Most of the questions a cat behavior therapist gets are about incontinence and spraying. That isn’t so surprising: it is the most common behavioral problem in cats and also, it is a predicament that most owners would like to get fixed ASAP.


What To Do If My Cat Keeps Pooping Or Peeing Outside The Litter Box?

Questions about stopping cats from peeing or pooping outside the litter box are often difficult to answer. There can be so many different causes why a cat is showing incontinence or spraying.

Keep in mind, the marking of specific places with urine and stools is, in fact, a part of normal cat behavior.


Healthy cat behavior

Spraying and marking with urine and stool is healthy, normal cat behavior. Cats use odors to communicate with each other. With their smells, they can pass on information to other cats, including:

  • Which cat has marked the location.
  • When has the location been marked
  • The emotional/hormonal status of the feline who has marked.
  • Where the boundaries of the cat’s territory lie.

Marking is not only done by urine and stool, but also by scratching objects (visual marking) and giving headbutts to objects (scent marking).

Our cats have glands on the sides of their heads and under the legs. These glands release so-called pheromones in places where they scratch and rub.


Feline Incontinence

With incontinence we mean:

The cat displays natural cat toilet behavior, except for the location: outside the litter box. If the cat shows an unnatural positioning of the body or loud meowing, consult a vet.

The cat then seeks an alternative place because the cat does not want or dare to use the cat litter box or place where the cat litter station is placed.

Or maybe because the cat finds another area to be more attractive to go to the bathroom in.

Once a cat has used the toilet several times in a particular location, this gives him a feeling of learned behavior.


Common Causes of Feline Incontinence:

  • Pain in excreting on the cat litter box, for example, due to urinary tract problems.
  • Your cat does not like the grit in the box.
  • The litter box is not clean enough.
  • The cat litter box is too small.
  • The cat would rather not have a cap on the litter box
  • Your cat wants more privacy. It would rather have a cap on the litter box.


Dislike of the placement of the litter box, for instance by:

  •     Feeding trays and drinking fountains standing next to the litter box
  •     The scent of other cats in the cat litter.
  •     Prevent from other cats that the cat uses the cat litter.
  •     Being a victim of the behavior of other cats.
  •     Being a victim of the behavior of other animals or people.
  •     Fear of other objects near the litter box.


Your cat might want its litter box placed:

  •     Further away from other cats.
  •     Further away from noise.
  •     Further away from activity.
  •     Further away from other things that make the cat anxious.
  •     Preferred for a different surface than the currently used litter grit:


Cats can develop a preference for a particular substrate. If this is the case, it is most likely for soft surfaces, such as towels, pillows, etc.

These preferences can spontaneously develop in cats, but there is often a connection with a dislike of the cat litter box, or the location of the litter box.

The cat will then develop a new preference for a spot to pee and defecate in if the cat feels that this place is better suited for him.

Also, misunderstood behaviors like kitten / young cat, which has developed the young as a preference for a different surface regularly, think of:

  • Kittens who can not reach the cat litter in time and find soft pillows on their way.
  • Cats and kittens who, if they are just new at home, can not find the cat litter.
  • Cats and kittens who, if they are not new at home, do not dare to use the cat litter because they have to pass a dog or cat present at home. 7


Cat Spraying  and Urine Marking

A common misconception: only male cats spray to urine mark. Spraying is not just only the behavior of male cats. Some quick facts:

  • Unneutered tomcats spray the most on average.
  • 10 % of castrated ones still spray urine occasionally,
  • About 5% of female cats spray from time to time

Castration is, therefore, no guarantee of ending spraying behavior.

Spraying is recognizable by the cat’s position. The cat is upright, peeing a small amount of urine straight from the back. The cat flutters its tail frequently during spraying.

A cat can mark by spraying while standing up, but also, a cat can also mark while seated in the normal excretion position.

This marking can be done both with urine and feces. Cats exhibit these behaviors for the same reasons as spraying.

Spraying (and marking) at home is behavior that shows cats especially when they are feeling insecure about their territory.

Causes of feelings of uncertainty about the territory include:

  • Stress.
  • Problems between cats in the house.
  • Problems with cats outdoors.
  • Too many cats at home (spraying occurs more often in households with multiple cats. The more cats in the house, the greater the chance of spraying).
  • Strange new scents in the home.
  • Abandonment anxiety.
  • Change of family composition (new pets or family members).
  • A change in routine of the owner.
  • The way the owner interacts with the cat.

If the cat is intentionally spraying while in sight of the owner while looking at the owner while performing the act, there is almost always a frustration in the cat that is related to the behavior of the master concerning the cat.


Treatment of Feline Incontinence

Cross out a possible medical cause first. Think of urine examination and possibly additional research by the vet.

If there is no medical cause, try to figure out what other possible cause of litter box failure there might be.

Maybe your cat prefers another location, or just dislikes the litter box itself?

Maybe your cat doesn’t spray mark, but suffers from incontinence caused by other factors. Possible solutions:

  • Place sufficient cat litter boxes throughout the house (equal to the number of cats +1).
  • Use cat litter stations that are large enough (1 ½ times the length of the cat).
  • Make the cat litter box as attractive as possible by using a grit that your cat loves.
  • Keep the litter boxes clean
  • Provide sufficient personal space your kitties in multiple cat households.
  • Clean the contaminated sites thoroughly with a special detergent that is suitable for removing cat urine / feces.
  • Rinse the contaminated areas after cleaning, by rinsing it with plenty of fresh water.
  • If necessary, use a special spray that changes the odor molecules on the excretion site, so that these places lose their smell. Make sure that the spray itself does not contain any other fragrances.
  • Make the excretion spots temporarily unreachable and put (if possible) a litter box on or near this place.
  • If the cat is urine spraying, try to figure out what is the reason for this and try to remove or fix the reason.

If you think stress or feelings of insecurity play a role, you can buy a pheromone vaporizer. But do not forget to fix the real cause, instead of using a band-aid solution to mask the symptoms.

What you should not do:

  • Apply strong odors to the excretion site or clean the location with strong smelling detergent. The cat will perceive this as a mark placed over his own. Your pet will likely put his scent back on that same marking location as soon as possible.
  • Put the cat on the cat litter and hold it. there This action causes the cat to start disliking the cat litter box.
  • Punish your cat. In practice, the punishment is always late and is not understood by the cat. The punishment causes the cat to feel insecure or frustrated, and consequently, it will display even more problematic behavior!
  • Drug your cat with medications such as sedatives, hormone injections or antidepressants, without treating the cause of the toilet issues. The chance of success with the sole use of medicine without adaptation to the cat’s environment is small.

In the meantime, you will only spend a lot of money.  The cause of the bathroom problems will only get more and more tricky to fix, as time goes by.


Final Thoughts

Cats not using the litter box and spraying in your home can be remedied, if you can find the cause and treat it or remove it. In addition to tackling the cause, it is important that the cat learns to use his designated toilet and the associated behavior again.

Your cat will never spray or excrete in your house to harass you. Your pet always has a good reason for showing this behavior.

If a medical cause is excluded by the vet, and you can not solve the problem yourself, a cat behavior therapist might be able to help you. He or she can then help you find the cause, and help you train your pet to only use the litter box.

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