Forget Everything Bad You've Been Told about Essential Oils for Pets

By Dr. Becker

I’m excited to be interviewing a very special guest today!
The reason I wanted to do this interview is because I feel very strongly about the benefits of essential oils in veterinary medicine.
Unfortunately, not all vets view essential oils as safe, effective, or even worth investigating.
So I’m bringing a true expert in the field to the discussion today, Dr. Melissa Shelton.
She has a tremendous amount of experience with essential oils for animals.

Dr. Melissa Shelton’s Initial Exposure to Essential Oils

Dr. Shelton initially became interested in essential oils not for animals, but for her own children.
They had specialized health needs that prevented use of traditional medications, as well as dyes and other additives.
Melissa saw an announcement for a community education class for natural remedies for coughs and colds and other minor illnesses, so she decided to attend.
As it turned out, the class was about using essential oils to cure ailments, and that’s how she became interested in the subject.
Dr. Shelton had already turned away from the use of chemical air fresheners at home and at her veterinary clinic. This was in part due to the bloodwork abnormalities she was seeing in pets exposed to a lot of air fresheners in their environment. When the air fresheners were removed, the bloodwork values returned to normal.
So she was excited about the possibilities for essential oils, because in addition to being safer than chemical air fresheners, they also smelled really nice! 
Dr. Shelton began investigating whether she could use essential oils in her vet clinic safely, but to back up just a bit, she’d actually first been exposed to them years earlier – when she was able to cure her husband’s warts with an essential oil.
She and her husband had tried many different things to try to get rid of the warts. Eventually they tried clove oil, and it worked. And 10 years later, Melissa still has that same bottle of clove oil!
Coincidentally, I was also introduced to essential oils almost by accident.
As some of you know, I’m a wildlife rehabilitator. Twenty years ago, the woman I apprenticed under said,
“You know, if you have really stressed wild animals coming in, just put a few drops of very pure pharmaceutical grade lavender oil on a cotton ball, tape it outside of their cage, and you will see an overall calming effect.”
I have done this trick with lavender oil for years. It’s tremendously effective. But suddenly I had people gasping and saying, “Oh my gosh! There’s not a cat in the room when you’re doing that, right?”

A Controversial Treatment

I started to get a little panicky thinking I might be causing harm with my use of lavender oil.
I asked Melissa if she’d received feedback from others in the veterinary community about the supposed dangers of using essential oils around animals.
Dr. Shelton’s experience has been similar to mine. She’s contacted regularly by others in our profession with questions like, “How dare you even recommend that you could do this [use essential oils] around cats?”
Melissa has been using essential oils in her practice for about three years now, but before that, she was cautious about even using a diffuser at home with her own cats (she has over a dozen at the moment!).
She would watch her kitties very carefully for reactions to the diffuser. And she ran tons of bloodwork to reassure herself they were healthy.
Then Dr. Shelton noticed that her Munchkin cat spent a lot of time at the diffuser, lying next to it. In fact, she actually delivered a litter of kittens right next to it. And it occurred to Melissa that her cat was certainly smarter than most humans when it came to how her body responded to the oils in the diffuser.
But Melissa continued to check blood and urine in her cats and monitor them closely. Over time she felt confident no abnormalities were developing and she began to relax with the idea of essential oils around cats.
Then it occurred to her the kitty probably didn’t lay next to the diffuser just because she liked it, and that there were certainly more compelling reasons driving her to be close to it.

