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Help! My cat thinks the couch is a litter box

8/4/2009

by STEVE DALE

Q: We have a 6 year-od male Maine Coon that has started eliminating outside the litter box. Our cat has decided to use our leather couch as his litter box. Initially it was just stool, but today he's added urine. We've taken him to the vet to make sure nothing is physically wrong, we sift the litter boxes daily, Nothing has changed in our household. We are at wits end. We don't know what to do, other than we cannot have a cat eliminating on our furniture. Please help -- Perplexed cat parents

A: Well apparently your cat has good taste – choosing a very fancy couch as his litter box. You did the right thing by visiting your veterinarian first, and you’re also correct about what my next question might be. That’s this: Has anything in the household changed? Apparently, nothing has changed.

A key may be how many cats you have and also how many litter boxes there are. Another factor could be those other cats (if there are any) in the home; or even a dog or children who may be - on purpose or not - blocking access to the box. Also, the location of the box could be the issue. Lots of readers tell me they scoop daily. No offense, but just because they say they scoop daily doesn’t necessarily mean they do.

That’s all what I don’t know. Here’s what I know. Cats who inappropriately eliminate when there is no physical cause, generally do so because of anxiety. A cat who may urinate up high is often (though not always) doing so for safety’s sake. It’s safe with a good view to urinate and/or defecate on a counter top or top of a couch, such as your cat is doing.

Scoop daily, insure there are at least two boxes for every cat in the house. Litter box locations should offer some privacy and peace and quiet, but not hard to get to, and generally cats prefer unscented litters and hoods off of boxes. Also, you can try placing a litter box next to the couch. And simultaneously make the couch inaccessible for the cat by placing one or two plastic rug runners (nubby side up) draped across it.

If your cat continues to think outside the box, see your veterinarian for referral to a veterinary behaviorist (www.dacvb.org), member of the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (www.avsabonline.org) or dog behavior consultant, International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (www.iaabc.org).

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