Your Guide to Solving Inappropriate Elimination | Dr. Elsey's
cat sleeping on a bed

Your Guide to Solving Inappropriate Elimination

Inappropriate elimination is the number one behavioral reason cats are abandoned or surrendered to shelters. Dr. Elsey’s goal is to help keep cats in loving homes by providing proven, veterinarian-formulated solutions. We know there are certain dilemmas cat owners run into from time to time that can be uncomfortable to ask about. We’ve compiled answers to a few of the issues you may face when working to keep your fussy feline happy, healthy and coming back to the box.

Refusal to Use the Box

According to the ASPCA, at least 10% of cats will develop inappropriate elimination issues in their lifetime. If your cat begins to urinate or defecate outside of the litter box, it’s a sign they are trying to communicate to you that something is wrong and that a trip to the vet is needed. According to Dr. Elsey, “You miss more by not looking than by not knowing.” Regularly bringing your cat to the veterinarian for hands on care is necessary for diagnosing any issues and making sure your cat is in good health.

Your first step should be to schedule your cat a visit to the veterinarian to rule out any issues such as pain or infection. If no serious issues are to blame for this change in behavior, you can begin to consider other possible causes including stress or changes to your cat’s environment. Moving to a new home, adopting another pet or simply changing the location of the litter box can all be contributing factors to this problem.

Proper Litter Box Logistics

To prevent inappropriate elimination triggered by stress or environmental factors, regular litter box maintenance must be performed. We recommend replacing litter boxes every 6 to 12 months to promote a healthy environment for your cat. Litter boxes can become scratched and permeated with urine odor, even when washing them with mild soap and hot water. An unpleasant smell can deter your cat from using their box, so it’s good to replace them on a regular basis. Here are some helpful tips for a happy and hygienic box:

  • Litter boxes should be at least one and a half the size of your cat.
  • Large clear storage boxes make excellent cat litter boxes. If you cut a doorway in the middle of the box, leaving around an inch and a half on each side to provide stability and a lip of about three and a half inches to hold in the litter, you can create a large box for your cat to use.
  • Your cat should be able to step in and out of the box with ease and be able to turn around.
  • Senior cats can have litter box issues simply because it’s difficult for them to step in and out if the sides of the box are too high.
  • Location of the litter box is important as well—don’t place your cat’s litter box in a loud laundry room or cold basement. Setting the box in a warm, dry and quiet place is key.
  • Make sure you have a ratio of one litter box for each cat in your household and avoid placing the boxes side-by-side.
  • When it comes to clean up, removing feces and urine clumps daily from the litter box, washing the box with mild soap and water and replacing the litter once a month will keep your cat happy and your home odor-free.
  • Stay away from using any harsh chemicals to clean out your box—cats do not like the smell and this may discourage them from using the box.

Cleaning Up Cat Urine

If you discover a dreaded urine stain on your duvet or seat cushion, don’t fret! First, machine-wash your laundry using a cup of white vinegar and no detergent. When the laundry cycle finishes, add detergent and wash regularly. White vinegar is a great product for cleaning laundry and hard surfaces like linoleum and tile. If you do not remove all the urine odor, there will be a tendency for your cat to continue to urinate in those same areas over and over again. Cleaning up old urine odors is essential for getting a cat to go back to their litter box again.

For stains on the carpet, we recommend a three-step program beginning with cleaning the area with a mixture of mild dish detergent and water. Saturate the area with this solution and let it sit for an hour or two before blotting the area with tap water to rinse. Do not rub your carpet as to preserve the natural carpet texture. Next, soak the area with club soda for ten minutes and then blot the club soda with fresh paper towels. Weigh down the paper towels with a heavy object and let dry overnight. The next day, apply Dr. Elsey’s Urine Removal Program. Mix the Urine Removal Program one part solution to seven parts distilled water. Saturate the area with the mixture and allow the solution to remain in the carpet to dry.

Territorial Marking

Territorial marking, or marking with urine, is different behavior than sitting to urinate. With territorial marking, you will see small amounts of urine on walls, furniture, against baseboards and even on the owner’s clothes or bedding. After the cat has marked, it will simply walk away and not sniff and paw at the area as is the case instinctually when using the litter box.

Often cats will mark with urine if they are under stress from other cats in the household or neighborhood that may be invading what the cat perceives as its territory. If this is the case, it is important to try to keep stray cats away from your house. For the cats inside it is a good idea to zone the litter boxes and food bowls, so each cat has their own space. Giving cats their own zone will help with any territory issues that may arise between cats in the household. While some cats don’t mind sharing litter boxes, having multiple around the house can allow each cat to claim one for themselves. It also help ensure that even if one of the litter boxes is currently occupied, there is another place for your cat to relieve themselves. Also, make sure that your cats have several elevated perches to hide from other cats if the need arises.

Enrichment is also an important tool for cats not using the litter box. Using food puzzles to encourage hunting for treats and interactive toys that encourage exercise can be helpful.

Comfort Zone® Calming Diffusers can help reduce stress response behaviors like destructive scratching and urine marking. They release calming pheromones that mimic cats’ natural, calming pheromones for up to 30 days, signaling to your cat that he or she is in a safe and familiar place.

While inappropriate elimination can be a challenge to pet ownership, we’re here to help with Cat Attract™—a premium clay-based litter blended with a natural herb attractant that lures your feline back to the box. Created through years of observing and testing cats in shelters and in Dr. Elsey’s clinic, Cat Attract™ is the first litter to specifically address inappropriate elimination and provide a clinically tested and proven solution.

Every bag and box of Cat Attract™ comes with a free Litter Box Solutions Booklet to help you troubleshoot your litter box woes. We believe that nearly every cat can be trained to go in a litter box, and we’re here to help!