Each year, millions of cats end up in shelters due to litter box issues. When your cat urinates outside of her box it can be frustrating, not to mention destructive. Rest assured, cats are not spiteful creatures. Assuming your cat is healthy, she is simply behaving like a cat, complete with wildcat ancestor instincts, in the environment you've created for her.
We tend to set up litter boxes in the places that accommodate our own lifestyles, but to raise happy cats (who won't ruin our homes) we have to look at the world through their eyes and create litter box environments that fall more in line with our cat's natural instincts.
My clients often say "but they were fine with all of the litter boxes in the laundry room until age 2. What happened?" Social maturity happened. Once cats enter social maturity, somewhere between 2 and 4 years of age, they begin to look at their environment in a more territorial way. If you have a multi-cat household, this is the time when they will begin structuring their very flexible social hierarchy. Your cats will work out a time sharing arrangement with important resources, such as food, water, perching areas, and yes, the litter boxes. My clients who have the biggest problem with cats urinating around their homes often group all of the litter boxes into the same room. This practice, though common, is a great way to cause territorial thinking that leads to tension in multi-cat households. Even if there are the correct number of litter boxes -- one box for each cat plus one more -- and they are all sparkly clean, uncovered, and not located in total darkness, cats may feel the need to create new litter box locations (under your dining room table, for instance!)
The easy way to solve this problem is to place the litter boxes in different locations throughout your home. Think upstairs, downstairs, north end, south end. Simply creating an environment that allows your cats to easily time share these important resources will ease tension and eliminate problems.
Who is Mieshelle Nagelschneider?
Meet Mieshelle Nagelschneider, ACCBC, a cat behaviorist and author of the science-based cat behavior book, The Cat Whisperer (Random House Publishing). Her passion and curiosity about cats, along with her study in animal behavior, has enabled her to help thousands of cat owners solve their cats' behavior issues for over two decades.
Learn more at The Cat Behavior Clinic, and look for her book later in 2013!