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When Cats Develop Negative Associations with the Litter Box

when cats develop negative associations with the litter box

Your cat has faithfully used the litter box for years and then suddenly has begun eliminating on the carpet in your bedroom. Sometimes you’ve even found cat pee in the bathroom sink and the tub. What’s up with that?

There are several reasons why a cat may suddenly stop using the litter box such as:

An underlying medical condition

Unappealing litter box conditions

Environmental issues

Quote from Beth Stern

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Hopefully, you are already aware that your cat should be checked out by the veterinarian at the first sign of a litter box problem in order to rule out any possible underlying medical reason for the behavior. So let’s say you’ve done that and the diagnosis is that kitty does, in fact, have a urinary tract problem. The veterinarian will prescribe an antibiotic, may or may not recommend a change to a therapeutic diet and you’ll be instructed to bring the cat back to be rechecked in about two weeks. You bring your cat back home, sad that he has a medical problem but happy that it will be resolved shortly.

What if the Cat Still Avoids the Box?

Days go by and your cat, despite the fact that you’ve been diligent about administering the medication, is still peeing in all the wrong places. You scratch your head in confusion and worry that there may be something else causing it but there really could be a very simple answer: your cat may now have formed a negative association with the litter box.

cat paws in litter box

Photo: Fotolia

Negative Associations with the Litter Box

What happens sometimes is since the cat experiences pain when attempting to eliminate, he may associate the box itself with that pain. He thinks if he goes somewhere else it won’t hurt as much. This can happen with urination if the cat experiences burning or pain when attempting to void and it can also happen with defecation if the cat is constipated or if he has something such as IBD where he experiences intestinal cramping. He avoids the litter box because every time he goes there it causes physical pain.

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