for you. Place another box at the new location. When your cat discovers the new designated location and uses the box there, it is probably safe to remove the transitional one.
Another method is to place several additional boxes in various new places and observe which of these your cat prefers. Your cat's individual preference of location is your best guide.