The Quality of the Oils is Paramount

I asked Melissa whether she thinks the information about essential oils and animals comes from those who are simply misinformed, or is there an element of fear mongering involved.
She believes it’s a little of both. She’s done her own research on reports of toxicity from oils, hoping to learn why some people can successfully use them and others are so dead set against them.
And from her research, she has determined it comes down to an issue of the quality of the essential oils used – just as many things in veterinary medicine come down to quality. For example, pet food. When we see pets that have become ill thanks to a poor diet, we recommend the owner upgrade the diet as soon as possible. We don’t outlaw all pet food because there are low quality brands on the market – we just pick a better food.
Dr. Shelton says it became very obvious to her that there are just as many variations in the quality of essential oils as there are in brands of pet food. She has her own brand preferences based on the quality of the oils. As a holistic vet, when she finds a product that is safer or more effective, that’s the one she uses and recommends to clients.
When it comes to essential oils, what Dr. Shelton has found is a lot of people jumped on the bandwagon initially because it was a natural remedy. But the majority of those folks had no knowledge of essential oils, or how to distinguish a high quality grade from a lesser grade of oil. She has discovered even companies that are big warehouses for essential oils don’t understand about testing the quality of the oils, or how to evaluate an oil at all. They just warehouse them.
There’s a lot of misinformation out there was well. Dr. Shelton has spoken directly to people with cats that have been damaged by essential oils, so it does happen – just not as often as many people think.
Melissa has met or knows of thousands of people who use essential oils successfully, and only a few that have had major problems with them.
I asked her if in her experience, problems from use of essential oils were primarily a purity or potency problem, or a mishandling problem.
Dr. Shelton believes it’s a quality problem (for example, a five-dollar bottle of essential oil purchased from the local drug store is mostly likely a poor grade oil), and also a mishandling problem when the person gets the oil home. She can usually trace a problem with an essential oil back to it being a synthetic oil, a poor grade oil, or a situation of misuse by the consumer. For example in one instance, a bottle spilled and a cat wound up basically covered in essential oil.

How Dr. Shelton’s Passion for Essential Oils Developed

I wanted to know if Dr. Shelton’s passion for essential oils for animals developed gradually, or rather suddenly.
She says she was always drawn to them but initially thought she couldn’t be around them much because of her own sensitivities to odors and inhalants. In fact, she actually thought she was allergic to them.
Then she was exposed to very high quality oils, and she was instantly energized. She began devouring books on essential oils and became very passionate and a huge advocate.
Sometime after that, she had a patient at her vet clinic that had her stumped. She felt there was nothing more she could do for the animal – there was nowhere else to turn. Every veterinarian is faced at some point in their careers with such a patient.
But Dr. Shelton suddenly found herself with several of those patients almost simultaneously. The pets’ owners were telling her, “Look, I’m not giving up on this animal, so you better come up with something else.”

Cowboy the Cat and Essential Oils

One such patient is Cowboy the cat. Cowboy has upper motor neuron damage to his bladder and can’t urinate. Dr. Shelton hospitalized him over and over and over again, but his owner refused to give up. She’s willing to do anything to help Cowboy – surgery if there was any that would help, taking him wherever she needed to, to have his bladder drained safely on a regular basis, or whatever was required. She was willing to do anything.
Dr. Shelton kept gently suggesting it might be time to euthanize Cowboy, but his mom’s response was always, “No! No! No!”So Melissa eventually decided that if Cowboy was human, she would try certain essential oils, and his owner agreed.
So try they did. And while Dr. Shelton had every intention of weaning the cat off the essential oils after a period of time, Cowboy’s mom insistently continued with the remedy. Dr. Shelton was sure she was going to see bad news in his bloodwork from the ongoing use of essential oils, but his test results came back perfect. And she was more convinced than ever that “these things really work.”
She convinced Cowboy’s owner to back off the oils to every other day … and the cat had a relapse.
Melissa continues to follow Cowboy’s bloodwork. And for over two years now he’s been getting essential oil treatments twice a day, topically, using a mixture of several oils. His bloodwork is, in a word, spectacular. In fact, he’d just been in the day before our interview. Dr. Shelton re-checked his blood values and it seems Cowboy is actually regaining some neurologic function!
Cowboy is an amazing case, of course, and one of Melissa’s all-time favorites.
I wanted to know if Cowboy can urinate on his own now all time. Dr. Shelton says not completely. His bladder is still slightly enlarged, but it releases urine more easily than before. In fact, it releases when he sleeps, which indicates improvement in the neural tone.
And Cowboy can actually urinate in a small puddle instead of just dribbles these days. He’s also showing a small panniculus response when he’s petted, which is a bit of twitching of the hair and skin down his back – also a good sign. And he can twitch his tail ever so slightly.
When Melissa first started seeing Cowboy, he had to be hospitalized almost monthly to relieve the urinary blockage. His bladder would be the size of a cantaloupe. It was horrible for the cat – being catheterized and hospitalized until he was feeling better – then sending him home only to see him the next month to do it all over again.
Since he’s been on the essential oils, he’s gone over a year without a hospitalization. Read more about Cowboy here.

