Ask Seth: Inappropriate Litter Habits

My cat uses the litter box to urinate but defecates next to the box. Why does he do this?



My cat uses the litter box to urinate but almost always defecates next to the box. Why does he do this? Is it out of spite? How can I stop it?

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Inappropriate litter box habits are the number one reason why cats are surrendered to animal shelters. Inappropriate elimination is different from territory marking. Territory marking is when the animal deposits a small amount of urine onto a vertical surface, while inappropriate elimination is when the deposit is next to the litter box. This is the cat's way of saying the litter box is “close to what I want, but not quite”.

Start by ruling out a medical cause of the inappropriate elimination. Once illness or any other physical problem is ruled out, then this problem becomes a behavioral issue. Place the litter box in a quiet, secluded area that is easily accessible. Most cats prefer clumping clay litter so the waste can be removed. Scoop the litter daily and in multiple cat household, make sure there are an adequate number of cat boxes available. There are a few types of litter you can try, including non-clumping litter, pelleted litter and absorbent beads. If you are unsure about which litter to buy, set up several boxes with different litter types. This will allow the cat to make the decision on which litter he/she prefers. Finding a litter your cat loves will make both of your lives easier.


Seth Mayersohn, CVT

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