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Cher
Cher, Cat Behavior-expert
Category: General
Satisfied Customers: 20969
Experience:  40+ years Cat Behavior Consultant; Vol. Vet Asst.
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My female cat (an "only") started defecating in random

Customer Question

My female cat (an "only") started defecating in random places on the carpet upstairs in our townhouse. I've taken her to the vet to see if she has any physical issues and he's assured me that she is perfectly healthy. He says she's demonstrating behavioral problems. She has a liter box downstairs that's open, and a closed liter box upstairs, per his suggestion, (she won't even TRY to go into that one) with two different kinds of liter. She was better for a while, and has started the same behavior again - right in front of me!
I'm so frustrated.... PLEASE tell me what I can do. At this point my husband is ready to find her a new home. And I can understand his feelings.
Submitted: 8 months ago.
Category: Cat Behavior
Expert:  Cher replied 8 months ago.

Hello, and welcome.

I completely understand your frustration. This is a common problem for many cat parents and I will try my best to help you. First, I need a little more information so I can better assist you.

What is your cat's name and age?

When did this behavior first begin?

Have there been any changes in your cat's environment, your routine or hours at home, visitors (human and pet), or any 'stressors' you can think of that would upset her?

Is she an indoor-only cat?

Does she like to watch birds, flying insects, other cats and dogs outside, through the window?

Is she eating, drinking and eliminating as usual, except for this problem?

Is she ONLY defecating upstairs, out of the box?

Does she use the box for both urination and defecation most of the time, until this problem appeared?

What litter are you using, now?

Thanks for all your additional information and after you reply, please allow me some time to read through it, compose and send your detailed answer.

Warmest regards,

Cher

Expert:  Cher replied 8 months ago.

Hi again,

I was hoping to get some additional information from you, but I didn't want you to go without an answer for so long.

If this is purely a behavioral issue, it can be caused by a variety of factors. First, keep the litterbox on the second floor, if you're not already doing that. Next, add 'Cat Attract' clumping litter to both litterboxes. This litter contains herbal attractants which encourage use of the litterbox. This is sold in pet supplies stores or can be ordered online:

http://www.petco.com/shop/en/petcostore/precious-cat-dr-elseys-cat-attract-scoopable-cat-litter

Make sure to place each litterbox in an easily accessible area that is not in the path of the household traffic and not near any noisy appliances. It would be a good idea to add yet a third box (open) and use only unscented litters. Also, make sure to wash all litterboxes at least once a week, with mild soap and warm water, plus a little baking soda; rinse well and dry. If the two boxes you have already, have been in use for a few years, replace them with new ones, because the plastic of the box does absorb odors that will never come out, no matter how well you clean them. Make sure to scoop the boxes a few times a day, so they're almost always clean. Some cats are very fussy.

Get two Feliway plug in diffusers and a Feliway spray. This product contains a cat-calming pheromone and helps in cases of inappropriate elimination. Here is more information:

http://www.feliway.com/us

Cats 'speak' with their waste; it's most likely that your cat is 'marking' territory with her feces. This can be brought on by many causes: stress, anxiety, frustration. For example, if you have recently rearranged the furniture in your livingroom or had any renovations, painting, new carpet, a new appliance, etc., this can make her feel anxious and upset, because cats are creatures of habit. By 'marking' in certain areas, she's declaring 'THIS IS MINE!' and it makes her feel no changes can take away HER place or her usual places in the house. Even if you change the angle of a chair in a room she frequents or sleeps on, this is enough to make her feel stressed/anxious.

It's essential that you clean the areas she soils with an enzyme-based cleaner for organic/pet stains and odors. Some well recommended ones are: Nature's Miracle, Zero Odor, Odor Mute, and many more available in your pet supplies stores, home improvement stores, and places like Walmart, Target, etc. The purpose of this, is the enzyme action completely removes the scent of where she went in the past and if she no longer smells it, she doesn't think it's an appropriate toileting area.

After cleaning these areas thoroughly, allow to dry and then spray lightly with Feliway. This will make her feel she's 'marked' there already and she will not return.

Another stressor that might be possible and a very common one, is if she likes to look out the windows and sees/smells another cat (stray or neighbor cat) coming around your house. This is threatening to her and causes her to start marking to assert her dominance and as I mentioned above, to declare this is MY territory--do not trespass. It would be advisable to spray the window sills and window frames with Feliway and also spray around any doors leading to the outside. You have no idea if a stray cat is 'marking' territory around YOUR house. You might smell cat urine outside, but then again, you might not. Spray the outside frame and bottom of the outside doors, as well, to mask the scent of any strays. Don't allow her access to the sprayed areas inside, until they're completely dry--about 30 minutes.

Try to enrich her environment with a tall cat tree or kitty condo, if you don't yet have one, and some new toys, in case she's bored and feels she's not getting enough attention. Here is a great list of toys she can play with herself and interactive toys:

http://www.pawswhiskersandclaws.com/pwc%20foraging.pdf

http://www.zootoo.com/pet-product/cat-toys/funkitty-twist-n-treat

http://www.batarat.com/

http://www.catdvd.com/

http://www.shopfatcat.com/Cat-Toys_c_7.html

http://www.amazon.com/FroliCat-BOLT-Interactive-Laser-Pet/dp/B0021L8W6K

As frustrating as it is, don't yell at her after the fact, because she will not know what you're talking about. If you catch her in the act, say firmly, 'no!' then pick her up and place her in the nearest litterbox. Put the stool in the box as well, to remind her that's where it belongs. Don't yell and scream or she will come to be afraid of YOU. You want her to know her 'action' is the wrong thing to do, and associate YOUR action with what she's doing at the time.

You didn't mention if the vet did a fecal analysis or not, and I'm glad his physical exam proved she's healthy, but if a fecal wasn't done, please bring him a fresh sample to test for intestinal parasites. This is a very common reason for cats to eliminate outside the box. Sometimes, it takes a few fecal tests to determine if any eggs, larvae or parasites are present, because the one section tested may be negative, even when intestinal parasites are present.

I hope things improve, soon!

Please be so kind as to rate my answer with positive feedback; that is the only way I receive credit for my assistance. Thank you very much!

Providing a positive rating will not end our conversation, should you need me for any follow-up. Simply click 'Reply' for clarification or additional information, if needed, and I will be glad to continue.

Warmest regards,
Cher

Expert:  Cher replied 8 months ago.

Hello again,

I'm just following up with you to see if you need help with any other questions and if you found my answer helpful. Please let me know, here, if my answer was helpful to you and I will be glad to continue our conversation if you have any additional questions. Thank you!

Warmest wishes,

Cher