Articles - The Woof Meow Show
"Helping You and Your Pet Become Best Friends for Life"
The “Woof-Meow” show is on every Sunday at 8:30PM on WVOM, 103.9FM, the Voice of Maine. Hosted by Don Hanson of Green Acres Kennel Shop, the show focuses on educating dog and cat guardians about their dogs and cats.
AIR DATE: Sunday, May 31st, 2009
GUEST: Don Hanson & Kate Dutra
Feline – Inappropriate Elimination
Inappropriate elimination (Urination and/or Defecation) is when a previously litter box trained cat begins urinating or defecating in areas other than their litter box. This problem can have both medical and behavioral causes.
If you have multiple cats, resolving this problem can be especially difficult because you must first determine which of the cats is eliminating inappropriately. Talk to your veterinarian and they can provide you with a non-toxic, fluorescent dye that you can feed one of the cats. If the cat fed the dye is the one that is urinating outside of the box, their urine will fluoresce when exposed to a black light.
When you know which cat is the problem, have them examined by your veterinarian so they can rule out any medical reasons for the cats change in elimination habits. Medical conditions that can cause inappropriate elimination include: diabetes mellitus, hyperthyroidism, kidney or liver disease, colitis, inflammatory bowel disease, and feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD).
Behavioral causes of inappropriate elimination are usually stress related. . Any type of change can be a stressor. Any changes you have made in the desired elimination area should be evaluated.
Cats are very particular about their elimination area. If you have changed anything in the above list prior to the start of this problem, change back and see if the problem resolves. If you have not made any of these changes try cleaning the litter box more frequently.
Changes in diet can also cause changes in elimination habits especially if the new food is causing some digestive upset. If you have recently changed foods, try changing back and see if that helps.
Changes in medications - If your cat has recently been put on medications or has had a change in the dosage of an existing medication, ask your veterinarian if this could have any effect on elimination habits.
Household changes - The domestic cat is a social species and usually bonds closely with those in its immediate household. The loss of a family member or another pet can trigger depression and grief which can sometimes be enough of a stressor to cause a change in eating, elimination and sleeping habits. Likewise the addition of a new family member, human or animal can also be a stressor. If the elimination problem has started after the addition of a new cat or dog, you will want to work with an animal behavior consultant to assist you in assessing and changing the relationship between the two pets. It is not unheard of for one cat to guard access to the litter box by the other cat. This doesn’t necessarily mean they will fight. It might be as simple as one cat lying at the top of the basement stairs which will prevent the other cat from going downstairs.
A pet behavior consultant can often help restore harmony to your pet family; however, be advised that this does not always work out. Occasionally one needs to make a choice of living with a problem or re-homing one of the pets.
Cats are also very sensitive to everything in their environment and sometimes moving furniture around, changing access to certain rooms or adding or removing furnishings can be a stressor.
Changes outside of the home - If our cat is an “indoor only” cat we tend to believe that they are only concerned about their immediate environment – what’s inside the house. That is not the case. Cats can be very territorial and a new cat or dog in the neighborhood, especially one frequently hanging around your home, can be a stressor. Cats mark their territory with both urine and feces, so inappropriate elimination may be caused by territorial concerns.
When marking territory with feces it is usually left uncovered so it is obvious to other cats in the area. Urinating as a territorial response occurs in two forms; 1) spraying and 2) marking. Spraying typically involves backing up to a vertical surface and spraying urine. Spraying is a very overt act by a confident cat that wants to be seen. Marking involves small drops of urine on a horizontal surface and is usually the result of a non-confident cat that does not want to be observed. Vertical scratching is also a very overt behavior used to mark territory and when combined with spraying and feces marking definitely suggests a territorial component to the cats’ inappropriate elimination.
Other changes in your neighborhood may also be stressors for a cat. New neighbors, noisy rambunctious children, a raccoon family visiting the yard, or a construction project can all be possible triggers for inappropriate elimination.
Notes from The Woof Meow Show, 31MAY09
Last Updated June 1, 2009
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