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Why Does My Cat Go Outside the Litterbox?

One of the most common reasons for cats to be taken to animal shelters is inappropriate elimination. The prognosis for cats taken to animal shelters for this problem is poor; most are euthanized as potential new owners are afraid to deal with the problem.

Owners will often say that the cat had been using the litter box successfully for a long time and suddenly quit using it either for stool or urine. There is always a reason for this behavior and sometimes it requires detective work.

The cat should be taken to a veterinarian to rule out any physical problems. If the tests show the cat is in good health, then it is likely to be behavioral. Usually something has changed in the cat’s environment. Changes can be subtle and can have occurred over three months ago. A new kitten/cat, a new baby, death of a family member, divorce, new carpet, new litterbox, new location of litterbox, and one of the biggest culprits is new litter.

Some of the new litters available might be easier for the owner but not well accepted by the cat. If you want to try a new litter, put a new litterbox with the new litter in it and place it approximately one foot away from the current litterbox. Place the cat in it once or twice and then just watch and see what happens. If after one week it has not been used..your cat doesn’t like it and probably never will.

Long haired cats are more apt to have elimination problems and current know-ledge indicates this is probably a result of the feel of litter sticking to their hair and feet.

Some cats will not use a litter box if it is in an area that is wide open with lots of traffic. Others will not use the covered boxes or the new self-cleaning types. If your cat objects to any of these, it will be necessary to change back to what the cat was familiar with.

Once a problem has occurred, it is often necessary to put the cat in a room,such as a bathroom, with the litter box and leave the cat in the room with its food and water for a week, then gradually add one room at a time if possible to its repertoire. This is not a punishment, but a way to reinforce a positive habit.

It is vitally important that the areas that the cat has gone into have been adequately treated so as not to encourage the cat to use them again. The solutions available at the pet supermarkets are usually good, but the area needs to be saturated and left to dry naturally so the odors are eliminated. Also a repellent can be sprayed in the area, or an unpleasant-feeling surface placed over it to discourage the cat. Call for specific ideas on this subject.

The problem is not incurable, but it takes vigilance and a commitment from the owners to rectify.

Provided as a public service by Conni Borwick at 941-745-2054.

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