Has this ever happened to you? Your cat’s peeing outside the litter box, and you’re desperately trying to clean up after your cat, wondering if you’re actually doing anything to stop it from happening in the first place!
Well, if you’re like me, you probably want some quick solutions to the problem, or at least a list of checkpoints that you know you must, like a detective on a trail, work through, to get the litter box behavior problem under control.
By the time you finish this article, you will have learnt the 7 most important steps you must know, when it comes to this problem of the cat peeing outside the litter box.
Firstly, let’s have a look at the reasons why this happens. The reasons for peeing outside the litter box are:
1. A medical problem.
2. The cat that has never been properly house trained to use the litter box in the first place.
3. Problems with the litter tray itself.
4. An unpleasant event that occurred while the cat was at the litter box.
5. A temporary physical or emotional stress, or change in the household causing the cat to urinate in an area outside the box, which is perpetuated by the urine smell reminding the cat to return to the same area over and over again.
6. Old age causing a cat to not be easily able to get to the litter box.
Now, keep these causes in mind, when checking out the 7 action steps:
1. If there’s a change in toilet behavior with no obvious cause, it may be caused by illnesses such as urinary tract infections, blocked anal glands, worms and parasites, diabetes and tumors. These illnesses may have no other obvious signs, apart from this urination problem. So you must consider a visit to the vet. In other cases you may see symptoms such as lethargy, blood in the urine, diarrhea, or constant licking in the anal area. If you see this, then your first stop is the vet!
2. Look at the litter box itself. Ensure you’re cleaning out the waste once or twice a day, and changing the litter every 3-4 days for non-clumping litter (2-3 weeks for clumping litter). Clean the tray with hot water and mild detergent, without any strong odors such as citrus or ammonia, which will repel the cat from the box. If you have multiple cats, remember – the number of trays should equal number of cats, plus one or two. If you’ve changed brands of litter, this may have caused the problem as many cats dislike this change, especially to scented litter. Return to the older litter. If you want to change, introduce unscented litter gradually by mixing the old with the new over 2 weeks. And ensure that the location of the box is acceptable: no loud noises, has some privacy, and is not in view of other cats.
3. Consider adding in 1 more litter box to another suitable private location of the house. This is because sometimes it’s not the litter box that’s the problem, but a negative experience there. For example, if your kids played with the cat while she was on the litter box, or if the cat had pain when urinating, such as during a urine infection, after having kittens, or had a procedure done on the bladder or urethra at the vet, then the cat would associate pain with that litter box. Even if the pain is gone, the association and is still there.
4. Thoroughly clean the area that has been peed on. This is important because no matter what the cause, the fact that the urine remains on the bed, carpet, or sofa is a reminder for the cat to return to pee there. The cat’s sense of smell is more acute than ours, so ensure you clean with a solution such as Brampton’s Simple Solution. If you have remaining urine smell together with a bad association at the box, then you have 2 forces causing the problem to continue. So get rid of both!
5. Next, if possible, deny the cat access to the area that is peed on, especially if it’s an area that is repeatedly used. Many people forget to do this, and their problem is prolonged. By stopping access, the cycle of repeated urination is stopped. Will the cat pee somewhere else? Possible, though less likely if you provide a second litter box, show him where it is a few times, and also do the step 7 below.
6. If you can’t stop the cat from accessing the area, make the area less attractive for peeing instead. You can do this by either placing a scent, or, by placing a bowl of dried cat food there. If using a scent, try citrus or eucalyptus. If using dried food, which often works better, ensure that you top up the food bowl during the day. Either way, once you have success, continue for another 1-2 weeks to ensure it stays that way.
7. If you’re at home when the cat is, then you have this step up your sleeve as well: the startle technique. Only do this method if you actually catch the cat about to urinate because if you do it at any other time, that cat will not be able to associate that urinating in the area with the unpleasant startle. Startle the cat with a loud “No!” or clap of the hands. Wait 5 minutes, then bring the cat to the litter tray, and if she toilets at the tray, reward her with praise and a food treat. As long as the length and enjoyment of the reward if far greater than the startle, this will be unlikely to cause stress. Use this method carefully as some cats may experience stress with it. Make sure that the cat seems relaxed after the food treat, and that it’s actually improving the situation.
If you follow the above steps, most problems of peeing outside the litter box will be solved within days or gradually improve over 1-2 weeks.
Remember in all cases, you’ll be even more effective if you reduce stress at the same time. This means more play time and attention.
In conclusion, it does take some effort and detective work to see what has caused the litter box behavior problem in the first place. And you now know how to apply 7 essential steps to help you solve this issue, as quickly and effectively as possible.
If you’d like to learn more advanced tips on solving your cat’s litter box behavior problem, go to the website described in the resource box below.