Cat sitting on a chair.

Dealing With a Cat’s Inappropriate Elimination

Cats exhibit two types of normal elimination behavior. The first involves urine spraying to delineate territories (the typical feline territory encompasses over one-tenth of a square mile) and to attract members of the opposite sex.

The second type is called covering behavior, in which a cat digs a hole in the soil (or litter), eliminates in it, and then covers it to mask the scent. Most inappropriate house soiling that occurs with cats involves indulgences or deviations in one or the other.

The most frequent cause of house soiling deals with the first type, territoriality and sexual behavior. Both male and female cats, neutered or not, can spray urine. A new cat in the neighborhood or a female in heat can quickly set off instinctive behavior in a male cat kept indoors and lead to inappropriate markings.

Even moving into a new house or apartment in which a cat previously lived might entice your cat to go around the dwelling and mark those areas in which a scent from the previous inhabitant is picked up.

Neutering might help control urine spraying in the repeat offender, yet, as mentioned before, it is not necessarily a cure-all. If there is a particular area in the house that your cat fancies the most for its spraying activities, do your best to prevent its access to that part of the house.

Or if you can, catch your cat in the act and punish it using a squirt from a water sprayer or a blast of air from a compressed air canister. Then leave the sprayer or canister sitting beside the soiled object or in the room for a few days. Chances are that your cat will get the drift and will abandon its tendencies to repeat the action.

[Note: If plain water from your spray bottle seems to have little impact with your cat, adding a small amount of vinegar or lemon juice (2 tablespoons per cup of water) to it will impart to it an odor that is offensive to most cats.]

Feline odor neutralizers can be used on carpets and furniture to help eliminate those lingering odors that might be causing the problem behavior. They should also be used anytime an elimination accident occurs outside the litterbox.

These odor neutralizers are available from a veterinary clinic or a pet supply store. Household cleaners designed to simply mask odors or those containing ammonia are of no use; in fact, the latter might actually attract your cat back to the same spot.

For those tough cases of urine spraying in which nothing seems to work, special drug therapy prescribed by a veterinarian might provide a satisfactory solution to the problem. However, such agents should be used only after other training methods have failed.