Do your cat’s bathroom habits drive you crazy?
Cats peeing outside the litter box is a common problem which can happen for many reasons.
If your cat has taken up the habit, some detective work is required to get to the bottom of the problem and correct it.
The first step is to work out if your cat has a health problem or if the issue is behavioral.
Think about the following questions:
- Is my cat drinking more? Increased thirst means the cat needs to empty his bladder more often, and they may not always be able to make it to the litter box.
- Is my cat losing weight? Weight loss can be a sign of health problems linked to increased thirst, such as diabetes, kidney disease or overactive thyroid glands.
- Is there blood in the urine? This can be a sign of infection or bladder stones.
- Urinating little and often? Small puddles and frequent urination are signs of bladder discomfort.
- Excessive grooming? If your cat spends an excessive amount of time washing his rear end, this can be a sign of urinary discomfort.
If you answered “Yes” to any of the above, the problem may be physical, not mental, and a vet checkup is essential.
Indeed, any cat that pees inappropriately should first see a vet to check for physical problems.
Your vet will reach a diagnosis by running some of the following tests:
- A physical exam: The vet checks the size and feel of the bladder for tenderness or discomfort
- Urine culture: A sample is sent for culture to check if bugs are present
- Urine analysis: Urine is spun down and the sediment looked at under a microscope to check for crystals which chaff the bladder lining
- Ultrasound exam: A bladder scan to rule out stones, polyps, or cancer
- Blood tests: Screening the cat for diabetes, overactive thyroid glands and kidney disease, which can lead to poor bladder control
If the tests are normal or negative, your cat has a behavioral problem.
Cats are fussy about their toilet facilities and easily put-off. Common reasons include:
- Not liking the cat litter
- The tray is too smelly
- Too many other cats use the same tray
- The tray is not private enough
- The cat was frightened while using the tray
- The cat experienced pain while on the tray
What can you do to help?
- Cat litter: Try different cat litters. Some cats prefer softer litter made of recycled paper, while others prefer the feel of a harder litter under their paws. Also, avoided scented cat litters as these offend a cat’s sensitive sense of smell.
- Tray numbers: The golden rule is: One tray per cat plus one extra. Having two cats means a minimum of three trays.
- Cleaning: Scoop at least once a day; dump the entire contents once a week and wash the tray.
- Location: Put the trays in quiet places where the cat has privacy.
- Security: Avoid placing trays next to a washing machine, which suddenly goes into a spin cycle and frightens the cat.
- Pain: Treat urine infections promptly so the cat doesn’t associate the pain of straining with the litter tray.
- Deodorize accidents: Clean up urinary accidents with an enzymatic cleaner to remove all traces of scent which could attract the cat back.
- Pheromones: Using Feliway diffusers in the house helps a cat to relax and reduces stress-related spraying.
Stress Can Cause Litter Box Issues
Stress can cause litter-box problems. Cats can be stressed by events we wouldn’t think as traumatic.
Changes in things that even indirectly affect the cat, like moving, adding new pets or family members to your household—even changing your daily routine—can make your cat feel anxious.
Look around your home to think of anything that has changed that might be the source.
Even construction or a new kitty in another home can cause stress.
One of Your Cats Might Want His or Her Own Litterbox
Sometimes one or more cats in a household will control access to litter boxes and prevent the other cats from using them.
Even if one of the cats isn’t actually confronting the other cats in the litter box, any conflict between cats in a household can create enough stress to cause litter-box problems.
Location of the Litter Boxes
If you have multiple stories, put one litter box on each floor.
If your litter box is too tucked away, somewhere inconspicuous, your cat may not bother to go find it.
If your cat keeps peeing in the same spot despite your best efforts, try moving the litter box over that spot and then slowly moving it back to where you want it.
Remember, any cat at any age can start peeing outside the box.
Distinguishing medical from behavioral causes is vital but can be costly.
Wise cat owners invest in pet insurance so their cats can receive prompt treatment and prevent peeing outside the litter box from becoming a habit.