Inappropriate soiling in cats

Inappropriate defecating or urinating is understood as general refusal or infrequent use of the litter tray to defecate or urinate. When soiling, the cat assumes the normal squatting position with the tail in horizontal position. The amount of urine is significantly higher than for marking purposes. The reasons for this problem may be cystitis, prostate conditions, diarrhoea, constipation, blocked anal glands, loss of sphincter muscle tone, nervous system diseases or an illness of the musculoskeletal system making the trip to the litter tray difficult. Such diseases must be identified or eliminated by additional tests and the underlying cause must be therapeutically addressed.

Other causes for soiling can be found in relation to the litter tray. There may be not enough litter trays available or they are not cleaned often or well enough. Or the trays are located at busy spots, too close to the food bowl, they may be too small or they are refused because they are the domed type or the cat associates the litter tray with bad experiences (punishment, treatment, pain). Changing the litter type or brand also may cause soiling. In these cases treatment is the correct use of litter trays. Stress may cause sensitive cats to soil.

Marking is a means of communication (not excretion) and can take the form of spraying or urination in squatting position (but as marking behaviour).

Both female and male cats as well as neutered and spayed cats can spray. Spraying is a normal behaviour pattern in outdoor cats but usually not used inside the house as scent or visual marking. However, if spraying occurs indoors it can become a “problematic behaviour” at non-typical locations. When spraying, cats are standing up with straight hind legs and vibrating tail and are spraying a small amount of urine at the same marked locations. Male cats urinating in squatting position are rarely marking territory while a female cat doing so may well mark her territory. The volume of urine discharged in spraying is significantly less than in urinating and is directed at socially important locations. continued observation is therefore important. Spraying backwards always signifies marking behaviour regardless of the sex of the cat. In order to treat the problem, it is important to know when exactly the problem started and the exact circumstances in the cat’s life at that time as soiling often is a result of stress.

Possible triggers for spraying

* new furniture or rearranging of furniture.
* Moving house.
* Significant changes in the daily routine.
* Restricting the usual outdoor access, or not allowing access to previously accessible rooms.
* Stay in a cattery.
* Changing relationship to other pets in a multi-pet household.
* Changing relationship to the owner or other people.
* Loss of a beloved being (person or other cat).

* Absence (holidays) of the owners or other family members.

* Additions to the household (new baby, partner etc.).
* changing relationship between the people in the household.
* Non-neutered or non-spayed cats reaching sexual maturity.
* The cat is in season.
* Changes in the location, or type of litter tray.

If the security in the house is affected by social changes in the immediate environment of the cat, a previously non-spraying cat may start spraying. The cats own smell has a calming effect on it as it is familiar. The frequency of spraying depends on the outside conditions, for instance how many other cats are in the vicinity. The likelihood of male cats spraying is much greater if they are living together with females rather than other males.

Another possibility is that the cat’s soiling behaviour is unconsciously rewarded by the increased attention of the owner thus reinforcing this type of behaviour. It is recommended to ignore the cat and not attempt any type of communication with the cat (do not look at or talk to him or otherwise communicate with your body language) while cleaning up the mess. To best address this problem, you should consult your vet and describe the situation as detailed as possible. Prepare your visit to the vet by taking some notes on your cat’s behaviour. The more precise your information, the better the vet will be able to diagnose the problem.


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