The Miracle of Dr. Shelton’s Very First Feline Essential Oils Patient

I told Melissa I assumed Cowboy’s mom just be ecstatic to see her pet get so much relief and improved quality of life from an inexpensive, non-invasive therapy. Dr. Shelton says the client has spent only a fraction of just one hospitalization on essential oil treatments.
I asked Melissa if there was a specific case earlier in her career as a vet that sparked her interest in sort of going against the grain of traditional treatments toward incorporating alternative remedies like essential oils in her practice.
She responded that actually it was her own cat who was her first essential oils patient. She was an outdoor ‘farm cat’ (the Sheltons do cat rescues). One day she came stumbling up the driveway with clear signs of a severe neurologic problem. Dr. Shelton actually prepared euthanasia solution because she assumed there was no hope for the poor cat.
Before she could use it, however, her husband suggested – since she’d wanted to try essential oils with cats – that she try them first before euthanizing the kitty.
So with literally nothing to lose, Melissa decided to try treating their farm cat with essential oils. She did what is called a “kitty raindrop.” Within two doses the cat was 100 percent back to normal.
It was such an amazing result – and also, remember, her first experience using essential oils on an animal – that Dr. Shelton wondered whether it was truly the oils that helped or whether the cat would have recovered on her own.

Getting Started with Essential Oils for Pets

I next asked Melissa if she has advice for people interested in getting started very safely using essential oils with pets.
Dr. Shelton’s opinion is that first and foremost, the quality of the essential oils must be very good. She has evaluated the oils from about two dozen different companies. There are some good small companies that provide what she calls medical-grade oils (because she uses them for medicinal purposes). But she has found that just because a company has some very good quality oils doesn’t mean all their oils are of the best quality.
It’s important to be very cautious when it comes to the quality of essential oils. Dr. Shelton has a brand she uses made by a company that consistently researches products for medical-grade quality. Their oils are tested multiple times in independent labs.
Dr. Shelton has a website at She’s so passionate about essential oils for animals she created the site specifically for the purpose of educating pet owners. She answers many of the questions she’s been asked by pet owner after pet owner about essential oils for dogs, cats and other companion animals. She also discusses the brand of essential oils she uses and provides a link for people interested in ordering their own oils.
The goal of Dr. Shelton’s website is to get information out to as many people as possible through videos and other educational materials. Prior to launching the site, people would drive from other states to her vet clinic just to get information on essential oils. Melissa realized many people are curious and others share her passion for the subject, so her website evolved to get information into the hands of those people.

Essential Oils to Treat MRSA

I’ve become keenly interested in essential oils as one of the few effective treatments for MRSA, and other antibiotic resistant bacterial infections. I really believe one of our last resorts to successfully treat these horrible infections lies with essential oils.
Dr. Shelton agrees. She has MRSA patients who have responded to essential oils when nothing else worked.
The beauty of essential oils is plants change, and so every single distillation of essential oils is slightly different from its predecessor. This is a benefit we don’t receive from pharmaceutical drugs. Every batch of a medical drug must by law be identical to the batch that preceded it.
Plants, on the other hand, adapt and change with the tiniest variable in their environment, for example, a change in the water supply. So essential oils, created from ever-adapting plants, never reach a point where pathogens become resistant to them. They stay at least one step ahead – which makes them much smarter than anything we can create in a laboratory.
Dr. Shelton says she’s reached the point with essential oils where she thinks, “Boy, if somebody tries to take them away from me, I don’t know if I’d want to practice veterinary medicine anymore.”
She compares it to how we view the issue of nutrition in animal health. We are both huge proponents of the importance of nutrition in the lives of our patients and all animals. If we couldn’t modify a pet’s diet as part of our healing protocol, our jobs would become incredibly difficult.
Dr. Shelton sees them as a pair, diet and essential oils. She always starts with the diet. If she’s not able to convince a pet owner to make necessary dietary changes and she also meets resistance using even a small amount of essential oils, it gives her an empty feeling. She feels that strongly about the benefits of good nutrition and the use of essential oils in pet care.

