Litter Box Woes

 As an animal communicator, I receive a number of

calls from guardians concerning behavior issues with all sorts of species in the hopes that harmony can be returned to the home. But today we’re talking

about cats and how to solve the number one frustration, indiscriminate peeing.


Reasons for avoidance of the litter box can range from the familiar to the bizarre and even if the reason is discovered, it does not make it a given that the problem is solved due to the characteristics of felines in general. But let’s see if we can eliminate the more common reason to begin.


Cats are creatures of habit and most do not like ‘the new’. So changing to a new litter, box or rug beneath the box can cause kitty to abandon his potty. Other things to consider are new cleaning supplies, air fresheners or other items that change the scent of the room or house. If nothing in these areas has change we can move on to medical reasons.


A urinary tract infection or ‘UTI’ will often cause kitty to use a different area of the house to pee for two reasons. One, the urgency to pee is somewhat overwhelming when bladder issues arise and they cannot always get to the box in time. Anyone who has experienced a dog with a UTI knows the frustration of going outside every thirty minutes, only to have a drop of urine produced. A sick bladder works the same for everyone. Second, for some cats the experience of using the litter box and urinating when under the influence of a UTI becomes painful and that pain is associated with the box or room in general. For some, solving the medical issue also solves indiscriminate urinating, but not all. There are other medical reasons for not using the litter box such as bladder stones or crystals that make elimination urgent and arthritis which can cause mobility problems, making it difficult to get into the box. If you suspect arthritis, try lowering the sides of the box or making one side more accessible to help with aching joints. It may easily solve the



If medical reasons have been ruled out, the next issue to explore is emotional.  Of course there are dozens of emotional reasons we or other animals do anything, but we will hit the highlights for the sake of expediency. Stress is a major cause of not using the proper facilities and not necessarily the stress of the cat, although that can be an issue. Stress within the home and family may be a reason to abandon nice toilet habits. Oddly, not using the litter box can exasperate the issue, adding more stress to an already stressed household, so do try to keep a grip on your own emotions when dealing with this.


I placed territorial problems within this emotional category because it ultimately creates an emotional response. A new cat in the house is fairly self-explanatory. But spraying or urinating (not the same thing) can sometimes be caused by a cat outside the house- a midnight prowler will often elicit a marking response to claim their territory. Sometimes the ‘prowler’ is a human visitor the cat may not like having around and the response is the same, usually by a door or window.


Though we often seem to think a cat’s peeing in the corner or on a special rug is some sort of a revenge tactic, a show of personal affront, I have never had a cat tell me he was doing it out of spite-not once in the dozens of cats I have worked with. They have always had a reason.


Unfortunately because they have a reason, it does not follow that they feel the need to amend their actions. The act of peeing outside the litter box does not carry the same weight in their eyes as it does in our human view. For us it is a minor catastrophe. For them it is more of a non-issue and they are curious why it preys on our mind with such unrelenting emotion.


The individuals who are drawn to add a cat to their family embrace the characteristics of the cat, it fits their lifestyle. They love the independence of the animal, the cat is comfortable doing their own thing, coming to the guardian only when it strikes them. Humans also love how the cat does not need to be adored, is not that interested in gaining the

adoration of the household in the way a dog often times is through that ‘in-your-face’ attention gaining antics of a pack animal. The cat is less concerned about pleasing his human because they are often more secure in their place among the family.


Independence. Self-reliance. Not needing of outside adoration. These are the very reasons it is difficult to change the mind of the cat when he finds the litter box a less than perfect place to relieve himself. And he generally is not that concerned that you ARE concerned about something as ordinary as toilet privileges. There is no mistake in his love for his family, but to most cats, that is an altogether different subject and they do not confuse the two, as most of us humans tend to do. Someone doing what we want them to do is often how we measure love. Perhaps our feline friends are just reminding us of how others see life and love.


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