A Message from the Vet - September 2014
Inappropriate Elimination

One of the most common causes for owner surrender or euthanasia of a cat is inappropriate elimination (urinating outside of the litter box). Cat urine has a strong odor of ammonia and can ruin any nice carpet or wall.

First, itís important to distinguish urinating from spraying. Urinating is a normal form of elimination, while spraying has less to do with elimination and more to do with territorial marking, usually occuring on vertical surfaces. It is important to discuss any changes in behavior with your veterinarian so that a solution can be found.

Territorial marking is common in male cats that have not been neutered. At times, neutering will resolve the issue. This will also help with aggression between cats and reduce the number of injuries your cat may receive from fights.

The next step in determining the cause of inappropriate elimination is to rule out all medical problems and be sure that your cat is in optimal health. Urinary tract infections can cause inflammation in the bladder which can be painful. Your cat may associate the pain of urinating with the litter box and begin chosing to eliminate elsewhere.

Other medical conditions such as kidney disease, diabetes, or thyroid disease can increase drinking and urination. This will sometimes lead to accidents. A blood and urine test can be helpful to rule out any medical cause for accidents. If you notice your cat drinking more or find youíre changing the litterbox more frequently, be sure to mention this at your appointment.

Once medical concerns have been ruled out, then behavioral causes can be assessed. Cats can be very particular about the location and litter they use. A good rule of thumb is to keep at least one more litter box than the number of cats in the household. Each litter box should be placed in a quiet, private place, away from the high traffic areas of the home. Several types of litter may be tried in order to determine your cat's preferred substrate. Make sure you are cleaning the litterboxes regularly as most cats prefer to use a clean box.

Stress is a common reason for behavioral changes. Adding an additional pet to the household, a move, or even outside cats coming around can be a source of stress. If the source of stress cannot be eliminated, then helping your cat adjust through behavioral modification (training) is recommended. As a last resort, there are medications or natural herbal remedies that can reduce anxiety while you continue behavioral modification efforts. Your veterinarian will be able to give you advice at your appointment or may refer you to a behavioral specialist.

Just remember that if your feline friend is having trouble with inappropriate elimination, your veterinarian is here to help. We can work with you to find a solution that keeps your cat healthy and happy in your home.

Candice Denham, DVM

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