Essential Oils – True Holistic Healing

One thing that adds to the amazing power of essential oils is they work at emotional and cognitive levels as well as at the physiologic level. Many pets have dramatic improvement in their response to stress and anxiety with the use of oils.
They affect animals down deep, at the cellular level, positively impacting neurochemistry and biochemistry. This, of course, makes for more balanced, happier patients who are also regaining physical health.
Melissa uses essential oils to help with behavior modification in pets as well. In fact she has a video you can watch at her website about Emmett, a parrot with a horrendous case of papillomatosis – a viral form of avian warts that can affect the entire GI tract. Emmett had growths in his mouth, down his throat, and all the way to the other end of him. The condition was so advanced it caused the bird to breathe so loudly he woke up his owner from several rooms away in the middle of the night.
Once again, euthanasia was on the table in order to end Emmett’s suffering. But Dr. Shelton remembered she’d gotten rid of her husband’s warts with essential oils, and wondered if they would work for poor Emmett.
With great trepidation, because birds are so exquisitely sensitive and fragile, Melissa began to treat Emmett with essential oils. And guess what? The papillomatosis greatly improved. But that’s not the end of the story.
As it turns out, Emmett had watched his previous owner die and then laid in the bottom of his cage for several days before anyone found him. Now, remember Dr. Shelton was primarily focused on the bird’s physical problem, the papillomatosis, and hadn’t given much thought to his emotional state.
Because the essential oils had worked so remarkably on Emmett’s disease, Melissa wanted to take some photos of him for an upcoming presentation. She used another blend of essential oils on Emmett that were intended strictly for photo op purposes … and the bird’s emotions changed. You can actually see it happen on the video posted at her website.
Emmett came out of his cage on his own for the first time in over two years. And Melissa was stunned to realize she’d been largely overlooking the emotional component in her use of essential oils on animals. Read more about Emmett here.
This is one of the most exciting things about essential oils to me – they promote healing on every level – spiritually, energetically. They are the essence of a holistic approach to healing – mind, body, spirit. As Melissa puts it, essential oils “connect all the dots.”

So Why All the Negativity?

I’ve been thrilled to watch Dr. Shelton expand her educational process in essential oils. She is helping to change the negative opinion many people have about them.
I’m not by nature much of a cynic, but I’ve often wondered who or what is really behind the bad reputation essential oils have acquired in the last 10 years.
Is the bad press coming from pharmaceutical companies that don’t want the public to learn just how beneficial, broad-reaching and inexpensive essential oil therapy can be? Are the forces behind the ‘negativity movement’ afraid pet owners will find out just how cheaply and successfully we can treat the minds, bodies and souls of companion animals?
Wherever the negativity has come from, I just want to say I’m a huge admirer of Dr. Shelton’s work in overcoming it. She’s out there helping pet owners and others challenge their fears of essential oils in a logically sound way so that they can open their minds to a totally natural, very effective form of healing for animals.
I just really appreciate everything Melissa is doing, and I want to thank her for spending some time with me today discussing her work and amazing success treating animals with essential oils.
For those of you interested in learning more about using essential oils to treat pets, please visit Dr. Melissa Shelton’swebsite.

Aici este interviul : 


Can I use Essential Oils for Cats?

Can I use Essential Oils for Cats?

