The reason behind stress soiling


Stress soiling is not bad behaviour and simply a matter of not using the litter tray.  Nor is it marking territory in the way an unneutered male does.  It involves mainly urine but can also include faeces in unusual places such as in the middle of duvets, pillows and settees.  The cat is making its feelings known in the only way it can and  in a way that is natural in cat behaviour.  It will not understand any reprimands or why you are angry or upset as it will not link your response to something it did automatically and without evil intent!  All that will happen is that the cat will become more nervous around you and more unsettled.

Marking territory is done by both male and female cats.  It can include soiling its own bedding, furnishings and even the owner's clothing in an attempt to feel more secure. Common causes are the presence of and intimidation by another cat or pet, children, or even an aggressive owner. This problem can be immediately eliminated by rehoming a cat into a single-cat household with caring and calm owners, but it can also be reduced or eliminated by making adjustments to the home, eg. providing a room into which only the stressed cat can go via a cat flap that reads the ID chip or a magnetic catflap, teaching children to leave the cat alone, giving the cat lots of attention and creating a calmer environment!  Providing litter trays may help but doesn't solve the problem as it is not related to poor toileting habits. The fear and stress is deep rooted and no amount of medicating, Feliway, sprays, shouting and punishing will make the problem go away.  The cat will either adjust to the bully, interloper, environment, change of circumstances in its own time, or its anxiety may remain in which case steps suggested above may need to be taken.

Furnishings need to be cleaned with an enzymatic cleaner rather than disinfectants, soaps etc as they break down the compounds in the cat odour which is what attracts the cat to keep returning to the same spot. This must be used before anything else that may otherwise interfere with the enzymatic action.  Biological soap powders have proved successful if you don't have a special cleaner handy. 

We have taken in and successfully rehomed several cats that are unwanted due to stress-soiling and the problem has not recurred in their new, carefully chosen, homes.  However, rehoming is not always necessary if owners are willing to make some changes, and finding the right homes is not always a fast process.