A primary reason cats are abandoned to shelters is due to feline inappropriate elimination. This is when a cat urinates and defecates outside their litter box. Feline inappropriate elimination may be related to an underlying medical condition or an aversion to the litter box. It is important to determine the cause of a cat’s litter box problem so an appropriate solution can be found.
There are several medical conditions which could interfere with a cat’s ability to appropriately use a litter box. Inflammation of the urinary tract makes urination painful. A urinary tract disorder increases both the frequency and urgency to urinate.
Diabetes, liver and kidney disease, or thyroid conditions can be factors in changes to a cat’s elimination habits. Inappropriate defecation can be related to colitis, constipation, or anal sac disease. Age related diseases which cause brain function to decline can also be a factor. Mobility and sensory issues impacting joints, muscles, and nerves can make it more difficult for cats to use their litter box.
It is also possible for cats to develop an aversion to their litter box. This aversion could be related to the box itself, the litter inside, or its location. In fact, all three could be responsible for your cat’s aversion.
Cats can be notoriously finicky. Perhaps the litter box is not clean enough. It is even possible the shape or size of the box is a contributing factor. Consider these factors from a cat’s perspective. A litter box that is too small may inhibit digging. One placed too high may not be easily accessible. If the litter box is placed in the closet, a cat may feel trapped or cornered. Older cats may no longer be able to climb to reach their litter box. Litter boxes with covers could trap odors turning off some cats.
Other considerations such as a new pet or the loss of another household pet may disrupt a cat’s normal elimination habits. Changes within the family including divorce, illness, a new baby, moving or other situations increasing the stress level in the home may play a role in a cat’s litter box difficulties. Careful consideration of the home environment should occur when a cat begins refusing to use their litter box.
If feline inappropriate elimination is a concern, call your veterinarian to schedule an exam. It is important to rule out any underlying medical condition. If no medical condition is responsible, you and your veterinarian can then explore other possible causes. Addressing the problem quickly is important. If allowed to persist, the behavior could become a habit. Determining the cause of your cat’s litter box problems will allow you to find an appropriate solution. Early intervention is key in order to restore peace and harmony with your family and home.