Essential oils for cats is a highly controversial topic but it really is an argument that boils down to the quality of the oil once again. I can assure you that 90% of the oils I recommend and sell on this site have been used for cats on a daily basis.
But besides the fact that therapeutic grade oils must be used there are other precautions that can be taken to assure that your feline can use the oils safely. Dr. Melissa Shelton, DVM, a holistic veterinarian has used Young Living Oils for over 3 years in her practice safely and effectively. Her book documents the uses of oils for animals. So, please purchase it and read it if you have concerns.
Unfortunately, I can not stand behind other oils for essential oils for cats. Please do not use anything on your cat but therapeutic grade oils that can be taken internally!
Why are Cats sensitive to Synthetic Products?
Cats are sensitive to most synthetically made products and "natural products" as well as some essential oils. Even if we don't know about it!
I say that because a lot of us have sensitivities to food, household cleaners and, hair and skin products. But we don't recognize it because most of us are just not that tuned into our bodies and our environment. Often times, we only recognize a change, when we stop using a product or eating a particular food item!
Seriously, where is your pet when you bomb the house full of synthetic air fresheners, household cleaners or carpet cleaner?
They are right there with us breathing it in and taking it in! Honestly, this isnot good for us and NOT good for our pets. Toxicity is a huge problem with us and OUR PETS! They are half our size or less, yet their bodies have to tolerate a huge amount of man made toxicity.
I seriously believe that many of the health problems we are having along with our pets is a toxicity issue. But there is something we can do about it!
Make a commitment to using green cleaning supplies and diffusing healthy essential oils in our home and work place for ourselves and our pets. Notice, I don't say natural, because natural these days pretty much means anything goes! So, check what you are putting on your animal and make sure it's nothurting them rather than helping them.
So what else can we do for our Animals?
Essential oils are a perfect solution for us and our animals. Use essential oils for cats, dogs, horses and any other living creature. There are certain oils that we can not use on certain animals, cats included, so please do be careful and learn the ins and outs.
Why can't we use certain oils on Cats?
Cats metabolize and excrete things very differently than the rest of the animal family. The reason behind this is the cats liver. It does not have the liver enzymes to break down certain chemical as effectively as the rest of us, and sometimes it can't do it at all!
So what Happens?
When the liver (and the body) does not recognize a substance, as with most synthetic compounds, it immediately stores it somewhere until it can figure out what to do with it! This leads to toxicity, tumors, disease and extreme imbalances of the body.
For cats it can be a slow build up over time and led to illness, or it can be soquick that it leads to death, so please be cautious. By the way, while humans and other animals do not have to be this cautious, the toxicity issues result in the same problems!
Animals can not tell us what they are feeling and they are constantlybombarded with our lifestyle choices. So we must learn to look for and recognize the signs and symptoms of toxicity in our animals!
What are the signs of Toxicity?
Here are some common signs -
  • There is a change in their sleeping or eating habits
  • Behavioral changes such as lethargy, lack of energy, or not wanting to be play
  • Digestive imbalances such as vomiting, constipation or diarrhea, or
  • Confusion and light headed.
There are several more as well. My dog, Lexie, has a hard time going up the stairs and doesn't really want to eat when she has had a good dose of toxicity. I usually can trace it back to some kind person providing her with an unnatural treat or spraying her with a synthetic product unknowingly. But I know the signs and I know its time to detox her liver!
What else is different about Cats?
Cats seem to have a disregard for strong odors and definitely have thin skin. So again, when you are diffusing oils in your home, remember your pets. Also make sure you use the oil correctly and with high dilution.
So What Supports the Cat's Metabolism?
Supporting the cat with Ninxgia Red Wolfberry Antioxidant Drink and/or Enzymes is the best way to ensure that your cat can metabolize essential oils. This is not always necessary for most young or healthy cats, but it does help any cat so therefore it is recommended.
What Essential Oils for Cats can we Use?
First, let's start with the essential oils for cats that we should use with caution. Meaning make sure these oils are diluted; and if you have a cat with liver issues, choose an oil that has similar properties that does not challenge the liver to such an extent.
Cats are particularly sensitive to a group of oxygenated compounds calledketones and phenols, and some monoterpenes. It is the thujone content in ketones and carvacal in phenols that seem to create most of the problems when not used with enzymes. Carvacrol is a byproduct of d-limonene which is found in all citrus fruits and in many tree oils.
Examples of essential oils for Cats that should should be used with caution meaning highly diluted are shown below. I say cautiously because all of single oils are fine when used in a professionally made therapeutic blends or supplements (more below); and when used correctly!
