Inappropriate Elimination refers to depositing urine and/or feces outside of the litter box for reasons other than for marking purposes. There are 4 primary reasons for inappropriate elimination in cats:
- Surface Preference - Development of alternate surface material preferred over the provided litter material. Kittens develop these preferences at several weeks of age and these preferences can be very difficult to change. Preference for soil, sand, granular vs. clumping litters, paper, etc. can occur. Alternate surface preferences can also occur secondary to aversion (discussed later). If a cat turns away from its current litter choice for some reason (pain, frightening event surrounding the litter box, poor cleaning habits, etc.) it can develop other preferences to replace the original one. Sometimes providing a choice among several litter types at one time (a litter "buffet") may provide a clue as to the type of litter the cat prefers.
- Location Preference - In addition to finding a preferable type of surface material, cats can also develop a location to eliminate which it finds more acceptable than the provided one. Cats who are timid may rather eliminate in a secluded area such as a closet while other personality types could care less. Offering multiple litter boxes in various locations may help in determining a preferred location.
- Surface Aversion - Certain surface materials may be found to be objectionable to certain cats. A dirty litter box, pain associated with a urinary tract infection or after declaw surgery and the use of liners or a covered litter box may cause a cat to retreat from consistent use of its box. Better cleaning habits, trying a variety of litters and various types of boxes may allow you to find a more suitable combination.
- Location Aversion - Litters boxes placed in areas in which the cat may associate with a negative event may cause the cat to avoid that location. The hallmark for diagnosis is to take the same litter box and place it in a different area. If this is a location problem, the cat will begin to use the box in the new spot. Litter boxes in a high traffic area or near a load piece of machinery such as a furnace may cause an aversion wit the development of a secondary location preference.
Other treatment suggestions for treating an elimination problem includes cleaning the urine spots with an odor eliminator, covering the spots with furniture, changing the function of the area by turning it into a feeding or resting location.