Audience: Executive Leadership, Foster Caregivers, Public, Shelter/Rescue Staff & Volunteers, Veterinary Team
If your cat is urinating or defecating outside the litter box, we certainly understand your frustration. Luckily, this is a treatable condition in most cases. A medical exam, as well as a few simple changes can help to re-establish proper litter box use.
The first step includes taking your cat to your veterinarian. Whenever a cat suddenly eliminates outside of the litter box, it's strongly advised to get a physical exam including urine analysis and in some cases blood work in order to rule out any illness or injury that may be causing the behavior. Once a medical reason for the lapse in box use has been ruled out, you want to consider behavioral reasons.
There are two main behavioral reasons for failure to eliminate in an established litter box. One is marking, which is a form of communication. The second one is inappropriate elimination, which is a toileting behavior. Both behaviors may occur for a variety of reasons. In some cases this is not as easy as it seems to identify the reason and you will need a professional to help you.
Answer the following four questions:
Is your cat depositing urine on vertical or horizontal surfaces?
- If you answered vertical, refer to the Urine Marking handout.
- If you answered horizontal, refer to the Inappropriate Elimination and Litter Box Tips handouts.
Are you finding large or small amounts of urine?
- If you answered small, refer to the Urine Marking handout.
- If you answered large, refer to the Inappropriate Elimination and Litter Box Tips handouts.
Is your cat still using the litter box or has litter box use decreased?
- If you answered yes, refer to the Urine Marking, Litter Box Tips, and Inappropriate Elimination handouts.
- If you answered no, refer to the Litter Box Tips, Inappropriate Elimination, and Not Urinating in a New Home handouts.
Does your cat stand or squat when she is urinating outside the litter box?
- If you answered stand, refer to the Urine Marking handout.
- If you answered squat, refer to the Inappropriate Elimination and Litter Box Tips handouts.
- Always begin by consulting your veterinarian to rule out medical causes.
- Check all the guidelines as every cat and situation is different.
- VERY IMPORTANT: Do not punish your cat for marking as this will not solve the problem; this can make your cat even more anxious.
This document created by the San Francisco SPCA with a grant from Maddie's Fund®