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Peeing Problems

I cannot tell you the number of times I have heard “I really don’t want to euthanize him, but…”.

“My cat is spiteful…”

Cats are very complex creatures and often when they pee out of the box there is a good reason behind it. It is the most common reason for surrenders and one of the most ‘fixable’ reasons, if only the time is taken to understand the cat and the potential problem in it’s life. It is a sign that something is not right. While cats do not do this out of spite, it is an effective way of getting your attention! There can be many reasons why your cat is not using the box and as long as you are willing to take the time to figure it out, we are more than happy to guide you.

There are many ‘stressors’ in a cats life (a new baby, a stray cat, renovations, etc.) and some cats can handle lifestyle changes better than others. However, many cats have a very difficult time adapting to these stressors and show their insecurity by peeing out of the litter box. It could take a bit of time to find out exactly what the particular stressor is, but once you do, and remove the stressor, the inappropriate peeing should stop almost immediately. 90% of the time this problem can be fixed simply by  understanding the cat…sounds a bit strange, but it’s true – and it improves the life of the cat and the owner.

“Once a dirty cat…”
We understand that living with a cat that pees out of the box is very trying. It is hard to enjoy their company when they do this. A common myth is once a dirty cat, always a dirty cat. This could not be further from the truth.

Seek veterinary care
First and foremost, has the cat been to the vet?. Often this is a medical problem and should be addressed as soon as possible. Urinary tract/bladder infections are commonly seen in cats that pee out of the box. They are uncomfortable and associate the litterbox to the pain they feel when they are in it. They will often choose various other places to pee to avoid this pain. In order to diagnose an infection, the vet must take a sample of urine and look at it under a microscope as well as doing corresponding blood work. A simple examination of the cat is not enough to determine an underlying medical problem. If your vet tells you otherwise, seek a second opinion! Should there be an infection, the vet will provide you with antibiotics to give the cat and possibly a diet change. Once the infection is cleared, the cat will resume using the litterbox. This should be the very first thing to rule out, because if there is a medical reason behind the peeing, anything else that you try will be a waste of effort and just plain frustrating!

Some cats are chronic for getting infections and they could have recurring ones. Be sure to carry out the FULL round of prescribed antibiotics and then have your cat in for a recheck. If there is still some lingering infection, further medications will be needed or else the flare up will be an ongoing issue. Once it is cleared, prevention with a diet change and close monitoring should help.

Other common reasons for this behaviour include:

Is your cat spayed/neutered?
This is a common problem in unspayed/unneutered cats. When the hormones are fully developed they feel the need to mark their territory, even if they are a single cat. The smell of a male unneutered cat is also much more pungent then that of a neutered male.

Have you moved the litter box or changed the type of litter you use?
A change in the type of litter or even the type of litterbox can cause the cat to avoid it. Perhaps offering a SECOND box of a different style or different litter, hooded if she liked that one better. Some cats object to the scented litters, some prefer clumping, clay or pine pellets. This is an individual preference. Don’t change everything all at once, but rather just change one box to give the cat an option. Some cats are fastidious about having a clean box and won’t use it if has been even used once before them…oh yes, we’ve seen it all! You could even try leaving an empty litter box available for your cat to use if this is the surface preference it wants.

Is the cat simply peeing over the edge of the box?
Sometimes larger cats with boxes that are too small for them run into this problem. If the cat can not physically get fully into the box and turn around, then it is not the cats fault. If you are finding urine or feces just outside the box, then this could be your issue.

Are there any obstructions blocking the litter box so that your cat can not physically get to it?
Sometimes the box is tucked away in an inconvenient area or is inaccessible by other furniture. Is it up or down a flight of stairs that the cat finds difficult to climb (arthritis, obesity)? Does your cat get cornered in the box by a dog or another cat or children? These are all reasons why it may avoid the litter area.

Is your cat overweight?
Obesity is a common reason for cats to not want to use the box and the reasons for this vary from cat to cat. Fat cats in general tend to be more unkempt than average sized cats. They are less active and less motivated when they have that extra weight to carry around. A pound to a cat is like 20 pounds to a human. Excess weight also adds pressure on all the cat’s joints, which at older ages, likely have or are developing arthritis. Cats are very good at disguising pain and often won’t show any signs of wear and tear until later stages. Sometimes it is just too much work to get into the box. Sometimes the body is too sore. If they can not reach to clean themselves properly, they can easily develop infections in their vulva or penis causing it to burn when they pee. These are some of the things that they associate with the litter box, and hence, develop an aversion to it.

Does your cat have a surface preference?
When cats pee out of the box, they often have a surface preference for their alternate spots. Some prefer soft spots (couches, clothes, beds), some cats prefer plastic bags or papers, some prefer appliances (stoves, toasters). Be sure not to encourage these options. For example, pick up all dirty clothes/towels that are lying around and keep them in covered hampers. Cover beds and couches with plastic tablecloths (from the dollar store) when they are not being used. Keep all loose papers out of reach and pick up any important material. It’s better than cleaning up a puddle! Watch out for those slippers too – those are favourites! Baby gates and bedroom doors are always great options to keep the cat out of specific areas/bedrooms.

Is your cat declawed?
Although not scientifically proven yet, we have observed over the years, a strong relationship between declawed cats and inappropriate urination. Not much you can do about this now except rule out any other stressors and avoid declawing future cats. We have found that 90% of declawed cats that are surrendered to us have litterbox issues.

Have there been any changes in your daily routine since the peeing started?
Things such as a change in work schedule, visitors in the house, renovations, etc. These are all good reasons for a cat to not use the litter box. Cats are very sensitive and if they feel their home security is being compromised/threatened they may respond in this manner. Although cats appear independent, they are actually pretty insecure.

Have you noticed any stray cats outside?
Sometimes outdoor cats that pass through your yard is enough to upset your cat and cause this behaviour.

It is in your cat’s best interest to determine the problem and work with it rather than to surrender him/her to a shelter facility. It is certainly not a reason to consider euthanasia.

For further advice on inappropriate urination, please email Jodie with as much detailed information about the situation as possible.