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Salla Mikkola
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House soiling and litter box fussiness in indoor-outdoor cats

The survey by Salla Mikkola et al1 identifying some of the reasons why cats engage in house soiling and develop litter box “fussiness” is a helpful step toward prevention of behaviors that can often lead to cats being set outdoors or surrendered to an animal shelter.

It is notable in this survey that the presence of children in the home can be an exacerbating factor, but there is no mention of the actual placement of litter boxes in the homes surveyed. Cats generally prefer a quiet, low-traffic area in the home for the placement of their litter box.

Perhaps the authors have some data to answer whether cats are more likely to engage in house soiling or show litter box fussiness if they are indoor-outdoor cats or if they are never allowed outdoors.

Outdoor owned and stray cats stalking, calling, and spraying around the homes of indoor cats can cause stress and distress and be a significant factor in house soiling, cystitis, and aggressive infighting among resident cats.

Michael W. Fox, BVetMed, PhD, DSc

Animal Doctor syndicated column office

Golden Valley, MN



Mikkola S, Salolen M, Hakenen E, Lohi H. Feline litter box issues associate with cat personality, breed, and age at sterilization. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2023;261(5):652660. doi:10.2460/javma.22.10.0441

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The author responds

Thank you for your interest in our article. We did not ask the owners about the location of litter boxes or whether the living area had many free outdoor cats; thus, we cannot study those aspects further. We investigated the possible effect of outdoor access on house soiling and litter box fussiness, but in the model selection process, it did not end up in the final models. However, we had more than 2 outdoor access types: none, balcony, on a leash, in a cage or freely supervised, and freely unsupervised. Thus, the result might be different if outdoor access groups are combined in another way. The data set is publicly available in Figshare (https://figshare.com/articles/dataset/Feline_litterbox_issues_data/22003823).

Salla Mikkola, PhD

Lohi Research Group

University of Helsinki and Folkhälsan Research Center

Helsinki, Finland

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