The cat is usually fastidious about its toilet habits and will consistently use a litter tray indoors, if it is provided, or soil in the garden. If she is soiling indoors it can therefore be very worrying.
Occasionally a one-off accident can occur if a cat is ill, trapped in a room or suddenly frightened. If inappropriate defecation in the home persists it should be investigated for the health and welfare of the cat.
Whatever the cause, punishment is not the answer. This will only make the cat fearful and the problem worse. Deterrents, such as tin foil, pepper, citrus peel or a water pistol will merely redirect the behaviour to another site, cause further anxiety and delay investigating the root cause for the behaviour. Despite the unpleasant nature of this problem it is important to remember - this is not a dirty protest! The cat is not seeking revenge or making a point; something has gone wrong in its world and a certain amount of detective work is required to find out what.
Cleaning soiled areas
Whether a genuine accident or not, once the cat has defecated at a particular location its sensitive nose will encourage it to use that place as a regular toilet.
The best way to break the habit is to keep the cat away from the area as long as possible, remove any smell that the cat can detect and change the geography of the location by using pieces of furniture to block access. Wash the area with a 10% solution of biological or enzymatic washing powder and then rinse with cold water and allow to dry.
Why does my cat soil indoors?
There are numerous reasons why an individual cat would start to soil indoors. Listed below are the most common reasons together with possible solutions.
Illness Urinary tract disease or diarrhoea: can cause soiling as the cat is either in discomfort or just couldn't make it to the litter tray or outside. Possible solution: Treatment by a veterinary surgeon will usually return the cat's habits to a normal acceptable pattern. Occasionally cats will continue to soil if they have experienced discomfort on the tray so it may be necessary to provide an additional tray elsewhere to encourage use.
Old age: An older cat may not want to venture out in bad weather or may be have problems using the cat flap because of stiff joints. As a cat gets older it becomes more insecure and it may feel threatened by the presence of other cats in the territory. Possible solution: It is almost inevitable that, at some stage, elderly cats will require safe and accessible toilet facilities indoors. The provision of an indoor litter tray often resolves this problem. It is always important to rule out medical causes for soiling in the elderly.
Fear or anxiety: Cats are at their most vulnerable when defecating outside and, if they feel threatened, it may deter them from doing so. Other cats are usually the biggest problem but it could be a neighbour's dog or even a sudden loud noise. Possible solution: The provision of a discreet litter tray indoors will take away the feelings of anxiety and the need for the cat to make a conscious decision to find a suitable toilet site. Accompanying the cat on visits to the garden may also help. Your cat may normally have chosen to toilet well away from its home so it may be beneficial to make its own garden more appealing. Create an area of soil in a quiet corner relatively close to the house (for ease of escape back indoors) and mix in a high proportion of peat-free soil or sand.
Presence of strangers: Occasionally a cat will urinate or defecate indoors if strangers are in the home and access to the litter tray or outdoors would require the cat to pass through the same room as the visitor. Some cats suffer from 'home alone' anxieties when their owners go away and leave them to defend the house by themselves. The presence of a stranger caring for them can cause some cats to feel intensely threatened and subsequently 'mark' an area, particularly the owner's bed, which has a strong, familiar and reassuring scent. Possible solution: provide an indoor litter facility in the room where the cat seeks refuge just in case he gets 'caught short'! The best way to avoid 'home alone' soiling is to keep the bedroom door shut and try to get familiar people to care for your cat in your absence. Some cats are particularly prone to the stress of being left behind and they actually benefit from a visit to a reputable and caring FAB Listed Boarding Cattery. Specialist help Soiling can be cured in many cats using the techniques outlined here. In some cases the problem can be more persistent and it is advisable to discuss it with your veterinary surgeon rather than leave it to resolve on its own.