House-soiling, also known as inappropriate elimination, is one of the most common feline behavior problems, and one of the major reasons why cats end up in shelters. The majority of these cats will never find another home again.

The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) and the International Society of Feline Medicine (ISFM) recently released new guidelines designed to aid veterinarians in diagnosing and treating feline house-soiling behavior. I found it encouraging that the guidelines replace the term “inappropriate urination” with the term “house soiling.” Words have power, and the term “house soiling” implies no misconduct by the cat, dispelling the myth that cats engage in this behavior out of spite.

The guidelines provide tools for veterinarians to assess and diagnose the four basic causes of house-soiling:

  • medical issues
  • feline idiopathic cystitis (also known as feline lower urinary tract disease/FLUTD)
  • marking behavior
  • elimination related to environmental or social factors

The guidelines also provide detailed treatment and management considerations for all cases of house soiling.

Two key pieces of the guidelines address proper litter box management, and meeting the “five pillars” of cat’s environmental needs. The guidelines go into great detail as to what an optimal litter box should look like, and also address how a healthy, stimulating environment can be key to solving this frustrating problem.

I’ll be covering both the litter box recommendations as well as the “five pillars’ in greater detail here in the coming weeks.

For more information, and to read the full guidelines, please visit the AAFP website.

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9 Comments on AAFP Issues New Guidelines for Diagnosing and Solving House-Soiling Behavior

  1. i found out that my cat likes to pee in my laundry basket. sometimes, he will pee on the heap of clothes. and on my sofa. i did provide him the litter box which he did used that. i try to break his habit of pee-ing by spraying the repellant. it stop for a while but he did it again when the scent of the repellant had disappeared. quite recently, my son found out that he had pee under the sofa. pls help..i love my cat..

    • If you haven’t already taken your cat to your veterinarian, you need to do so to rule out any underlying medical issues. Once that has been addressed, I recommend working with a feline behaviorist.

        • Check with your vet to see if he/she refers to anyone. If you can’t find anyone local to you, I can highly recommend Pam Johnson-Bennett and Marilyn Krieger. Both offer remote consultations.

  2. We’ve had my guy medically examined six ways from Sunday, so his out of box events do seem to be behavioral, rather than medical.

    He likes to pee in floor air vents. That’s his thing. If he can’t pee in the vent, he’ll pee as close to the vent as he can. Which is why he ended up at the shelter, I’m guessing.

    No litter/box/location/etc makes a difference, so what we did was tear out all the carpet and “hide” the vents. I also give him options (like pee pads) that seem to partially satisfy whatever the urge is for him.

    No way I’d rehome him – no one else would put up with it! And honestly, compared to my last pee-er, he’s a piece of cake. But then, my last guy was a compulsive marker due to a long term brain infection that we could not beat.

    • Is there a possibility of mice in the crawlspace— May be marking because of a scent he can smell but you can not– Try pheromone spray as it is probably a territorial marking. There is a litter called Dr. Easley’s Cat Attract which will often even work on intact male cats also it is summer so get pokey outdoor carpet pieces over vents or upside down sticky tape the cat will hate it or go back to retraining confined to small area bed food water and litter [ I have caged intact animals until habits have been altered

      • Cat Attract is a good suggestion. Covering the vents won’t work unless any residual urine odor is cleaned completely prior to covering. Confining to a separate room, provided that there is plenty of environmental enrichment in that room, can be a temporary solution, but I would NEVER put a cat in a cage.

  3. Looking forward to hearing more. So far when we have had any issues it has always been medical at our house.

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