Every resource that I found was unanimous in urging that you first see
a vet to determine if your cat has a health problem. I also found a
number of posts on Google Groups that confirmed urinary tract or
related health issues had been the cause of cat soiling problems. If a
health problem is eliminated, lets look at some other possible causes
of your cats behavior.
Something about the litter box, litter, or the location of the box may
be bothering your cat. Check for the following, especially if you have
changed anything recently:
- the box itself is clean and contains no harsh odors
- the box is large enough
- the sides are not too high, making it difficult for your cat to
enter and exit
- the litter is always clean
- the texture is not bothering the cat (too coarse or clumping/non
- the scent is not too strong (most cats prefer unscented)
- the box is not in a busy, noisy or unpleasant area
- the cat is not bothered (by children, dogs or other cats) while in
Your cat may have developed a preference for a certain spot (carpet)
because of an aversion to the litter box. She will then go back to
that spot. If your cat has developed a preference for the soft feel of
the carpet, try using a finer, softer litter in the box. If the cat
has developed a preference for one spot on the carpet, try moving the
litter box there for a while.
Cats will re-soil and spray areas previously impregnated with their
scent. Therefore, cleaning up your cat-soiled belongings is important,
not only to undo the damage, but to break the cycle of elimination.
Because it is much easier to eliminate odors in recently-soiled areas,
clean them as soon as possible. A cat's sense of smell is far keener
than ours; therefore odors must be neutralized, not just deodorized.
However, avoid cleaning products containing ammonia or vinegarthey
smell like urine and can be irritating.
Here are some other methods to consider, excerpted from the Cornell
University Feline Health Center:
- Sheets of plastic, newspaper, or sandpaper, electronic mats that
deliver harmless, mild shocks, or a carpet runner with the nubs facing
up may all discourage your cat from entering a soil-prone area.
- Try changing the significance of a soiled area. Cats prefer to eat
and eliminate in separate areas, so try placing food bowls and treats
in previously soiled areas. Playing with your cat in that space and
leaving toys there may also be helpful.
- Try denying your cat access to a given area by closing doors, or by
covering the area with furniture or plants. Baby gates will not keep a
cat out of a room.
- Catch him in the act. A bell on a breakaway collar tells you his
whereabouts. If you can catch him within the first seconds of his
elimination routine, startle him with a water gun or shake a jar of
pennies, so that he associates being startled with those actions. It
is important that you startle rather than scare him; fear will only
worsen the problem. Moreover, if you catch him after he's eliminated,
your window of opportunity is goneyou must catch him just as he's
about to eliminate.
- Never hit, kick, or scream at a cat. Not only does this create more
anxiety, which may contribute to house soiling behavior, but also such
tactics provide no link between the "crime" and the punishment. Some
owners resort to rubbing their cat's face in their excrement to "teach
the cat a lesson." This is completely ineffective, first because cats
do not view their urine and feces as distasteful, and second, because
even moments later, cats cannot make the connection between the mess
on the bed and this kind of punishment.
The site also contains a comprehensive list of cleaning products and
resources, and more hints and tips.
Cornell Feline Health Center
Feline Behavior Problems: House Soiling
And the main page of their website is here:
Searching further, I found a site that suggested replacing the litter
box if you have had it for several years, and/or removing the cover,
if there is one. They also suggest a carpeted ledge around the box, or
some discarded or shredded carpet around the edge of the litter box,
to make the area more appealing. To decrease the appeal of your good
carpet, use double sided sticky tape, booby traps, or keep the cat
away from the room, if possible.
Cat Health Care
The Animal Humane Society offers some additional information on
possible physical or emotional causes, and corresponding solutions.
Diarrhea (often caused by giving a cat milk, overly rich canned food,
or table scraps) may cause a housebreaking lapse; the cat's body
simply doesn't give him adequate warning to make it to the litterbox
Not all emotional stresses that your cat might feel can be eliminated
(you can't very well return the new baby to the hospital just because
his arrival upset the cat), but some can be eliminated, and some can
be modified or compensated by your treatment of the cat. And he may,
in some cases, simply get used to a change... like the new baby... and
no longer consider it a problem. Some people find it hard to believe
that cats, who don't pay taxes or battle traffic on the way to work,
can suffer from stress. But they are very sensitive creatures. Here
are some possible causes for emotional upset in your cat.
- Environmental changes- moving to a new home, remodeling, new
furniture. Even moving a favorite chair a few feet can upset some
- Change in daily routine- do you have a new job or are you working a
- Change in people- a new baby arrives or his favorite person goes
away to college. Even a frequent visitor the cat dislikes may be
upsetting enough to affect his housetraining.
- Animal relationships- are there too many cats in the household?
Cats are by nature rather solitary creatures, and forced proximity can
cause stress. Is another cat harassing the offender or guarding the
litterbox? In such a case you may want to give the "underdog" some
relief by regularly segregating one or another in a quiet room (with
their own litterbox, of course) for part of the day. Sometimes
relationships between animals can be improved by experiencing good
things (like special tidbits of food) in the presence of the other.
Animal Humane Society
My Cat's Not Using His Litterbox!
For more on specifically keeping the cat off of the particularl carpet
for which she has developed a fondness, I turned to Google Groups and
searched for a variety of remedies, including home remedies. Here
are some things you may want to try.
Remedies range from spraying the soiled area with a citrus formula
(one tablespoon of natural orange flavoring in one cup of water),
which the cat will avoid, to squirting the cat with a water filled
squirt gun and removing her to the box when you catch her at the bad
behavior. Moth crystals rubbed into the pile of the carpet, and
replaced every five to seven days for a month was another suggestion.
And lastly, here is a suggestion from someone who had tried a number
of different solutions, with little success:
But the vet did come up with a suggestion that has worked so far for
over a year. We bought plastic chair mats, the kind that are used
under office chairs that have those nice sharp grippers on the bottom.
Since fortunately, Butterscotch had 3 corners where she would always
go, we shampooed the carpet using Nature's miracle and then put down
plastic (JUST IN CASE) and put the chair mats upside down in all the
corners! All it took was to drop her (gently) onto each of those chair
mats, and she has not gone there since!!!!
Given all the money I had spent on repellants, shampoos and even
tranquilizers to cure this problem, the $30.00 it cost me for the
chair mats was worth every dime. One word of warning when you are
putting the chair mats down, you may want to wear thick gloves--they
From: Jodie Gray (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Subject: RE: Cat Uses Carpet as litterbox: Was "HELPPPP!!"
I hope that you will find something here that will help, delete-ga. I
have a cat of my own, and as annoying and difficult as he is
sometimes, after 12 years he is a member of the family. I wish you the
greatest good luck in retraining your cat. If I can clarify any of the
above for you, or help in any other way, please do not hesitate to
Search criteria (on Google and Google Groups):
cat soiling carpet
keeping cat off carpet