What is the most common behaviour problem in cats?

Surveys report that between 40% and 70% of cats referred to veterinarians or behaviourist have some type of elimination problem; by this I mean ‘inappropriate elimination’ or to put it another way peeing and pooping outside of the litter box. Inappropriate elimination is, therefore, the most common behaviour problem in cats. It should be noted that the term ‘inappropriate elimination” applies to the cat caregiver’s standpoint not from the cat’s standpoint. From the cat’s standpoint it is natural behaviour as a consequence of the circumstances in which they find themselves.

The most common cat behavior problem is depositing urine and/or poop outside of the litter box for one reason or another

The most common cat behavior problem is depositing urine and/or poop outside of the litter box for one reason or another. Picture: Pixabay.

The majority of these problems involve urinating outside of the litter box. Defecation outside of litter box is rarer. The underlying cause needs to be found. It might be because of a medical condition, or anxiety, or to mark or because they don’t like the litter substrate i.e. the material of the litter. In some cases the initial problem is medical followed by behavioural problems.

I have found that domestic cats naturally migrate towards the litter box as it contains material which is ideal on which to pee and poop. What I mean if they don’t need training normally and once they’ve used the litter box they will return to it because it smells of their waste products. The smell of waste identifies the area for elimination.

Medical issues

The most common medical issue causing peeing outside of the litter box is a syndrome called feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) which includes cystitis which is an inflammation of the bladder. I have several articles on these sorts of medical conditions, links to which you can see below.

There are more articles on the urinary tract at the base of the page.

Data collected from the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary Hospital found that 15% of cats referred to hospital for signs of FLUTD also had litter box problems. More than one third (37%) referred to a veterinarian for litter-box problems were subsequently diagnosed with FLUTD.

Other medical conditions which might cause inappropriate elimination are diseases that cause polyuria (the frequent passage of large volumes of urine) such as diabetes mellitus or hypothyroidism, gastrointestinal disease, nutritional disorders such as food allergies or poor absorption of foods and diseases associated with ageing such as arthritis or senility.

Urine marking

I think most cat caregivers now know about urine marking. I have several pages on the topic, two of which are below:

There are more – please search.

Litter-box aversion

This normally means an aversion to the litter material (the substrate) but can also be due to disliking of the litter box itself. Or it may be due to the position of litterbox within the home. The obvious thing to do here is to vary the substrate, and/or acquire another litter box that is substantially different and/or move the litter box to a different position. You can then isolate the cause. Unscented litter material is the best and I think that cat owners should put aside their own personal preference for cat litter to ensure that they meet the demands of their cat. Litter boxes should not be over-cleaned to the point where the natural scent of the cat has been removed. As mentioned, it is the scent of the letter which attracts them.

P.S. Declawed cats often have an aversion to using the litter because of sore toes. Please read the words of a vet tech on this page (click the link). Her thoughts are very valuable.

The potential for cat stress caused by anxiety is an important component in a cat caregiver's knowledge

4 steps a cat owner cat take to help prevent stress-induced cystitis

I believe that this topic is an important part of cat caregiving as domestic cats are likely to be stressed ...
5 serious pet illnesses symptoms as per a vet clinic on TikTok

8 pet health emergency symptoms needing immediate vet attention (according to vets)

This is a charming, clever little video made by an American veterinary clinic called Alicia Pet Care Center. They describe ...
Connection between hard water and urinary crystals in cats?

Connection between hard water and urinary crystals in cats?

There are indications, based upon a study carried out by a large pet medical insurer, that there is a connection ...
6 measures to prevent FLUTD

6 measures to prevent FLUTD recurring

The first preventative step is to consider diet. Some veterinarians believe that feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) is caused ...
Holistic treatments for LUTD

Natural treatments for feline lower urinary tract disease (LUTD)

LUTD affects between 1 and 2% of the cat population. Bacterial infections are not a common cause. Cats suffering from ...
Dry cat food at a clinic

Is veterinary-grade urinary care cat food a scam?

Veterinary-grade urinary care cat food works to a certain extent so you can't call it a scam. However, it is ...
Feline urinary tract infection

Does dry cat food cause urinary problems?

Dry cat food is a contributing cause of urinary problems (stress is another). Vets call these feline health problems "feline ...
Blue Ragdoll is peeing by the front door

Ragdoll peeing by the front door. What can I do?

This is the current problem as described by Donna Fraser on Facebook (I have shortened her post a little to ...
Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.
Useful links
Anxiety - reduce it
FULL Maine Coon guide - lots of pages
Children and cats - important

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *