Cats who urinate outside the litter box face challenges getting adopted or staying in shelters. In the past, shelters often refused to take in these cats or chose to euthanize them without further help. Should adopters hesitate before bringing one of these cats home? Probably not, according to a recent study.

Researchers compared the outcomes of shelter cats who urinate outside the box to those who don’t. They looked at data from 294 cats with this problem over six years. They wanted to know how long these cats stayed in the shelter, how many got adopted, how many got returned, and how many were euthanized.

The study found that, on average, cats who urinated outside the box stayed in the shelter longer than those without it (52.6 days compared to 31.6 days). But when they looked at the data year by year, they didn’t find significant differences in the last four years of the study. Although cats who urinated outside the box in the shelter had slightly higher return rates (23.1% versus 15.4%), less than half of them were returned because of their peeing problems!

To help these cats, the shelter tried different things. They gave each cat a medical checkup and tested out different litter box options to find what they liked. Only when a cat consistently used the litter box for five days in a row were they put up for adoption. The shelter also shared all the information about the cats’ health and behavior and provided education and follow-up support.

The results show that, when there is no physical illness, cats often develop litter box problems because of the shelter environment.When these cats are put in an environment that meets their needs and preferences, they can often go back to urinating in the right place.