Inappropriate Elimination in Pets

By: Jennifer Posern, LVT

El Paso, TX

Published October 2014

Accidents Happen but Can be Avoided

Improper elimination or inappropriate elimination (also known as an accident in the house or a surprise on the rug, etc.) is a huge issue for many pet owners. Understanding the reasons behind the act is the first step to solving the problem. Take heart, frustrated pet owners: It can almost always be solved! Improper elimination nearly always has its origin in one of three areas: medical issues, training issues or environmental issues. Let’s address each area.

Medical issues as a Cause of Inappropriate Elimination

Inappropriate elimination caused by an infection in the urinary system is usually quick and easy to fix. The major characteristic of an infectious process problem is when your pet has accidents in different spots. The problem generally starts suddenly out of the blue (“I can’t believe the dog wet on the dining room rug!” or “Why did that darn cat go right next to the litter box!”), but it won’t be an isolated event. Generally your pet will leave surprises like they’re setting up an Easter egg hunt. Now, step out of your frustrated owner shoes and walk around in your pet’s paws for a second. It hurts to urinate with a urinary tract infection, but your pet can’t understand that it is their body that hurts; they may associate the location with the pain. The reason your pet seeks different and inappropriate spots to eliminate is that he or she is searching for a place that doesn’t hurt them when they go. If you see this behavior, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian. With an exam, urinalysisAnalysis of urine by physical, chemical, and microscopical means to test for the presence of disease, etc. and antibiotic prescription, this problem can usually be eliminated (pun intended).

Inappropriate elimination caused by aging changes can often only be managed. As your dog or cat ages, life changes. Arthritis makes running outside or climbing into the litter box to heed the call of nature too painful. Senility or cognitive changes may make recognizing the urge to eliminate impossible. Physical changes can result in dribbling or leakage. There are many options for managing all of these issues, and your veterinarian and their staff can help you set up a plan that keeps your pet comfortable and your house clean.

Training issues in Inappropriate Elimination

This issue is usually seen in puppies, kittens and rescue pets that have never lived indoors. The cure for this elimination problem is education, both for you and your pet. Consult your veterinarian and their staff for housetraining tips and always keep in mind that the key to success with this problem is consistency. Make your plan and stick to it until you get the results you want.

Environmental issues

Problems in this area usually stem from lack of access or poor maintenance. Lack of access can be anything from not responding when your pet asks to go outside to not having an appropriate cat to litter box ratio in a multi-cat household. If your pet can’t get to the appropriate area for elimination, they will adopt the “when you gotta go, you gotta go” mentality. Pay attention to your dog’s cues and make sure they have frequent access to elimination areas, either in your safe, fenced yard or on regular walks. If you have a multi-cat household, plan on having one more litter box than you have cats. Sometimes cats will guard their chosen litter box and keep other cats in the house from using it.

Poor maintenance problems are caused by the owner, not the pet. This refers to litter boxes that are not cleaned and changed regularly and yards that are not poop-scooped and watered often enough. Your pet’s sense of smell is immeasurably better than yours. They will avoid dirty litter boxes and yards like you’ll avoid nasty gas station toilets. Litter boxes should be scooped daily at a minimum and completely changed out weekly. Yards should be poop-scooped daily and watered weekly to reduce urine odor. Try to set a routine and get the whole family involved.

Don’t let inappropriate elimination spoil your relationship with your pet. Search out the cause and take steps to solve the problem!