Feline housesoiling: Sprinkling out of the box (Proceedings)

Aug 01, 2010

Many cats lose their homes and lives simply because they eliminate in areas other than their litter boxes. Cat owners are often unaware that treatment is available. In fact, the prognosis for resolving housesoiling in cats is often very good.

As with the successful treatment of all behavior problems, an accurate diagnosis is needed. This includes identifying any medical conditions that might contribute to the soiling. Successful management of underlying diseases, such as FLUTD, UTI, IBD, diabetes, and renal disease, can improve a patient's litter box habits.

Housecats usually eliminate outside their boxes for one of two reasons. The behavior may be related to a toileting problem. Or the deposits may serve a communication function. Cats can leave messages by marking with either urine or feces. Free-running cats do so multiple times per day. Urine-marking is more common than fecal marking, and less tolerable, since it is harder to discover and harder to clean.

Careful history-taking will differentiate innappropriate toileting from urine marking. If a home visit is not possible, ask clients for pictures and videos of the environment, and of the cat interacting with household pets and people.

Urine marking


Evidence of discord in the relationship of the cat with household residents would support the diagnosis of urine marking.

Changes in the routine, including new work-schedules or feeding regimens, can trigger marking. The timing and location of the deposits should support the diagnosis.

Cats mark in socially significant areas or on significant objects. Unlike toileting problems, marking behavior can occur more or less frequently than normal elimination.


Treatment of marking behavior will include environmental and behavioral modification. It may be possible to eliminate some triggers, or at least minimize exposure. Behavior modification can reduce a cat's reaction to the inciting factors that must remain, and can be used to improve social relationships. Some cases of feline marking benefit from pharmacological intervention.