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Toileting issues

Cats are clean animals by nature and are quite fussy about where they toilet. One of the most common behavioural issues regarding cats is inappropriate toileting outside of the litter tray.

Cats are also territorial animals. This means that they like to let other people and animals know that they have passed, or a particular area is ‘theirs’. This can be done in a variety of ways including rubbing it with their face or urinating on it. If your cat is marking around the house, we first need to address the underlying reason for this behaviour in order to improve the problem.

Identifying marking behaviour

Your cat is likely to be marking if it is mainly urinating outside of the litter tray, or if your cat is urinating or spraying on vertical surfaces or new objects. A cat that is not de-sexed is more likely to spray and mark its territory.

Marking behaviours are more likely to occur in households with more than one animal where there may be increased tension between pets. This may also be the case if your pet has regular contact with other pets outside the home, including neighbouring animals.

Preventing marking behaviour

Desexing your cat as soon as possible will help reduce the level of spraying or urine marking. However, if the behaviour has been ongoing for a period of time, a pattern may already be in place. To reduce undesirable toileting behaviours in this instance, restrict your cat’s access to other animals and other rooms in the house. When cleaning soiled areas, use neutral agents not containing ammonia that will clean the area thoroughly. Ammonia based products can encourage the animal to re-visit and mark the area again.

If your cat is returning to the same area, something as simple as placing a food bowl or playing with your cat in the area can help decrease the marking. Also keeping objects that the cat may mark out of reach, to reduce your cat’s ability to express this behaviour. If you see your cat lingering around an area where he has previously sprayed, it is important you interrupt this behaviour with a loud noise or squirt with a water gun. Never punish your pet after inappropriately toileting as delayed punishment is ineffective and only makes the pet more confused.

Using the litter tray

Cats are quite fussy about the areas in which they will toilet so it’s important that you keep their litter tray clean and free from odours. Cleaning in warm, soapy water is best.

Some cats may not like the area you have chosen for the tray. If your cat is frequently going to the same area to toilet, it might be an idea to either change the significance of this area (place it’s bedding or food bowls there) or place a second tray for the cat to use in that area. Experimenting slowly with different types of litter or litter tray may also assist. Refer to our ‘Learning to Use Cat Litter’ information sheet for more hints and tips.

Click here to learn more about litter training.

If after persisting with these techniques, your cat is still regularly eliminating outside of the tray, it is a good idea to have your cat vet checked to rule out any medical causes.

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