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Dr. B.
Dr. B., Cat Veterinarian
Category: Cat Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 20280
Experience:  Small animal veterinarian with a special interest in cats, happy to discuss any questions you have.
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Thank you. She is an elderly cat and just recently started

Customer Question

Thank you. *****! She is an elderly cat and just recently started pooping outside her litter box onto the carpet. Not even close to the liter box. What could be the problem. She will urine in her box and sometimes she will poop in her box. And she meows often and very loud. I make sure she's fed, brushed and I leave water out for her.
JA: I'll do all I can to help. What is the cat's name and age?
Customer: Wendy is her name and I'm not sure of her age since I inherited her from my mother in law when she passed away. She is more than 10 years old I would sy.
JA: Is there anything else important you think the Veterinarian should know about name?
Customer: She has cat dandriff.
Submitted: 5 months ago.
Category: Cat Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. B. replied 5 months ago.

Hello & welcome, I am Dr. B, a licensed veterinarian and I would like to help you today.

How long has she been doing this?

Are her stools normal, hard, or loose?

Customer: replied 5 months ago.
Hi, it's really been a month, and it happened three times already. Her stools are normal.
Customer: replied 5 months ago.
Posted by JustAnswer at customer's request) Hello. I would like to request the following Expert Service(s) from you: Live Phone Call. Let me know if you need more information, or send me the service offer(s) so we can proceed.
Customer: replied 5 months ago.
Dr. B., I'm not sure how this works; I've never done this before. I don't want to pay additional for a phone call, so if that's the procedure, then we can continue via the internet. I also realize this is New Year's Eve. If you require anything else from me, please advise. Thank you, ***** ***** New Year. I anxiously await your response.
Expert:  Dr. B. replied 5 months ago.

No worries, my dear.

Please just disregard the auto-call offer.

Now in regard to Wendy's situation, as I am sure you can appreciate when a cat begins to inappropriately eliminate outside the litter box, there are a range of reasons that can be behind this action. We can see this behavior arise secondary to stress, rejection of the litter box/litter/location, territorial drives, even medical causes (though usually bladder related). That said, if we are seeing an older cat intermittently defecating outside the box while still urinating and passing some stool in it, this suggests that there is another reason afoot. Specifically, I would highly suspicious that her intermittent lapse in litter box manners is actually an early hint of brewing arthritis.

Now its not uncommon to see at this age and associated arthritis manifest in this manner. Cats, unlike dogs, go to great lengths to modify their lives around avoiding things that cause them discomfort. Where a dog will run on a sore leg until she can’t use it, a cat will just decrease doing the things that are causing the pain. It is wise for the cat, harder for us to pick up when there is a problem.

Unfortunately, in cats with pain derived litter box issues, trips to the litter box aren’t something that can be skipped. So no matter how much discomfort it can cause, life demands that a cat not stop using the toilet. And in these cases, this behavior is often related to

discomfort in the back, hips, and back legs. And again it is possible that if this is mild at this point, than these litter box signs might be our only hints and the only time we can appreciate that she isn’t 100%. And it is understandable, because if you imagine, passing feces requires significant forces on the body, which they do while balancing on pebble like litter, while standing on two feet. Often in cats with back pain or arthritis, this can be a bit much. And this is when they just decide that it is easier to go outside the box (often choosing a substrate that they can get better grip on like carpets or hard floors are free of the pebble like texture that litter has). For some cats this will then become an all the time occurrence, while others will just do it intermittently (when they can't be asked to deal with the box). The problem is the more they do it, the more likely they are to continue to do so as it goes from being a lapse to a habit.

So, with this all in mind, we do need to see if we can reduce any lurking joint discomfort she may have. To start, I would note that there are some joint supplements that can be of benefit. First, you may consider trying glucosamine/chondroitin supplementation with her. This is a nutrient supplement that is available at your vets, pet shops, and health food stores (as capsules, liquids, and even treats). It works by aiding joint suppleness by helping cartilage replenish itself and blocking enzyme destruction of cartilage in the joint. Often we can find this helpful in animals with mild signs, but it might be enough to take some of the discomfort away and help her to comfortably use the litter box. Normally we give kitties 50mg glucosamine + 15mg chondroitin a day per 10 pounds of body weight. So, do consider trying this with her.

As well, we do find fish oil ( omega 3+ 6) beneficial for cats with arthritis. This is a natural anti-inflammatory and can reduce inflammation in sore joints. Typically, we will give 90 mg EPA and 60 mg DHA per 5lbs of body weight. So, this too would be something to consider for her. And if you did think she was very sore, you could also speak to her vet about kitty safe pain relief (ie Metacam).

Further to joint supportive care, do consider trying a litter box that has a lower lip, so that Wendy has no excuse/difficulty getting into the box. As well, you may also consider changing her litter to a paper or sand based litter to see if this just takes some of the strain of litter box time. And of course, if you are concerned that she is 'forgetting' where her box is, do try a litter attractant as a reminder.

Finally because we need to discourage her associating the carpet/furniture/non litterbox places with being somewhere she can go and this becoming habitual, you will need to make sure the areas are cleaned afterwards. I would advise using an enzymatic odor neutralizing cleaner (ie Nature's Miracle, Fizzion) wherever she has gone because while normal cleaners will eliminate the smell to us, she may still be able to smell her own scent and thus choose to go there again.

Overall, defecating out of the box is not something cats do lightly. It is a behavior that is actually going against her instincts. Therefore, we have to take this as a sign that something is amiss and putting Wendy off using the box at those moments. And considering her age, lack of historical behavior triggers, and her intermittent fecal only signs, arthritis is a prime suspicion for her.

Kind regards,

Dr. B.

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Customer: replied 5 months ago.
Thank you, ***** ***** is very enlightening!!!!!!!!!!!!
Expert:  Dr. B. replied 5 months ago.

You are very welcome, my dear. :)

Best wishes for Wendy and yourself in the new year,

Dr. B.

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**Please rate me by clicking on the **stars** at the top of the page as this is the only way the site credits me for helping you. Thank you!: )

Expert:  Dr. B. replied 5 months ago.
Hi Aretha Pierre,

I'm just following up on our conversation about your pet. How is everything going?

Dr. B.

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