Is your cat not using the litter box or using it sporadically? Has she been soiling your favorite rug or armchair? These changes in behavior can be frustrating for you, the owner. But this kind of behavior, also known as inappropriate elimination, is quite common in cats and it can develop for a number of reasons. Here’s a look at some reasons your cat may be eliminating outside the litter box.

Medical Conditions

If you notice a change in your feline’s litter box usage, the first thing you’ll want to do is take your cat to see the local vet in order to rule out any possible medical conditions. A few common conditions that can lead to inappropriate elimination in cats are urinary tract infections, feline interstitial cystitis, or kidney stones.

Access to the Litter Box

As creatures of habit, cats might not initially take well to their litter box being moved or replaced. If you’ve recently replaced or chosen a new location for Fluffy’s litter box, she may need time to adjust. It’s also possible that your cat finds the litter box difficult or troubling to access. Ask yourself if it’s in high traffic areas, near large, noisy appliances, or in an area that for some reason might trigger anxiety or stress for her. A poor location could be the reason your feline is acting out or choosing to eliminate somewhere more comfortable for her.

A Dirty Litter Box

Cats have a very powerful sense of smell. As a result, if their litter box is not maintained properly, they may refuse to use it. Be sure that you’re scooping the litter frequently, completely emptying and cleaning it regularly, and that you aren’t using cleaning chemicals that she might object to, such as ammonia, bleach, or citrus-smelling products. Another possibility for kitty eliminating elsewhere is that your cat does not like the litter you’ve chosen for her litter box. If you’ve ruled out other possibilities, try experimenting with a different kind of litter.  

Stress and Anxiety

Have you moved? Has a new person or pet moved into the house? Have you had lots of guests over recently? Has there been a disturbance in the home or a change of schedule? Has your cat had a surgery or injury? The occurrence of any of these situations could lead to stress and anxiety for Fluffy and affect her litter box behavior. There’s also a chance she associates her litter box with a stressful or anxiety-producing situation and is, therefore, avoiding it. Identifying any stressful triggers and creating a calming environment can be helpful in getting your cat to use her litter box again.

Senior Feline

Is your cat in her older years? As your furball ages, her cognitive and physical functions begin to decline. For this reason, she may not be able to climb into her box with ease, make it to the box in time when she needs to eliminate, or even remember where her box is located. If you have an aging feline, you can help her by placing more litter boxes with low sides around the house in easy-to-use places.

Be Patient with Your Furry Friend

No matter why your cat is relieving herself outside the litter box, in her mind, she has a valid reason. The first step in finding a solution is to address the issue with patience. If you punish her for this behavior she is more likely to associate elimination with stress and fear, making the issue worse.

As a compassionate pet clinic serving Mesa, Chandler, and Gilbert, our team at East Valley Animal Hospital recommends you contact your local vet as soon as you notice your cat not using the litter box. When you make a consultation appointment with us, we can help you rule out any medical issues and discern whether it’s a behavioral issue stemming from another source. Contact us today!


Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (1/31/2019) Pixaby