House Soiling: Enemy #1 to Many Cats

House soiling is the number one cat behavior problem. More cats are relinquished to shelters or turned out on the streets for this problem than any other. The following is a checklist of things to consider before giving up on kitty.

1. Is this a medical problem?
If a cat suddenly starts going outside of the box, be sure to have a veterinarian check and make sure the cat doesn’t have a medical problem, such as a urinary tract infection.

2. Is this a litter problem?
Some cats have a preference for a certain type of litter. Try different litters to see if the cat likes one type over another. Most cats do not like perfumed litters and litter box liners. These items may be handy for humans, but they aren’t so handy if the cat does not use the box because of them.

3. Are there enough litter boxes?
Imagine a house full of five people having to line up for one bathroom, or the only bathroom that was available was way across the house, up the stairs, and in a back corner. Have more than one box. For multiple cat households, be sure there is one box more than cats in the house.

4. What type of litter box?
Some cats don’t like lids on a cat box. They feel vulnerable and want to see around as they do their business. If there’s a lid on the box, try taking it off.

5. Are the litter boxes clean?
Once a week might seem like enough to humans for cleaning out the cat box, but think about using a toilet that only gets flushed once a week. YUCK! Scoop the box every day.

6. Is this a location problem?
Some cats have a preference for where they go. If a cat is peeing or pooping outside of the box, try placing a box in the area that the cat has chosen. If this is an area that a cat box cannot be placed, try feeding the cat in this area. Cats won’t relieve themselves in their feeding area. Citrus spay squirted in the area where unwanted relieving is occurring may help. Soft Scrub bleach can be applied to baseboards to discourage cats as well.

7. Is the cat spayed or neutered?
A spayed or neutered cat is less likely to spray and mark territory.

8. Is there a new cat in the house?
If a new cat has been introduced to the house, the introductions may not have been done properly. A gradual introduction needs to happen, with cats being separated in different rooms. In order to help the cats become familiar with each other’s scent, swap the cats back and forth between the rooms they are separated in. Also, put the new cat in a crate for feeding times and allow the cats to eat next to each other. The cats will begin to associate positive things with each other.

9. Is there a new cat in the neighborhood?
Even indoor cats may be aware of a new presence even if it is outside of their own home and begin marking around the house to establish their territory. Keep all neighborhood cats away from the house. Sprinklers with a motion sensor on them are a good deterrent for prowling toms.

***10. Has the cat ever been taught where to go?
So often people assume a cat knows where to go to the bathroom. It may be that the cat is confused and hasn’t properly been taught where to go in a human world. If so, it’s time to housebreak the cat. Put the cat in a small room or crate with a cat box in the back. Encourage the cat to use the box, and praise the cat when he/she does. Take the time to play with your cat after he/she has relieved itself in the box. As the cat starts to successfully use the box, slowly increase the space that the cat has access to. Don’t rush things. This takes time and involvement in order to catch the cat in the act and direct him/her to the box, but the time is well spent to solve a house soiling problem and sparing the cat a trip to the shelter for a behavior that could be solved with a little detective work.

To Scratch or not to Scratch

That is the Question – or Is It?

Cats love to scratch. It feels good and helps to keep a cat in good physical condition. The act of scratching is like a feline yoga workout: stretching, pulling, and working muscles. Scratching is not only enjoyable; it also serves a purpose. Cats scratch to mark their territory. The visible claw marks and the scent the glands in the cat’s pads leave a message to others that this turf is occupied.

Scratching is not an option but a necessary event in a cat’s life. Unfortunately, it can also be destructive when a cat is living indoors and using the couch or rug to practice kitty yoga. Many people decide to declaw a cat in order to end this destructive activity. It’s important to understand that declawing is not just the removal of the claw, but the amputation of the cat’s toe at the last joint. On a human hand, this would be the equivalent to amputating the knuckle just below the nail. There are alternatives to declawing.


Training is a large part of stopping your cat from shredding your prized oriental carpet or designer couch. Of course, it is important to remember that no one can make a cat do something she doesn’t want to do. Redirecting the behavior is the easiest method to ensure the cat’s and the human’s needs are met.

Be sure to provide an appropriate place for the cat to scratch. A tree stump or a rug-covered scratching post can be appealing to cats. Make sure the post is secure and tall enough for the cat to fully extend her body. Place the post in the area where the cat usually scratchesÑnear the couch, chair or wherever the cat has chosen to set her territory. Whenever the cat scratches in an inappropriate place, do not punish her. Simply pick her up and redirect her to scratch in her newly designated place.

Entice the cat to the scratching post by playing with attractive toys and feeding her by the post. If the cat is responsive to catnip, rubbing some catnip on the post is a good way to reward your cat for going to that area and provide her with positive reinforcement for returning there.

If your cat refuses to give up old scratching areas, cover them with double-sided sticky tape, tin foil, or bubble wrap, which are undesirable surfaces for scratching. Squirt citrus spray in the old undesirable scratching areas to avert the cat from her own scent. Cats dislike citrus smells and will avoid these areas. Be sure not to overdo it so the cat will not approach the scratching post too.

Nail Clipping

Nail clipping is another method to help with the scratching dilemma, although cats can continue to scratch and do some damage. The easiest way to clip a cat’s nails is with two people. Get the cat used to having her paws touched first, the start by just snipping the tip of the claw. As both the cat and human becomes more comfortable with the process, more may be clipped. Toenail clippers are easy and effective to use on a cat’s claws. Just be sure not to cut the quick: the vein running through the nail.

The following are some helpful hints to cutting a cat’s nails:

  • Squeeze the cat’s pad with your thumb and forefinger to push the claw out of its sheath.
  • Clip only the clear tip of the nail. Do not clip the area where the pink quick is visible.
  • The goal is to just blunt the claw tip.

Feliway Sprays

Feliway Sprays use calming, pheromone-like substances to reduce instinctive urges of marking. If your cat is clawing to mark territory, this spray may help calm your cat and lessen the need to obsessively mark territory. For more information on Feliway spray go to

Training a cat to scratch in appropriate places