Q: I recently moved out of my boyfriend’s home into an apartment with a friend. A male cat lived there before I moved in. Since moving into the new place, my cat is pooping and peeing on part of the rug near the door that goes outside. Why is he doing this and how can I stop it?
A: There are a number of circumstances that could be causing your cat to eliminate outside of the litterbox. Your cat might be sending you a message that he’s stressed because of the recent move to the new apartment. It is also possible that there is a neighborhood cat who’s spraying the exterior of your apartment or the previous resident cat may have eliminated on the rug and the rug wasn’t adequately cleaned. Another common trigger is poor litter box management. There may be other triggers as well, including medical. It is important to rule out any medical issues by first taking the cat to your veterinarian for an exam.
If the previous cat resident eliminated on the rug, the smell may still be there. Cats will go to the bathroom on areas that have been previously targeted, by either themselves or other cats. An effective enzyme cleaner is needed to remove the odor. It may take several applications. Carpet that has been repeatedly targeted over a long period of time is a challenge. In those extreme circumstances, the only way to get rid of the odor is to replace the carpet. Hopefully that isn’t your situation.
Outside cats can trigger inappropriate elimination. Arm yourself with a black light and during the night, when it’s dark, check the outside of the apartment, particularly around the door to see if it’s been sprayed on. Urine fluoresces under black light, helping you identify target areas. If you do have an unwanted visitor who is spraying, clean the area with the enzyme cleaner and try to discourage the visitor through the use of deterrents that are safe for cats.
Poor litterbox selection and placement and inadequate litterbox management will cause cats to eliminate outside of the litterbox. Provide enough uncovered litterboxes in different areas of the house. The boxes need to be scooped at least once a day and the litter should be unscented.
A pheromone plug-in diffuser may help the situation by slightly alleviating the stress. Pheromone diffusers are not magic bullets, but work in conjunction with other management and positive reinforcement methods. Pheromone diffusers disperse a synthetic version of pheromones that can have a calming effect on cats