Animals In Print
The On-Line Newsletter
From 7 July 2008 Issue
by Julie Lind
There are few things more frustrating than when your cat stops using their litter box. It can definitely add a tremendous amount of stress to your household, and can negatively affect your relationship with your cat. In fact, the non-use of the litter box is the number one behavioral reason why cats are abused, abandoned or put in shelters.
The first step is to determine why your cat's behavior has changed. There are three likely causes: medical ailments, territorial marking, or behavioral issues.
Signs that your cat is experiencing urinary problems include blood in the urine and increased frequency of urination. Although only one sixth of cats with urinary problems go outside the litter box, it could be a sign that they need medical attention. Seeing a veterinarian should be your first step so you can eliminate the possibility that health issues are causing your cat's litter box issues.
You may find that a senior or overweight cat suddenly stops using their litter box. This is often the case when the cat must go up or down steps to get to their litter box. If the box is located too far away, an elderly or overweight cat may not be able to get to the litter box in time. An arthritic cat may not be able to get up into the litter box if they have painful joints. Try having a box located on every level of the house. You can also build a small ramp leading up to the litter box if you think your cat is having problems with arthritis.
It is a natural behavior for both male and female cats to mark their territory. It should not be confused with a cat urinating outside the litter box. When a cat sprays, it will spray a small amount of urine to mark the object. Cats will usually choose objects such as walls, furniture, the floor, or on your clothes or bedding. When a cat is marking an object you will notice that your cat does not sniff and paw at the area like they would after urinating. Instead they will walk away which may leave a trail of urine. Cats may also mark their territory with feces. Signs of this type of territorial marking include defecation in an unusual spot such as on the counter or on your favorite chair.
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