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Pet Training & Behavior Topics

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Welcome to Diana Guerrero's Ark Animals Training & Therapy. This section is dedicated to pets, companion animals, and topics related to their care and training. This article discusses the pet problem of litter box avoidance and inappropriate elimination. You should always seek professional help for pet problems.

Pet Behavior Problems: Litter box Avoidance
or Inappropriate Elimination

Unacceptable elimination or inappropriate marking are feline behavior problems that categorize under the term, litter box avoidance. This annoying feline habit results in very unhappy cat and kitten owners. Unfortunately, many pet owners feel that they are forced to get rid of their animal because of the mess and smell. That is a very drastic action to take over a very simple behavior problem that could be addressed behaviorally.

As with most animal behavior problems, this one is more easily solved if you take action on the matter IMMEDIATELY. Most people tend to delay until the problem has escalated to a point of no return--many times there is an ultimatum given by other household members and the animal is banished or relinquished. These are radical measures to a pet problem that is solvable.

Cat urine has the unique quality of being one of the most horribly intense and permeating smells. This is one of the reasons that cat owners get rid of their pets, and the reason many cat owners become the nightmare of rental owners. Usually if there has been a problem with inappropriate feline marking or elimination, it intensifies in the flooring or furnishings in the home, and in most cases, the damage means that those items have to be replaced.

It is also important to know how to find the right products to assist you with feline inappropriate elimination or marking. People still believe in the old vinegar and water, or other wives tales. Quit asking the wrong people for help. Those products don't work very well and unless you are familiar with the pet product industry, it is going to be hard to find a product that works well--especially for cat urine.

There are some products on the market that address the olfactory challenge related to this problem. You will find them in your veterinary clinic or a quality pet store. (Feliway is one product that helps reduce the urge to mark and lowers anxiety and my personal favorite odor neutralizer is "Get Serious." You can order both from our shop or one of our affiliates. ) However, products are not a cure for the underlying problem. Also, they most only help you to abolish the smell and not the dilemma! There are a variety of reasons as to why you will be experiencing cat marking behavior or litter box avoidance. To help you understand the solutions you have to identify the causes:

  • Improper or accidental learning:
    unsuitable learning or other conditions at a young age
  • Undesirable litter/box: texture or related challenges
  • Cleanliness issue: irregular cleaning or inappropriate
    cleaning solutions
  • Physical limitations: age related challenges
  • Health problems: veterinary medical problems surfacing
  • Side effects due to medication: side effects
  • Territorial behavior triggered by internal stimuli
    (within the household): new critters or changes
  • Territorial behavior triggered by outside stimuli:
    invaders or intruders
  • Emotional or isolation related: stress related
  • Dietary changes or other nutritional concerns:
    dietary changes or complications
  • New home or related change: stress or other triggers

The proper time to take action on any behavior problem is early. The faster you deal with a situation, the faster and easier it is to eliminate -- pun intended!

If you are experiencing this behavior problem help is just a phone call away! Hire Animal Expert

About the columnist: Since 1978 Diana L. Guerrero has worked professionally with both wild and domestic animals. Guerrero has been affiliated with, and certified by, a variety of animal programs in the USA and Europe. Based in California, she writes, consults, and speaks. Information on her animal career programs, training courses, and her books {What Animals Can Teach Us about Spirituality (SkyLight Paths, 2003), Blessing of the Animals (Sterling, 2007), Help! My Pet is Driving Me Crazy (Guerrero Ink, 2007), Animal Disaster Preparedness for Pet Owners & Pet Professionals (Guerrero Ink, 2007)} can be found in this web site and in the shop. Questions for Guerrero should be submitted via the blog comments or membership forum.


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