Recently, one of my readers, Shannon, asked me what to do with her cat, 7 year old spayed female which started peeing AND pooping on her kitchen rug. There are five other cats in the household, which seem to get along well. There are 5 litter boxes which she cleans regularly. The cat in question never had a litter box problem before.
As urine spraying and house soiling is a very common problem in multi-cat households, I thought an article on this topic may be of interest to other cat owners as well.
Cats can start spraying (or house soiling) at any time during their life whether they are male, female, entire or neutered and in multi-cat households the chance that one or more of the resident cats will display this behavior during their life is much higher than in a single-cat household.
Pinpointing The Cause
Inappropriate elimination (urination, spraying, defecation) is a common problem which can have a behavioral cause but in some cases it can be a result of an underlying medical problem. In Shannon’s case, as the cat is urinating as well as defecating in a certain location, I would suspect a stress factor coming into play here rather than a sexually/territorially driven marking behavior or a medical issue.
So the question is, what has caused the cat being stressed out, what exactly was it that triggered this behavior. Is there anything that has changed in your household short before your cat started to soil your kitchen rug? It’s not always that obvious and may require some hard thinking on your part. New cat, baby, new person moving in, reorganizing and/or renovating house, moving furniture, companion cat acting differently (for example kitten growing up and trying to establish its position among the cat community), bully cat in the neighborhood… these are just a few of many possible reasons why a cat can get distressed, feel insecure, and start soiling the house.
Of course, it would be ideal to determine the reason of house soiling and remove the cause… But this is often not possible so in that case I would proceed with the ‘symptomatic treatment’.
Tackling The Problem
If the cat is soiling only in one location, the easiest solution is to either prevent her from entering the place or make the place totally unattractive for her.
1. In this case, the cat is peeing and pooping in the kitchen – depending on the layout of the house, it may be quite hard to keep the cat out. So, rather than replacing the rug with a new one (what Shannon has done but it didn’t solve the problem), I would get rid of the rug altogether. Cats prefer soft surfaces to deposit their excrements; they will be much less attracted to smooth and hard surfaces such as tiles and laminated floors (in fact, most cats must be quite desperate to eliminate on hard surface).
2. In addition, I would advise you to get one of these pheromone based products with reassuring and calming effect on felines. What I like about them is that they are very safe to use (they don’t contain drugs which could be absorbed into the body) and work in a natural way. It is hard to say which one of the available products is the best – different cats will respond differently, so it is more a matter of testing out what works best for your cat.
There are sprays and diffusers like Feliway Behavior Modification spray or Feliway Diffuser, and there is also a pheromone containing collar, for example NurtureCALM 24/7 Feline Calming Pheromone Collar.
3. Make a feeding and play area in the kitchen. Cats naturally avoid soiling where they eat and play.[note] Note: Personally, I don’t like to use collars on cats which have access to the yard (especially when there are bushes and trees). During my veterinary practice I have seen quite a few cat collar injuries (usually slow healing skin damage/cut in the arm pit area) when their collar gets caught in the tree branch, they try to free themselves and slip their foreleg through the collar. [/note]
In any case of inappropriate urination and/or defecation it is always advisable to get your cat checked over by the vet to eliminate any underlying medical problem.
Medical problems are more common with urinating outside the litter box; bladder and kidney problems, endocrine diseases like diabetes and hyperthyroidism can cause abnormal urination and peeing outside the litter box. Pooping outside the litter box is more likely to be a behavioral issue but diarrhea, colitis and fecal incontinence could also be the reason.