The following is a story of a kitty with a bit of a potty problem. Learn about her story and what you should watch for and do if your feline companion is behaving in a similar manner.
Sam and her family have an older cat named Patty. Patty hasn’t been to the vet in a while, but she’s always been healthy, and they’ve never had to worry about her.
About a month ago, they started finding that Patty had gone potty in places that weren’t her litter box. At first, they found some dried poop nuggets in a corner in the living room near the potted plant on the first floor of their home. Then, they started finding more in the tub on the second floor. Now they’re finding that she’s been urinating in at least one of the bedrooms upstairs, near the potted plant, and once on the bathmat near the tub.
Nothing at home has changed. She’s an only kitty, she’s been eating well, and they’ve lived in the same home for years now. She has a litter box in the upstairs hall and another near the washer and dryer on the first floor. Both are the same, covered style she’s always had and the exact same scoopable litter they’ve always used, but they did try a different scent at some point in the last year. The
kids are responsible for keep the litter boxes cleaned and it seems like they get done a few times a week.
Why, then, is Patty not using the correct potty, and what can her family do? If this continues, they are thinking about finding her another home or taking her to the shelter…
When’s the last time my cat has been seen by a veterinarian? Have they had full blood work within the past year looking for kidney and thyroid issues, an examination looking for signs of arthritis pain, and a fecal test looking for parasites? Are there any other signs she might not be happy or comfortable?
When did the litter box issues start? Were there any major changes in the home, such as getting a new cat or a new baby, or moving?
Where did the naughty potty start? Was it urine or feces? Were the feces diarrhea, normal, softish, logs, or hard fecal rock balls? If it was urine, was it on a horizontal or vertical surface? Was it a small, normal, or large amount?
How many litter boxes are in the house? Is there at least one on every floor of the house? Has the naughty potty been happening on a floor where there is a litter box? Is it located in an accessible area that isn’t too busy or too loud, but also that isn’t tucked away in a dark and scary cave-like closet?
How often are the litter boxes cleaned? Has there been any change in the litter type or scent since the naughty potty has started?
What size and style are the litter boxes? Are they enclosed or open, are they large enough for a larger or older cat to be comfortable, and can a larger or painful cat get into or out of the box easily?
What has the family done to clean up any areas that have been soiled?
Sam took Patty to her veterinarian, who was glad to see them, although upset to hear Patty’s been having trouble. They checked her blood work and found that Patty’s urine was dilute, and her kidney values weren’t completely normal. On exam, the vet noted she seemed stiff or sore in her hips, and her poop balls were big and hard in her colon. These are all very common in older cats, and the combination of kidney disease, arthritis pain, and constipation is more than enough to discourage a cat from using their litter box.
Sam’s family loved Patty and wanted to do everything they could to help her. They started by cleaning up any places Patty had pottied with an enzymatic cleaner specifically meant for cat urine and feces and adding a litter box to every floor of the house. They went back to the litter scent she’d always used before, and changed the boxes over to a larger, shallower box that wouldn’t bother Patty’s hips to get into or out of. The kids also got together and made a plan to make sure all the litter boxes were cleaned every single day. Nobody likes to go potty in a toilet that’s already dirty.
With the guidance of their veterinarian, they also gradually switched Patty over to a kidney diet and started adding a little stool softener every day to her wet food. They also started an arthritis pain medication and were amazed to see her start playing again and grooming better. They hadn’t realized she wasn’t doing her normal things as much anymore until she started doing them again.
With a few changes, Patty’s family was able to help her get comfortable and start using the litter box
normally, and Patty was able to stay in her family.
Inappropriate elimination is one of the most common reasons that cats are turned in to shelters or rescues or dumped into the streets, and in most cases, it’s entirely treatable.
Cats are highly location-oriented and no matter what goes wrong in their body or in their lives, they have a few standard clues. They will withdraw or hide, have decreased appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, destructive behavior, or start urinating or defecating in inappropriate locations when they don’t feel good or are distressed. It often takes some detective work by their families and their veterinarians to find what might be causing the problems, and to find solutions that will work for everyone.
clipart of a cat using a litter box
Please get the help of your veterinarian and do it sooner rather than later. They can help identify health issues in cats who have litter box issues. It’s much easier to correct the behavior if we intervene soon after it starts, rather than waiting months or years.