Tuesday, January 19, 2010 9:20 AM

Soiling Outside the Box: Physical Causes

If you have a cat who suddenly starts soiling outside the litter box, the first thing you should consider is whether or not this behavior has a physical cause. Cats are extremely fastidious creatures, so for them to soil where they know it is not appropriate is a very big deal. For a cat with no prior litter box issues, the reason is almost always that they are ill. Before you head off to the veterinarian, take the opportunity to examine not only the circumstances but also the appearance of the "mistake" so that you can give your vet the tools she needs to make the correct diagnosis.

Before you clean the spot, make some observations. If the problem concerns urination, note whether the amount is small or large. Also note any red or pinkish tinge; this indicates the presence of blood, not a normal state of affairs. This could indicate cystitis (bladder infection) or irritation due to crystals (feline urological syndrome, or FUS), or both. Don't assume that if you don't see any blood that there isn't any, though; sometimes, only microscopic examination will discover it. The chances are still very good that the problem is cystitis, and antibiotics will be necessary. If you have an older cat that urinates larger amounts (sometimes while asleep) you could be dealing with kidney failure. This disease, while incurable, can sometimes go into remission for a period of time; be prepared, though, for the worst.

If the cat is moving its bowels outside of the box, you will probably notice one of two things: The stool is soft or watery (diarrhea) or very hard and pebbly (constipation). As we all know, the urge to pass stool when one has diarrhea is conducive to accidents. With constipation, the problem is more along the lines of pain associated with trying to move the bowels. The animal starts to associate this pain with using the box, so tries alternatives. Also, partial passing of stool sometimes results in "drop-offs" elsewhere. Try fasting with cooked brown rice and baby food meat for a day or so for diarrhea; for constipation, try the "bomb" (courtesy of The New Natural Cat): 1 tbsp. baby food meat, 1/2 tsp. melted butter, 1/8 tsp. ground psyllium husk; 1/8 tsp. wheat bran and at least 2 tbsp. water (use enough-otherwise, the psyllium will turn to cement!). Cats love this, and so far, for me, it always works, usually within an hour or two. If either problem persists for more than a couple of days, consult a veterinarian.

Tomorrow, we'll take a look at behavioral causes of litter box "un-training".
Chat later!

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Amanda has worked with animals for many years and has always had cats in her life. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two excellent cats.
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