Why Won't My Cat Use The Litter Box Anymore?

There's nothing more frustrating than when your cat decides that the bathroom rug is a better place to urinate than his litter box. Why does he all of a sudden decide not to use his litter box? Unfortunately, our pets can't tell us when something hurts or is bothering them. Sometimes what seems like bad behavior is just your pet's way of letting you know that something is wrong. If your cat starts urinating outside the litter box, the first thing to do is schedule a visit to your veterinarian.

Urinary tract disease is a common cause for inappropriate urination. Unknowingly, pet owners will ignore these early warning signs and assume the cat is just being "bad" when actually he has a medical problem. Early diagnosis and treatment of urinary tract disease can often resolve the inappropriate behavior. Your veterinarian will examine a urine sample to look for infection, blood or the presence of crystals in the urine. Sometimes an x-ray may be necessary to look for bladder stones. Bloodwork may be indicated to look for organ disease, especially in older cats. Antibiotic therapy, prescription diets or surgery may be needed to resolve the problem. In some cases, other medications may be necessary to treat inflammatory conditions of the bladder that cause blood in the urine. Whatever the cause of the problem, appropriate medical therapy may be the answer to getting your cat back to his old self again!

So what happens when all of the tests are normal? Unfortunately, there are times when inappropriate elimination is caused by behavioral problems rather than medical.

First, you need to evaluate your cat's litter box conditions.

  • Do I have the appropriate number of litter boxes?
  • Is it the right type of litter?
  • Did I change brands of litter?
  • Is the litter box the right size, height, and in the right location?
  • Should the box be covered or uncovered?
  • Can my cat get to the litter box easily?
  • Am I cleaning the litter box frequently enough?
  • Is something scaring my cat away from the litter box?

Second, you need to evaluate you cat's level of stress in the household.

  • How many cats are in the household?
  • Have you introduced any new pets? Lost any pets?
  • Have there been any changes in the family such as the addition of a baby, divorce, new work schedules?
  • Have you been on vacation recently?
  • Are there any aggression problems between cats or changes in relationships between cats?
  • Are there any stray cats outside?

As you can see, there are many factors to consider when evaluating the cause for inappropriate elimination behaviors. Your veterinarian can help you determine the underlying cause for the inappropriate elimination problem and develop a treatment plan for your pet's specific problem. In cases of stress induced elimination disorders, anti-anxiety medication, along with behavioral modification, may be prescribed to decrease your cat's stress level and help foster positive litter box behavior. If you have a cat that has decided that he'd rather urinate on your couch than in his litter box, call your veterinarian for help. Early diagnosis and treatment, whether for a medical or behavioral condition, can make the difference in getting your pet back into the litter box.

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