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Inappropriate Elimination in Cats
By Melissa Bain, DVM, DACVB
One of the most common behavior complaints
about cats is inappropriate elimination outside
the litter box. It is also a common reason why
healthy cats are relinquished to shelters (and
consequently euthanized). You should take
heart, however, since this problem can almost
always be adequately managed. You should
also take heart from the fact that this problem
is widespread – you are not alone.
Is inappropriate elimination different
from urine marking?
Inappropriate elimination is not the same thing as urine marking. If your cat is peeing
outside the litter box, the first thing to do is schedule an appointment with your vet.
He/she can determine whether it’s a medical problem or a behavioral problem and
whether it’s inappropriate elimination or urine marking.
Inappropriately eliminating cats will urinate or defecate on horizontal surfaces only,
with large amounts of urine deposited and with the definitive urinating posture of
squatting to eliminate. The cat may stop using the litter box and urinate and/or
defecate in other areas of the house. Sometimes the cat will eliminate both inside and
outside the box, or use the box for urination or defecation only.
Cats who urine-mark will urinate mostly on vertical surfaces, though they sometimes
mark horizontal surfaces, too. They deposit small amounts of urine, and display a typical
posture while marking, which includes backing up to the object, lifting and often quivering
the tail, and treading with the back feet.
Why has my cat started to eliminate inappropriately?
Several factors may influence inappropriate elimination problems – and what is initiated
by one factor may be continued by another. These factors include the following:
• If you switch brands of litter and your cat doesn’t like the new brand, he may
quit using the box, or show other signs that the litter is not to his liking (by not
digging in the litter, by shaking his paws after leav