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House-soiling behaviour in a multi-cat household

Posted: Monday, June 8, 2015 at 12:49:30 PM EST by Cam Day

Litter management and spraying in a multi-cat household

Sandra from Broadbeach Waters on the Gold Coast in Queensland asks a common question about her cats’ behaviour.

I have three cats and continue to struggle to keep my house smelling clean. They tend to disregard the litter tray and I have tried so many things and just feel like giving up! Any miracle cures?

The failure of one or more cats to use a litter tray that’s provided for them can be caused by several underlying issues.

We always like putting problems like this through a ‘behaviour sieve’ to help better define the underlying malady.

The first sieve is to separate the soiling behaviour into three groups.

1. Is your cat ‘standing and spraying’ – usually on vertical surfaces?
2. Or is he or she ‘squatting and urinating’ but in areas other than the litter tray
3. Or is he or she ‘squatting and defecating’ but in areas other than the litter tray.

Is there a medical cause?

With that in mind, the next sieve is to ask ‘is your cat medically fit’.

It is so common that cats which urinate in the wrong areas have a lower urinary tract disease.

For those cats that defecate in the wrong areas – if the produce is at all loose in consistency there could be a medical cause.

All soiling cats should be checked by your medical veterinarian before being referred to a veterinary behaviourist.

More information

Solutions for ‘standing and spraying’

In the absence of medical causes, let’s look at the ‘first sieve’ – spraying.Cat Spraying

Spraying is often caused by an anxiety disorder and the commonest cause of that is inter-cat conflict.

Sandra, you have three cats. Are they getting on well? If not that could be the cause.

Are there local cats in your garden that are upsetting your cats? That’s a VERY common cause of spraying.

Or is there some form of conflict within the family that may be making your cat or cats anxious?

Eliminating that anxiety is vital and that can mean:-

1. Assimilating the cats so they get on better with each other
2. Trying to humanely repel local cats
3. Implementing enrichment and game-play which will often reduce anxiety
4. Using Feliway to resolve the anxiety
5. And some cases anti-anxiety medication is needed

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Solutions for squatting and urinating and squatting and defecatingCat soiling

Now let’s look at the last two ‘sieves’.

For those cats that are not spraying and that fail to use the litter tray (the ‘squatters’) there are usually for five reasons.

1. Firstly the tray may not be clean enough
2. Secondly you may not be using the correct litter. With three cats, each may have a different preference.
3. Thirdly you may have the trays in the wrong location
4. Fourthly the litter trays themselves may not be the correct design for your cats.
5. And lastly, there may be conflict between the cats where one is not wanting to use the other cat’s trays.

This can be complex to work through but we have developed a step-wise program which has more than a 90% success rate with litter issues. Often we can resolve that with a simple telephone consultation.

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Cleaning up the mess

As a last note, you need to be quite wise when cleaning up after your cats.Smellgone Rapid. Odour Control Spray. 500ml.
Dr Cam's recommended product for the science-based removal of animal odours. Select delivery options at check out.

Cats are very sensitive to smells and odours, including the perfumes of commonly-used cleaning agents.

Enzymatic laundry detergents such as Bio Attack are quite effective for cleaning animal waste but there is a wonderful product called Smellgone which is my favourite.

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