Inappropriate Elimination and Its Medical Causes

If your cat is missing the litterbox, take him to the vet for a checkup.

By Dusty Rainbolt | Posted: June 9, 2010, 3 a.m. EST

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Cat Fancy Magazine
Inappropriate elimination is (pardon the pun) the No. 1 cause of cat surrender in the U.S. Since people aren’t standing in line to adopt cats that soil the carpet, it’s also the No. 1 cause of death in healthy cats. So the next time you catch your cat squatting near the litterbox, don’t take him to the pound, take him to the vet.

Never assume he’s just angry or getting even with you. Cats are better actors than Jeff Bridges. Because instinct constantly warns them that sick cats are coyote snacks, they hide symptoms.

There are multiple reasons that could be contributing towards inappropriate elimination in your cat
Litterbox mishaps often provide the first clue that your cat may be ill. If your cat experiences pain going to the bathroom, he often associates the discomfort with the box itself. He thinks, “Hey, that box hurt me. If I don’t go in the box, I won’t get hurt again.”  

While chronic inappropriate elimination may start out as a medical issue, if not treated, it becomes a habit. Worse still, some conditions, such as blockages, could have deadly consequences within just 48 hours. However, once treated, many cats go back to using the pan as faithfully as, well Old Faithful. Among the diseases that cause inappropriate elimination are:
Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease
This is a collection of conditions that affect the cat’s bladder and urethra. Causes of FLUTD include feline idiopathic cystitis (a stress caused inflammation), stones, bacterial infections, and deadly urethral obstruction. Symptoms include: peeing outside the litterbox, frequent trips to the litterbox, inability to pass urine, vocalizing while going to the bathroom, excessive grooming of his private parts and blood in his pee.
Hyperthyroidism, Kidney Disease, Diabetes
While entirely different, these conditions have two things in common: They are very serious, requiring immediate veterinary attention, and they cause increased water consumption, more frequent trips to the litterbox and inappropriate elimination. Because of increased use, you will need to attend to the litterbox at least a couple of times a day.
Older cats may suffer from painful joints. While they may move around the house without obvious difficulty, degenerative joint disease can make getting into and out of the litterbox an exercise in agony. Providing more boxes with low sides in convenient places should help your senior cat with his hygiene problem. Ask your vet about medication that will help him with his pain.
Internal parasites can cause diarrhea, cramping and the feeling of urgency to poop. Contact your vet about de-worming your cat.
Anal Sac Disease
These glands, which are located on either side of the anus, should empty themselves whenever the cat poops. However, sometimes the secretions thicken and need to be manually expressed by a vet. Symptoms of anal sac problems include scooting across the floor on his bottom, frequent grooming around the anal area, straining to poop, pain or swelling of the anal area.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
This describes a group of chronic gastrointestinal disorders that commonly cause diarrhea and vomiting. Vets pinpoint the exact cause with blood work, fecal parasitic exam, dietary trials, X-rays and sonogram. It’s treated through diet, cortisteriods and antibiotics.
Bottom line, if your cat can’t make it to the litterbox, take him to the vet.

Dusty Rainbolt is the author of the award-winning books "Cat Wrangling Made Easy: Maintaining Peace & Sanity in Your Multicat Household" and "Kittens for Dummies." She's a cat behavior consultant, vice president of Cat Writers' Association and has rescued and rehomed more than 500 cats and kittens.
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Reader Comments

Waldy    Costa Mesa, CA

8/6/2010 10:32:00 AM

We have four kitties. The youngest female (two boys, two girls) pees all over the place...especially on pillows, furniture, etc. The stench is horrible. We took her to the Vet and there is no medical problem. I won't have her put down, but our house is literally destroyed.

Peggy    Tampa, FL

8/6/2010 3:38:13 AM

My long-haired cat has never liked the kitty boxes. I have tried virtually every kind of litter and every style of box. I think she does not want to get litter in her hair. I have solved the problem by placing a training pad outside the entrance to the box. She always goes on the pad now. I use a box with a low entrance because she recently lost a front leg to cancer. She puts her other leg inside the box and then does her duty on the pad.

Hazel    Mpls, MN

8/5/2010 8:42:04 PM

It would have been nice if it would also have acknowledged the fact that sometimes this happens due to other things. This can be caused by a cat being scared or bothered by another cat in the home. Usually the one doing the bothering is a unneutered male. By neutering the male, the problem will usually resolve its self.

Anna    Ashville, AL

6/16/2010 8:08:09 PM

What a great way to be edcated in how to help your cat. I hope their will be more arcticles like these. I want to further educate myself on what I can do to help my cat.

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