House soiling is a common behaviour problem among cats and involved them peeing or pooing in unwanted places inside the home. This is different to urine marking, that is usually sprayed on a vertical surface as an intended mark. Cats will often target soft furnishings such as sofa cushions, beds or piles of clothes, but it can happen anywhere including on carpet, hard floors or on objects such as in bags or boxes. This could be happening every time the cat needs to go, or more sporadically.
It is easy to feel they are doing this intentionally, but it often indicates they feel uncomfortable toileting outside or using the litter tray provided. One very common reason for this is they feel unwell, so it is essential to see a vet if this problem has developed. Cats are particularly prone to urinary tract infections making it painful to pee and causing them to look for comfortable areas to go. Stress can contribute to this problem too. For example, very nervous cats may be too anxious to head outside or over to the litter tray and may choose to pee in a hidden place instead, such as behind the sofa. There may be specific stressors present that making using the litter tray difficult, such as being pounced on by another cat while peeing or spooked by a loud noise.
On a more general note, every cat will have their own preferences in where they like to pee and what works for one may not work for another. Some will only use a tray if it has been recently cleaned, others will not use a tray too near to their food. Some prefer hooded, others open, some clay type litter, others wood based types. The challenge is finding out what your cat would want if they could choose for themselves.
To stop the problem, have your vet check them over first to cover any potential underlying medical conditions. The behaviour is unlikely to improve if these are not treated or managed first. All cats should have a litter tray inside the home, as they usually feel a lot safer (warmer and drier!) than the outside world. Litter trays should be positioned away from food, water and beds, and away from any sources of stress such as noisy appliances or busy walkways. Consider the journey to the litter tray as well as the tray itself, to make it as easy as possible for them to choose to use it, particular if they are anxious generally. In a multi-cat household, there should be enough trays to go round, with one for each cat, plus another just in case. They should be kept clean - removing the waste at least once per day - and easy to get into, so avoid the high sided, bucket-types trays that open from the top and remove cat flaps from any hooded trays.
For cats that do prefer to toilet outside, make it easier for them by creating lots of secluded areas throughout the garden for them to hide in. Providing sandy areas or flower beds can provide more opportunity for toileting areas and encourage them to stay closer to home.
If you need more help with your cat’s toileting behaviour, you can find a list of accredited behaviourists at www.abtc.org.uk
Related guides and advice
Keeping your pets cool and safe: Essential tips for hot weather care