Page 1 of 2If your cat is good about using the litter box and suddenly stops using it, this can be a signal of an underlying medical problem like FLUTD that needs to be addressed immediately. When the core problem is dealt with, the aberrant behavior usually goes away. In this article, we’ll assume that physical problems have been ruled out by your veterinarian, and the problem is behavioral in nature.
Stain and Odor Removal
For any fresh urine/stool spots, first, blot with paper towels, then pour either white vinegar or plain seltzer water or club soda on the spot. Let it soak for about ten to fifteen minutes and then blot it up with absorbent towels or paper towels. If the urine has soaked through onto the backing of the carpet, your cat is likely to be able to smell the urine through the carpet and go back to that spot. At this point, best bet is to soak the area thoroughly with an enzyme-based cleaner. Keep the area wet, you want the cleaner to penetrate all the layers and do its thing. Often the cleaner will spread out to the side and not get down where it's needed, so you will need to reapply vigilantly.
If you can, block access to this spot by covering it with some material your cat does not like, such as aluminum foil. This will give the cleaner time to soeak in properly. Sometimes (alas, not always) it is as easy as just blocking access to a preferred peeing spot to stop spraying in that area.
For older urine spots, if you can smell urine but cannot pinpoint the exact area where your cat went, get a black light. It is readily available at most hardware stores as well as at pet stores. When you shine the black light on the suspected area, any urine stains will fluoresce. There can be false positives from saliva, vomit etc. but you can tell the difference based on the amount, location, splatter pattern etc. much like a CSI-type:> Be sure to soak all these areas with an enzyme cleaner/stain remover.
Getting to the bottom of things
Rule out not just physical problems such as FLUTD or locomotor issues e.g. trouble getting in and out of the litterbox (can cut out a U shape in the front of the box if this is the case), but also:
- type of litter – some cats prefer clumping to pellet or crystals, and others like my Trikki lion are okay with #1 in any type of litter but only clumping will do for #2. Some litter scents/perfumes can be off-putting as well.
- Litter box – # of boxes, cleanliness, placement, covered vs uncovered.
If you suspect it’s the litter, you can try something like Cat Attract litter; they also have an additive which on my list has not been as much of a hit as the litter itself.
Spraying and Marking
Once you have ruled out medical problems as well as litter box avoidance issues, you’re down to spraying/marking behavior. If your cat is soiling certain areas, you can spray Feliway on them as well as use a plug-in diffuser in all non-litterbox areas. For just one specific spot, you can even try feeding your cat there because s/he is less likely to soil in an eating area.
Spraying is pretty unmistakable in two ways:
- Stance - the cat will emit small amounts of urine, and typically have an erect tail with some level of quivering with his/her back up to a vertical surface e.g. a wall or edge of furniture.
- Location - less likely to be in out of the way spots, more likely to be around/on the human whose attentions might be divided among other cats, and/or a rival cat/other animal.
On the other hand, soiling behavior where a cat isn't spraying, but is eliminating outside the litter box, is quite different. In those cases, the cat pees in a squatting position on horizontal surfaces e.g. on a rug/carpet, and there are larger quantities of urine
It can be confusing though because some cats do mark on horizontal surfaces e.g. on clothing. So location and/or target objects can be an important clue as territorial marking can occur with squatting posture.