Animals associate pain with where they experience it


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Animals associate pain with where they experience it

Updated Dec 21, 2021

Dear Cathy,

We have two nine-year-old cats. Charlie and Stella have been together since kittens and are both fixed. They get along fine. In the last six months, Stella has been going outside the litter box. I took her to the vet, and she checked out fine, just a little constipated. She now eats a prescription diet with fiber and gets a cat laxative to help. Our veterinarian also said it could be behavioral, so prescribed Amitriptyline HCL 10 mg, which is next to impossible to give to her. She is still a loving gentle cat, but urine around the house is getting out of hand. She pees everywhere, like in laundry baskets, on shoes and suitcases, and even on the coffee table, which ruined our wedding album. Help!

– John and Dale, Eaton’s Neck (Northport), New York

Dear John and Dale,

Animals often associate pain and discomfort with where they experience it. When that happens, an animal avoids what they think is the trigger for their pain, which, in this case, is the litter box. 

Your veterinarian has pointed you in the right direction, but I would also try a few other things to see if you can’t get your cat motivated to go back to the box.

First, she needs a second option. Can you add another litter box in the house that is in a different location? Add a different litter product since the scent of the old litter could be a negative trigger for her too. 

Second, if your current box is covered, then get an open litter box and vice versa. We want to create an entirely new experience for her. 

Finally, buy a litter box additive to sprinkle into all the litter boxes. You can find it at pet stores or at online stores. The products are designed to attract the cat back to the box.

Let me know how these things work.

Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal

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Cathy Rosenthal (aka The Pet Pundit), CHES, CFE
Animal Welfare Communications Specialist

Cathy brings more than 35 years' experience in the animal welfare field. She is a sought-after speaker, Certified Humane Education Specialist, a syndicated pet advice columnist, an author, a publisher, and of course - a loving pet parent.

Read more about Cathy here or check out her Non-Profit's page to see more ways she can help you and your organization.

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