COSMO INVESTIGATES: Why does my cat keep sh*tting on my carpet?

One writer enlists the help of cat whisperer, Dr Jo Righetti.

By Erin Cook

I love my cat. I really do. He’s cute, covered in fluffy white fur and photogenic AF.

But recently, my cat turned into a bit of a, well, shithead. Despite being fully kitty litter trained since 10 weeks old, he just decided not to use the kitty litter anymore — instead, he’d prefer to take a dump on my carpet instead. CUTE!!!!!

Powered by GIPHY

Is his behaviour linked to the fact I just moved house? Probably. Would I like it to stop immediately? Definitely.

^^ The culprit.

So, to nip this smelly problem in the bud, I enlisted the help of Dr Jo Righetti, animal behaviourist, Purina Australia ambassador and low-key cat whisperer for her advice on how to retrain my cat to use his kitty litter again.

Is it normal for cats to stop using the kitty litter when they move house? If so, why?

“Moving home can be a stressful time for everyone — cats included. And when cats are stressed, they may stop using their litter tray. Your new home smells different to your cat, so doing their business in locations that smell familiar helps to relieve stress and makes them feel more at home.

“Sometimes, they may also have a hard time finding their litter tray when they are getting to know your home, so introduce them to the new space gradually.”

Is my cat mad at me for moving?

“Cats can get angry at times but they don’t hold grudges — they are just happy being with us! With time, your cat will get to know their new home and enjoy living there with you. Think of this as a time of settling in and try to ease the stress as much as possible for your cat. Cats have scent glands on their paws, so scratching posts can help them to mark their scent and feel more at ease. Pheromone spray can also help to reduce feline anxiety.”

Could it be a sign of a bigger problem?

“Quite possibly, so it’s important to be aware of the six visible signs of cat health so you know what to look for. This month, Purina One has partnered with Animal Welfare League Australia to launch Novempurr — an initiative to raise awareness of cat health and wellbeing.

“Digestion is one of the six key signs of cat health, with small, firm stools signalling better nutrition. If your cat is avoiding going to the toilet or straining to go, or you spot blood in their urine or faeces, get your cat to the vet urgently. However often there is no cause for concern and your cat will settle into their new routine soon.”

What can I do to encourage him to use the kitty litter again?

“To encourage your cat to use the litter tray again, you could try some or all of the following:

  • Have more than one litter tray around your home, as your cat must learn the layout of the new house and may ‘forget’ where the litter box is located.
  • Place the litter tray where your cat has some privacy but also an escape route.
  • Try a covered tray if your current one is an open box or vice versa.
  • Keep the tray as clean as possible or use more than one tray side by side.
  • Lastly, reduce stress as much as possible and visit your vet if the problem persists.”

What can I do to discourage him from pooping on my floor?

“Living and fun areas are not generally used as toilets, so try feeding your cat in those areas, or playing or patting them there. Similarly, ensure that you feed your cat well away from their litter tray.

“You can also ensure that you clean up any soiled areas thoroughly, using an enzymatic cleaner. This will remove any traces of waste scents which encourage your cat back to these areas to toilet.”

Will this madness ever end?

“Moving home is a period of adjustment. Stress will lessen with familiarity but do everything you can to reduce your cat’s stress and you will find that both of your routines will adjust to your new lifestyle. If your cat is still having issues after a few months, it is definitely time for a vet check and perhaps a session with a cat behaviourist.”