Inappropriate bathroom habits are the number one reason cats are surrendered to animal shelters. One of the most common complaints veterinarians hear from cat owners is about “inappropriate elimination”. Inappropriate elimination is different from “territory marking ” or spraying. Spraying is depositing a small amount of urine onto a vertical surface, such as a wall. Elimination is done in a squatting position and is release of a larger amount of urine. Some cats refuse to use their litter box altogether and instead leave a “deposit” next to it. This behavior seems to say, “You’re close to what I want, but not quite.” So what does a cat really want for kitty litter?

The kitty litter market is akin to the cold cereal market: all the boxes are brightly colored and cute, you read all the labels and don’t understand half the information, and in the end you base your decision on which has the best toy offer on the back of the box.
First you must rule out a medical cause for your cat’s inappropriate elimination, then you can consider behavioral problems. The litter box should be in a quiet, secluded area that’s easily accessible. For litter, most cats prefer a clumping clay litter so the wastes can be removed. Scoop the litter daily and making sure there are an adequate number of cat boxes available. These simple measures can decrease inappropriate bathroom behaviors. Other available litter types include:

non-clumping clay litters
pelleted litters (e.g. pine sawdust compressed into pellets)
absorbent beads

If you’re unsure of which product your cat would prefer, set up several boxes with different litter types. This “litter box smorgasbord” allows the cat to choose and they’re clearly stating their preference so you can oblige them in the future.

Finding the correct kitty litter for your cat will make both your lives easier. The cat will like its litter box and use that preferentially to your carpets or walls. Cats are wonderful pets, but not highly endorsed as decorators.

This Pet Health Topic was written by Sarah Hoggan, Washington State University, Class of 2001..