Normal Elimination Behavior in Cats

Each day, cats normally drink between 200 and 400 milliliters of fluid to maintain health. Half of this will end up as urine, which serves as a vehicle for dissolved end products of metabolism. This process is obligatory and fundamental to the maintenance of life.

Defecation is equally important to get rid of digestion's waste products. Sometimes it only becomes apparent how important these processes are when they go wrong.

In cats, like many other land mammals, excretion of urine and feces has been adopted as a marking behavior, and transmits social and reproductive signals to other members of the same species.

Feral cats and domestic house cats generally follow a specific behavior pattern when eliminating urine and feces. They normally seek sites where the ground is loose or sandy, which, in the case of indoor cats, involves the contents of a litter box. Once a suitable substrate has been found, the cat sniffs the area and scratches or digs at it with its front paws. Having made a small depression, the cat turns, squats, and deposits her waste. The final phase involves the cat covering up her feces or urine and then moving on to other things.

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This article was excerpted from the CD entitled "Behavior Problems in Cats – Etiology, Diagnostics and Treatments" by Dr. Nicholas Dodman, Professor of Clinical Sciences at Tufts University, School of Veterinary Medicine, © 1998, Trustees of Tufts College. To buy a full copy of the CD, contact .