defication in house

by Carol Taylor-Long
(Sykesville,Md U.S.A.)

I have a clean, automatic litter box for the life of my 9 yr old torti. She keeps pooping on my carpets daily when her box is clean.I am ready to put my foot up her bottom. I have had her checked out by her vet and they cannot find anything wrong with her. She had loose stools on my new sofa! I was livid! She is the only cat left and I am ready to make her a pound kitty. Today, I was in one room and heard her scratching the carpet, turned the corner and she crapped again! 4X this week!Her litter box has been in the same location,same brand litter too! WTH? Please advise.

RESPONSE:
When you wrote on New Year’s I was en-route to Maui for a vacation and finally came online, so sorry for the delay in answering.

The main unacceptable cat behavior that accounts for a lot of cats being euthanized or sent to shelters is inappropriate elimination which entails not only spraying and urinating but defecating in the wrong places in the house. The fact that your cat is around 9 years old and this hasn’t been a problem in the past, points to a trauma. Something triggered this behavior. Perhaps it was pain, fear, anger; but I could guess all day and not arrive at the correct answer.

Although your frustration level is high, and rightly so, there is a reason that your torti is doing this. We may not understand what goes on in those little critter’s heads…but any cat that reverts to a new, unacceptable behavior has experienced something to upset their “little world”. You have said that medical problems are not the issue so you have to look at other possible upsets to your cat’s routine.

For example, it just takes a matter of seconds for a cat to urinate but oftentimes the act of defecation takes considerably longer. If a cat is doing her “business” and gets interrupted by a loud door slamming, or a visitor appearing near the litter box, or even the owner rushing by with a package…she leaves the litter box quickly before she’s done and can perceive (wrongly) that the litter box is no longer a friendly place to spend more than a minute in.

The result can be finding a spot where there is no fear of interruption for the minutes she needs and your sofa, bed, carpet, become the new defecation ground. Logically, to us, this doesn’t make sense but we are not cats. Fastidious by nature, their routine has been inadvertently interfered with.

If you are convinced that the litter manufacturer hasn’t changed their formula (which they sometimes do without telling us), then try a second litter box in a different location that is a quiet place away from any house traffic, washer/dryers, and see how that works. And then even a third litter box with a different brand in a another quiet location is something to try.

While you are trying this litter box variation protect your sofa with plastic. At different times when I’ve had issues with adopting a new stray cat I’ve covered the seating area of the sofa with plastic (available at most fabric stores by the yard). Cats don’t like the feel of the plastic so that tends to be deterrent but if inappropriate soiling is done; there is less damage to your furniture.

Punishing your cat or scolding them with sharp voice tones will only intensify the angst they feel about doing a natural act of defecation. You have to try a few remedies to lighten the tension that kitty feels and then praise her for being a “good kitty”…no matter how old or young she is…or how mad you are.

Another option is confining your cat to one room where there is food, water and litter. You can allow him access to the rest of the house only when you are there to supervise.

Plus, the holidays are stressful for humans and cat are intuitive enough that the stress often transfers to them without our intention to do so. Below are a couple of paragraphs I wrote in response to someone else with the same problem a while ago:

I’m inclined to think its stress induced fecal incontinence is a behavioral “inappropriate pooping reaction” to stress. There are many manifestations of stress behavior ranging from aggression to scaredy cats that I mention on the page Cat Behavior Problems. On the second section lower on that page you will see where I mention a product that I use called Feliway which is dispensed in a diffuser that you plug into the wall. It is a synthetic copy of the feline facial pheromone, used by cats to mark their territory as safe and secure. When a cat rubs its cheek along you or another object they are depositing these facial pheromones.

Available in both spray and liquid with a diffuser, Feliway has a calming effect on many cats that are stressed or anxious. I use it all the time because I have 5 cats and want to keep anxiety levels down. The diffuser is a plug-in mini-bottle that lasts for about a month. You can find the link to the cheapest supplier I’ve found (Entirely Pets) on my Pet Products page. At their website simply enter Feliway into their search box. (Another place that sometimes has it at a reasonable price is Amazon.)

Drug therapy is another alternative that has some merit. I try to avoid using drugs for behavioral problems but there are times when nothing else works and it’s a viable option. Some drugs such as diazepam have fallen out of favor because of potential side effects while azapirone and buspirone have shown some promise. Clomipramine (a tricyclic antidepressant) has been considered effective because of its serotonin-enhancing properties that are effective at reducing anxiety. However, there are side effects such as constipation, urine retention and appetite changes so it is given in smaller dosages. There are studies being done now on the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor fluoxetine. One study showed 100% had a 90% reduction in marking behaviors but a couple of side effects are decreased appetite and lethargy. Finicky eaters or obese cats would be at a disadvantage with this one. So, this will be an alternative that you should discuss with your vet if that is the route you have to go.

As a last resort to enable you to keep your cat yet not have the messy clean-ups are cat diapers. I have a page with this topic that shows where to get the diapers etc. See Cat Diapers. Also read my page on Animal Behaviorists.

Finally, as maddening and as frustrating as a feline’s behavior can be at times, there is no way in hell that I will give up and send them to a shelter or worse. Any cat that enters my home as a resident is with me until their natural life span is finished. You commit to suffering through the ups and downs with them and always should be there for them, sometimes testing your devotion in situations like this.

I hope that you will find these suggestions useful but each cat reacts differently. If all else fails then I suggest that you get a feline behavioral professional who is better equipped to assist you. Best of luck to you and your feline friend. I wish you success. This is not an easy issue to deal with.

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