And just as with humans, each animal's chemistry and blood type is different so the response is different!
Examples of Phenols – Wintergreen, Anise, Birch, Clove, Basil, Tarragon, Fennel, Oregano, Thyme, Mountain Savory, Peppermint, Tea Tree, Calamus, Cinnamon Bark, Citronella, Marjoram, Nutmeg, Eucalyptus citriodora, Parsley, Ylang Ylang. These all contain greater than 8% phenols.
Please note that I have performed Raindrop Technique on cats which include many of these oils---so there are many factors to evaluate when using essential oils for cats.
Examples of Ketones – Western Red Cedar, Idaho Tansy, Marigold, Spearmint, Thuja, Hyssop, Davana, Sage, Dill, Yarrow, Peppermint. All these oils contain greater than 20% ketones.
Example of Oils containing D-Limonene - Grapefruit, Bitter Orange, Orange, Tangerine, Mandarin, Lemon, Celery Seed, Lime, Bergamot, Angelica, Dill, Neroli, Blue Tansy, Citronella and Nutmeg.
Examples of Oils containing Alpha-pinene – Cypress, Cistus, Pine, Douglas fir, Juniper, Myrtle, Rosemary Verbenon, Silver Fir, Angelica, Nutmeg, Eucalyptus, Dill, Spruce. These are all monoterpenes that have alpha-pinene concentrations greater than 15%.
Here is a list of single oils that I use infrequently or not at all with cats in particular: Black Pepper, Cardamon, Carrot Seed, Celery Seed, Cinnamon Bark, Citronella, Clove, Galbanum, Ginger, Juniper, Melaleuca species (use with extreme caution and monitor cat), Palmarosa, Petitgrain and Western Red Cedar.
Once again, any blends that contain these oils I rarely avoid.
I did not give you that list to scare you, but to provide you with more information. When we have good information it is easier for us to make better choices for our self as well as our pet.
What Essential Oils for Cats can we definitely Use?
Here are the essential oils for cats that are very safe for cat use. Here is the list:
And many more!
Can I use any Kind of Essential Oil for Cats?
Essential oils for cats need to be therapeutic grade essential oils. This is extremely important!
Most of the problems associated with essential oils whether they are for human or animal use stem from the fact that people use perfume quality oils in the same way that they use therapeutic grade oils. These are totally different and cause more harm than good! Particularly with cats!
For instance, there are many people who I know that use Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) and Eucalyptus oils routinely on their cat and have no problems. But it is cited in most aromatherapy books not to use these essential oils for cats. And they give examples of where the cat is rushed to the vet!
Did you know that there are many veterinarians who recommend the professionally made blends on this website? Yes, they are used routinely in their practice and they contain many of the oils that are not for use on cats. One example is Peace & Calming blend which contains many different citrus oils. Another one is Melrose that contains clove and tea tree oil that is excellent for cuts and disinfection.
If your animal has a serious medical condition or if you are not sure about applying any essential oil to your animal please consult your vet. There are holistic vets who routinely use essential oils in their practice with great success!
What is the Difference in Essential oils for Cats?
It is the quality of the oil. If the oil is adulterated which means cut with synthetics, of course your animal is going to have a reaction! I'm not saying that certain oils should not be used, but this should be the first factor when deciding to use an essential oil or not.
How do I use Essential Oils for Cats?
Essential oils for cats should be highly diluted with a high grade pure vegetable oil. Dilute essential oils for cats (and all other smaller animals) at least50:1 (fifty drops of dilution oil to one drop of essential oil). Dr. Mary Hess, DVM, recommends that Peace & Calming be diluted at 80-90% for felines.
Place a drop of the diluted oil on the inside of the paw or location of say cut or injury. Place some in your hands and pet your cat gently ears to tail.
Diffusing oils is a great way to use essential oils for cats. Lastly, you could place a few drops in a sprayer with some water, shake it up and gently mist--but most cats usually don't like this method of application.
I heard of using Hydrosols, can I Use them? What are they?
Hydrosols are the water based byproduct of the essential oil distillation. They are also called hydrolats or floral waters. They are perfectly safe to use for cats. But again, just like with essential oils, it is NOT the oil or hydrosol; it is the quality or source of the essential oil!
My Cat has Canker of the Ear, what Oil do I use?
Use warm olive oil with lavender and clean the ear. Use it inside and outside of the ear. Dilute as described above.
My cat has Mange what Oil do I use?
Bath the cat in lavender and roman chamomile. Remember the dilution requirements!
My cat has Fleas what Oils do I use?
Make a dilution of Cedarwood and Lavender oil and brush it into the cat. If not to bad, make a spray mist with water and gently spray the cat to deter fleas. Go to the natural flea remedies section for more information.
My cat is Scared to go the Vet or the Groomer, what Oils do I use?
Use Valor for courage and Peace & Calming blend for anxiety and fear!
These are just a few suggestions on how to use the oils. Browse through the site to select oils or blends for your cat as you would yourself. Remember to follow the instructions on the oils and enjoy a non-toxic way of living for you and your cat!


