Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
My kitten is about 3 months old now. She uses the litter box but still will pee and poop 0n our kitchen floor. I’ve taken out all the rugs because she will push all the kitchen rugs to one side of the kitchen and then pee or poop. We’ve scolded her by putting her nose into it and spraying her with water and saying NO. But when no one is around she still does it. When we take her into the bathroom where the litter box is, she’ll use it. We have a box for the cats outside, she will use that one too! What am I doing wrong?
I have three other cats and they use the litter outside. Please help!
Siouxsie: Ordinarily our first advice in the case of inappropriate elimination problems is to take your cat to the vet for a checkup. Problems like urinary tract infections and crystals in the bladder can cause cats to pee outside the litterbox.
Thomas: But since you report that she is peeing and pooping and everything appears to be OK in that department, and because the locations of her elimination are not typical for urinary tract problems, we’re pretty sure this is a behavioral problem rather than a medical one.
Dahlia: The first thing you need to know is that you should not punish your cat for peeing and pooping in the kitchen. Rubbing her nose in it or shouting at her will only cause her to do exactly what she’s done–do her business when nobody is looking. Another possible consequence of punishment is that your cat may start peeing and pooping in places you can’t see.
Siouxsie: At least the kitchen is easy to clean up. But if she starts peeing behind the couch or on carpeting, you’ll have a much bigger problem on your hands.
Thomas: So, if you can’t punish her, what can you do? Don’t worry, there are other ways to get your kitten back on track!
Dahlia: Since she uses the outside box and she uses the one in the bathroom when you’re with her, your kitten clearly knows what litterboxes are for and how to use them. But what’s stopping her from using the catbox in the bathroom unless you’re not there to accompany her?
Siouxsie: Our first thought is, maybe she’s afraid.
Thomas: It’s possible one of your other cats ambushed her while she was using that litterbox, so now she doesn’t feel safe alone in the bathroom. When your cat is toileting, she’s in a very vulnerable position. If one of the others caught her with her pants down, so to speak, and frightened or attacked her, it’s no wonder your kitten would be reluctant to use that box.
Dahlia: Another possibility is that she doesn’t like the location of the litterbox. Cats have definite preferences about the positioning of their toilets. If the outdoor litterbox is in a place that’s significantly more open, or significantly more private, than the box in the bathroom, that might be a clue.
Siouxsie: We suspect that since your kitten is using the kitchen floor as her toilet, the box in the bathroom may be too enclosed or in too dark an area for her to feel comfortable. Also, if you use a scented cat litter, the smell may become overwhelming in a smaller space like the bathroom.
Thomas: If the bathroom litterbox is covered, your cat may not like that. Covered litterboxes can be a problem for cats because they’re small, dark, enclosed areas with only one entrance or exit. A covered litterbox can also trap perfume or urine and fecal odors, making it a uniquely unpleasant experience for a cat to use it.
Dahlia: Another issue with covered litterboxes is that people sometimes forget to clean them regularly. If you can’t see the urine or feces in the box, it’s possible to forget that it needs to be cleaned.
Siouxsie: If you have an outdoor litterbox, it may not fill up very quickly. Cats that have access to the outdoors will often do their business under bushes rather than in the box. Therefore, if you have cats that go outdoors and a covered box indoors, it’s easy to forget that the indoor box will need to be cleaned much more frequently than the outdoor box.
Thomas: Litterboxes should be cleaned at least once a day, and preferably twice a day or more if you have indoor-only cats.
Dahlia: So, what should you do to solve your kitten’s inappropriate elimination problems? We’ve got a few suggestions.
Siouxsie: First of all, try moving the indoor litterbox to the kitchen. We know having a litterbox in the bathroom is convenient because it keeps all the smelly business in one place and it facilitates flushing waste (if you have a flushable cat litter). Put it in or near an area where she usually does her business.
Thomas: But you also need to make sure that the litterbox is as far as possible from your cats’ food and water dishes. Cats don’t like to toilet where they eat, and you could actually cause more problems by putting the litterbox near the eating area.
Dahlia: If your indoor litterbox is covered, remove the cover.
Siouxsie: To make litter cleanup easier–and to keep your kitchen from smelling like cat waste–you can buy a Litter Locker or a Diaper Genie to store your cats’ waste until you’re ready to empty the trash. (The links are for reference only; these products are almost always available at local retailers.)
Thomas: We’d recommend that you clean your kitchen floor thoroughly in order to get rid of any lingering odors of your kitten’s urine and feces. You may not be able to smell it anymore, but cats’ sense of smell is much stronger than humans’.
Dahlia: Do not use ammonia or products that contain ammonia to clean up urine and feces odors! We recommend using an enzymatic cleaner designed to remove pet odors. Nature’s Miracle and Anti-Icky-Poo come highly recommended.
Siouxsie: You and also use a solution of vinegar and water. Mop it onto your kitchen floor and let it sit for a while. Then go over the floor again with water to dilute the scent of vinegar. You may also want to soak any carpets your kitten soiled in a vinegar-water solution and then wash them in hot water with a color-safe bleach or peroxide-based product such as OxyClean.
Thomas: If none of this helps, you may want to talk to your vet and arrange a consultation with an animal behaviorist, who will be able to give you more tips to reprogram your kitten’s undesirable behavior.
Dahlia: Good luck, and please let us know how things turn out.