This topic is more appropriately referred to as inappropriate elimination in the feline, but it does feel like a mystery to many cat owners. When a housecat urinates anyplace but in the litter box, it can be a crisis for the household. Elimination issues are the most common behavior problem in cats. Unfortunately, it is also the most common reason cats are relinquished.
So why do cats “go” outside the box? There can be several reasons, some physical and some behavioral. Here are some tips for dealing with this issue in your cat.
- Is something hurting? If a cat has pain associated with urination, often they will avoid using the box, or not make it to the box in time. If you notice your cat having accidents, your first call should be to the veterinarian for an appointment. Urinary tract disease can be painful and distressing to your pet. The veterinarian will want to examine him and do a urinalysis to rule out a physical problem.
- Is the toilet dirty? Let’s be real. If you walk into a public restroom and the first stall has a dirty toilet, what do you do? You close the door and move to the next one, right? What happens if your cat finds his box too dirty? That’s right, he moves on. Cats have various tolerances for how dirty is too dirty, but the best recommendation is to scoop the box once or twice daily, and completely change out the litter once weekly. You should also empty and clean the box with soapy water occasionally.
- Is he stressed? The bladder seems to be a “stress organ” for cats. Stress can cause an increase in bladder inflammation, territorial marking, and inappropriate elimination. Any change in their household or routine can be a stressor for cats. Sometimes the cause is so subtle that we humans don’t notice it. If physical causes are ruled out, we will recommend stress relieving measures for your cat. These include peaceful feeding, resting, and elimination areas where he won’t be disturbed. We also recommend pheromone diffusers in the home for a calming effect. Some cats require antianxiety medications to help them relax.
- Is there a social problem? Multi-cat households are fertile ground for elimination issues. As discussed above, stress is a big problem, and stressors are multiplied when we add more cats. Social and territorial pressures can lead one or more felines in the group to urinate where they shouldn’t. Urination is more than elimination of wastes for cats. It also is a powerful communication tool. Peeing on something sends the message to other cats that this is mine!