Also known as feline inappropriate elimination, house soiling is a common behavioral problem reported by owners, explained Debra Horwitz, DVM, DACVB & Gary Landsberg, DVM, DACVB, DECAWBM of VCA Hospitals, an operator of over 1,000 animal hospitals in the US and Canada. Behaviors include urine or droppings deposited outside of your cat’s litter box, as well as marking behaviors. Marking involves spraying urine on vertical locations. Hence, your cat may mark its territory by urinating small amounts on horizontal surfaces. Stool is rarely used for marking territory.
Risk Factors In House Soiling In Cats (2018)
Ana Maria Barcelos and colleagues of journal portal Research Gate conducted an internet online survey involving 245 respondents, and their responses were classified into three groups: control, marking, and latrine behavior. The study also included 41 potential risk factors and 15 predictors to diagnose marking and latrine issues. 46.1% of cats in the survey were reported to have never been afflicted with periuria. However, 30.3% of the remaining cats were found to be exhibiting marking behavior while 69.7% had a latrine problem. One cat was observed to have demonstrated both behaviors.
With regard to potential risk factors, the presence of another cat in the house was documented in the control behavior (42.5%), marking behavior (82.5%), and latrine behavior (63%) groups. 37.5% of responses indicated the presence of a cat flap in the house in the marking behavior group. The percentages, however, were smaller in the control behavior (17.7%) and latrine behavior (13%) group. Regarding outside access, no access was more prevalent in the control behavior (50.4%) and latrine behavior groups (68.5%) compared with the marking behavior category (40%).
Free access was more prevalent in the marking behavior group (32.5%) than the control behavior (14.2%) and latrine behavior categories (12%). Meanwhile, restricted access was commonly observed in the control behavior group (33.6%), unlike 27.5% and 19.6% of responses classified under marking behavior and latrine behavior categories, respectively. Cats sometimes defecate in the house if they exhibit latrine behavior (44.6%). Those who exhibit control and marking behavior were 14.2% and 27.5%, respectively.
The bond between cat and owners was “very heavily dependent” if the felines exhibited a control behavior (versus 20% of the marking behavior group and 4.3% of the latrine behavior group). On the other hand, the latrine behavior group showed higher percentages of responses answering “affectionate bond” (96.7%) than those classified under the marking behavior (80%) or control behavior groups (70%).
In the marking behavior group, standing (70% versus 1.1% latrine) was the most common posture followed by squatting (12.5% versus 78.2%). Regarding the cat’s behavior, the response “does not act as if covering the area“ was more common in the marking behavior group (75%) than the latrine group (16.3%). With the latter group, “as if covering the area” was the most common response (68.5% versus 10% latrine).
The authors said their results have illuminated several areas for future studies, specifically the nature of the bond or perceived bond between cats and owners regarding the risk and management of house soiling.
Why Cats Soil Indoors
Cats don’t like using dirty litter trays, especially if it is heavily soiled, said the International Cat Care, the ultimate resource on feline health. Litter trays should be cleaned at least once a week. Top the tray with fresh litter every day once you have removed the solids and clumps. Litter boxes with strong smells may also prevent your cat from using it.
Use a mild detergent and hot water or disinfectant specially formulated for tray cleaning. Rinse the tray thoroughly before letting your cat use it. As much as possible, keep its litter tray unscented. The position of the tray also matters. If it is in an open area where your dog, kids, or other cats disturb it, your cat may feel too vulnerable to relieve itself.
This will prompt your cat to urinate or defecate behind the television or somewhere else. Your cat may not like using the litter if it is positioned near a noisy washing machine or tumble dryer. Hence, it is recommended to place the litter box in a quiet corner where your cat has to only watch in one or two directions. Don’t place your tray somewhere open or in a thoroughfare.
Why Punishing Your Cat for Soiling Is Not A Good Idea
Cats usually use a litter box if provided indoors, but they are also fine with using loose earth or sand in the garden. It can be worrying if you see stool or urine littered in the corner of a room. This happens when your cat is sick, trapped in a room, or suddenly frightened. If soiling persists, it is recommended to have your cat checked by the veterinarian. Don’t punish your cat! Punishment will only make your pet more fearful and will escalate the problem. Tin foil, pepper, water pistol, and other deterrents will redirect your cat’s behavior to another place, trigger anxiety, or hinder the investigation of the problem’s root cause.
Soiling is an unpleasant behavior, but it doesn’t mean that your cat is seeking revenge or trying to make a point. House soiling means there is something wrong with your cat’s health, which would take some time for the root cause to be uncovered. In that case, you will need the help of your veterinarian. Whether house soiling is a behavioral or medical problem, be sure to keep a good record of your cat’s behavior to gauge if there are any changes in the frequency of using its litter box. If there are not much changes, your veterinarian may change your cat’s treatment plan or perform an alternate diagnosis.
Cleaning the Soiled Area
Whether your cat has accidentally urinated in your house, bear in mind that its sensitive sense of smell will encourage it to use that same place as a makeshift litterbox. Wash the soiled area with a 10% solution of biological or enzymatic washing powder and rinse it with cold water. Allow the freshly-washed area to dry thoroughly.
Once dried, spray the area lightly with surgical spirit using a plant mister. Scrub the area gently and leave it to evaporate. Commercially produced enzymatic cleaners can also be used to remove the stain and odor of cat urine and feces. Keep your cat away from the area as long as possible. Eliminate the smell to prevent the cat from detecting it by using pieces of furniture to prevent access.
House soiling is unpleasant and disgusting for many owners. Owners should have their cat checked by a veterinarian to determine if house soiling is a behavioral or a medical problem. Owners should also consider where they place the litter box or if it emits a strong smell. To all owners: Punishment is never the answer!