Why is my cat missing the litterbox?

Has your previously litterbox trained cat suddenly started urinating and defecating outside of his/her box? Have they begun to go in odd places such as rugs, sinks or even on your bed? You may be wondering why this change in behavior is occurring. The most common answer behind this behavior is that your cat is trying to get your attention. The reasons can be further separated into two major categories: Medical and Behavioral.

Medical Reasons

There are several different medical reasons that will cause a cat to miss his/her litterbox. These medical issues can lead the patient to be uncomfortable or have an inability to hold in their urine, causing them to urinate in odd places to show you they are having issues and/or cannot make it to the litterbox. Here are some of the major issues (not a complete list) that can cause the cat to urinate outside of the box:

  1. Urinary Tract Problem- An infection or inflammation in the bladder, urethra or other portion of tract can cause the cat to become uncomfortable and urinate in different areas.

  2. Kidney Problem- If a cat has developed an infection, inflammation or dysfunction of the kidneys then they will urinate because they may not be able to hold the urine.

  3. Diabetes- Either excessive sugar in the urine or increased drinking can lead to inappropriate urination.

Behavioral Reasons

The main behavioral reason for a cat to urinate or defecate outside of the box is often attributed to stress, but there can be many different causes of that stress. When inappropriate urination is due to behavioral reasons, cats can be truly urinating outside of the box or can also exhibit “marking” behavior, where they emit a small amount of urine in a “spray” on different items. Here are a few behavioral reasons that cause a cat to miss the box:

  1. New Family Member- Whether the member is human or an animal, when there are changes to the core group within the house a cat can become stressed and can show their displeasure by urinating inappropriately (e.g. on your bed or sofa).

  2. NOTE: New “family” members can also come in the form of outside animals such as coyotes or feral/neighborhood cats. If the urination or spraying is occurring at an outside door (like a patio door), then you should consider whether an outside animal is upsetting your cat.

  3. Temporary changes in circumstances- Examples of this could be people visiting the house, construction in or around the house, or vacations.

  4. Dislike of location or type of box or litter- Some cats can be very sensitive to the way in which their litterbox is set-up. Sometimes a cat may feel like they are too large for a box, or they do not like the location or the new litter you picked out. Also, if you have multiple cats in the house the litter box may become full faster and that can cause some cats to go in other locations.

If your cat is missing his/her litterbox then it would be a good idea to contact your veterinarian for an evaluation to determine if the cause is medical. Even if the medical reasons are eliminated, your veterinarian can discuss options for determining the cause of the behavior and how you can go about fixing the issue so that your cat returns to using the litterbox. If you have any questions, please feel free to call our clinic and schedule an appointment.

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