February 2015 Issue

The Truth About Litter Box Aversion

House soiling isn’t spite but a sign of a problem with health, a ‘despot’ in the house or the box itself

Thinking outside the box has become a cliché, but it’s still a praiseworthy trait. When your cat eliminates outside the litter box, however, it’s a problem. House soiling — urination or defecation any place other than in a litter box — is a major reason that owners surrender their cats to shelters. Cats don’t avoid the box because they’re being spiteful. They’re raising an alarm. “Cats who eliminate outside the litter box are communicating to their owners that something is wrong, either with a specific aspect of their box, their health or relationship with another member of the household — feline or human,” says Pamela Perry, DVM, Ph.D., a lecturer in animal behavior at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. “It is the most commonly reported feline behavior complaint to veterinary behaviorists.”

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