Why Won't the Cat Use a Litterbox?

Quiz: Why Won't the Cat Use a Litterbox?


Put yourself (and your cat) in these eight situations and decide whether the cause of the litterbox problem is behavioral or medical.

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Cat Litterbox
Get to the source of cat litterbox problems. Put yourself in these situations and see whether you can choose the likely cause of the elimination issue (answers below).

Get litterbox advice and problem-solving help here >>
1) In your two-cat household, one cat uses the litterbox without issue but the other one never does. 

2) Your declawed cat defecates by the front door or back door. There are no other cats in the household. 

3) Your cat has successfully used the litterbox for years, but as he enters middle age, he stops. No changes have occurred in the household. 

4) Although your cat uses the litterbox without problem, the smell of urine taints your house. You notice urine stains along vertical surfaces. 

5) Instead of using a bed or tree for resting, your cat chooses to lounge in the litterbox. 

6) You move into a new house and your cat begins eliminating on the carpet, the guest bed and the couch. You change litters and liners, remove liners, cover the box, uncover the box – all to no avail. 

7) Droppings in your cat’s litterbox occasionally smell extremely foul. To worsen things, your cat won’t cover up her feces. 

8) By day, your cat uses the litterbox without issue. By night, this cat eliminates anywhere but the box. 


1)    Behavioral. The minimum amount of litterboxes in a house should be one box per cat plus one extra. Keep the litterboxes in different areas of your home; if you have multiple cats, one cat might prevent others from approaching the litterboxes because they are located within his territory.

2)    Behavioral. This situation points to middening, the act of marking territory with feces. When cats do this near doorways to the outside, they could be apprehensive of stray or neighborhood cats and want to claim their ground. A declawed cat is more prone to feel like she has fewer defenses at hand.

3)    Medical. Bladder stones can prevent cats from eliminating properly because they cause pain during urination. Blood is sometimes visible in urine when stones occur, another sign that your cat needs veterinary care.

4)    Behavioral. This is spraying, also known as urine marking. Neutered cats, even intact and spayed females, aren’t immune to marking, which often occurs when cats are not getting along in a household or when an indoor cat sees a stray through a window or door. Rarely, a cat frustrated by not being able to do something or having problems with a human to whom it is attached may spray.

5)    Medical. If your cat is spending extra time in the litterbox this could be a sign of either urinary tract problems (infections, stones, inflammatory disorders, kidney disease) or lower gastrointestinal problems (colitis, megacolon). Please see you veterinarian as soon as possible to have a thorough physical examination, blood work and a urinalysis performed.

6)    Behavioral. A move to a new home can traumatize cats, who are territorial creatures of habit. After eliminating any possibility of a medical condition that would cause this behavior, begin retraining your cats to use litterboxes in your new home by keeping cats in a sanctuary room and reintroducing them to the house.

7)    Medical. Leaving feces uncovered indicates a colonic condition, and the malodorous feces could be the result of the carbohydrate in your cat’s diet. Bring your cat to a vet and talk about switching your cat’s diet.

8)    Behavioral. Litterbox location is key to maintaining good habits. A litterbox that isn’t well lit at night could be difficult for your cat to navigate. Keep your box in lit areas far from heavy household traffic but not tucked in limited access areas.