The most common behavior complaint of cat owners is house soiling, otherwise known as feline inappropriate elimination. The problem may be marking behaviors or urine/stool deposited outside of the litter box. Marking, or spraying, is when a cat urinates on vertical surface or leaves small amounts of urine, or occasionally stool, on horizontal surfaces. In most cases, the spraying cat will back up to a vertical surface, raise it’s tail, which may quiver, and with little or no crouching, will direct a stream of urine backwards.
Cats will mark their territory (locations where they live or visit) to signal “ownership” or to advertise sexual receptivity and availability. Marking can occur when other cats are in the vicinity, either outdoors or in the same household, or when they feel stressed or threatened. Changes in household routine, living arrangements, and other environmental and social changes could also lead to marking behaviors.
What are the diagnostic possibilities for elimination problems?
The first step is to rule out a medical cause. Any disease of the urinary tract or intestinal tract that causes increased discomfort, volume, or frequency can cause house soiling. Medical problems such as incontinence, in which the pet cannot control its urine or stool, should also be ruled out. A complete physical examination and laboratory tests at wit your veterinarian are recommended.
So, how do we determine if the problem is behavioral?
As with all behavior problems, the history will help determine treatment options. The location of the urine marking, the frequency, duration, and number of locations are important. Information regarding the home environment, litter box type and litter used, litter box maintenance (cleaning) and placement are factors to note, as well as any additional pets in the household. The number and placement of litter boxes is extremely important in multi-cat households.
If you have any questions, please contact Kingsbrook Animal Hospital at 301-631-6900. One of our veterinarians would be happy to examine your pet and help you to resolve these issues.