So has this happened to you? You come home and you either notice that your couch, carpet, or rug is soiled with urine. You are baffled and confused not knowing why this is happening. Why is my cat who has been litter trained all of a sudden urinating in forbidden places? Well there are a couple of factors you have to consider if faced with this problem. Two main factors you need to determine are is this a medical or behavioral condition. The most common medical condition is a bacterial urinary tract infection. This condition is often easily treated with a round of antibiotics. Other medical conditions to consider are stones in the bladder, cystitis (otherwise known as feline urinary syndrome), or a problem with the urethra which could include a mucus plug or spasms of the urethral muscle. Also remember that an intact male is likely to mark their territory. It is very important that these conditions are ruled out through diagnostic testing. Some diagnostic testing includes analysis of the urine with a possible culture, and x-ray or ultrasound of the bladder.
So now you have gone to your veterinarian and ruled out that your feline companion has a medical issue, so what’s next? Well the first challenge to overcome is if you have multiple cats to determine which one is the culprit. The easiest way of course is direct observation, unfortunately some cats are very stealthy when it comes to this behavior and the offense often occurs when no one is home. Well if you are technologically savvy, you can set up a web cam to see if you can capture your pet on video. There are other methods for identifying which I would consider extreme. These involve giving the suspected feline a special fluoroscein dye by mouth or injection then using a black light to visualize the urine. As I mentioned before these methods are extreme and I haven’t ever seen a situation where that was necessary.
So you found out who is soiling inappropriately, now the next step is to determine why? The first thing is to find out where your cat is soiling. Is it near the litterbox? It is near their favorite sleeping spot? Is it just on a particular piece of furniture or spot on the carpet? Hopefully the answers to these questions will play a significant role in helping solve the mystery.
So if your cat is urinating outside of the litter box then some things to consider are a possible litter box aversion, aversion to the type of litter used, aversion to location of the litter box, the availability of the litter box, and if a multi cat household what type of interaction with the other cats are occurring at the litter box.
- Litter Box Aversion:
- A box that is excessively soiled. May need to add additional litterboxes
- Type of box hooded vs uncovered, automatic, large vs small
- The type of litter lining surprisingly can make a difference scented vs unscented.
- Type of litter used:
- Clumping vs non clumping some cats have a preference
- Scented vs non-scented. Some heavily perfumed litter can turn cats off
- The texture of the granules pearls vs crystals etc.
- Depth of litter: Cats prefer deeper litter
- Location of litter box
- A lot of traffic or noise in area can be frightening
- Negative interactions with other pets in the house
- Is the litterbox in a place difficult for your cat to access?
- Outdoor cat who is now forced to be indoor may have problems with elimination
So now hopefully at this point you have determined why your feline companion is eliminating appropriately now it is time to see if it can be corrected. Among the things that should be attempted should be changing the litterbox, changing the type of litter, adding a litter box (a rule of thumb is that there should be one extra litter box for the number of cats in the household), moving the litterbox to a new location, and if possible eliminate any negative associations with the litter box (e.g. limit contact with other pets that they are responding negative to).
After all of this if your feline companion is still eliminating inappropriately then you have to look at the possibility that he/she may be suffering from anxiety. Anxiety can be due to separation especially if an owner’s schedule has changed. It also can be caused by a change in environment such as moving in a new home, or introduction of a new pet or baby. So what options are there to help with this anxiety. A synthetic pheromone called Feliway works in some cats. It is believed to help some cats relax. It comes as a spray or a plug in diffuser. It can be purchased at your veterinarian’s office or it is offered on Amazon as well. Another treatment is what I would refer to as repellent therapy. This involves eliminating access to common soiling areas through using some form of repellent or making the area inaccessible. The last option is a therapeutic protocol involving anti-anxiety and anti-depressant therapy. Two of the most common drugs used in cats are a drug called amitriptyline (Elavil) and Buspirone (Buspar). Amitriptyline is an antidepressant drug. The dose is typically once daily and a response can be seen typically within in 2 weeks if effective. Buspar is an anti-anxiety drug that is a once a day treatment as well. Some additional therapy could include Cosequin for cats which may help with inflammation of the lining of the bladder especially in cats with cystitis or inflammation of the bladder.
I hope this information is found to be helpful to those whose share this experience with their feline companions. This problem can be initially frustrating but can in most cases be effectively managed.