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My Cat Is Peeing All Over the House! Urinary Issues in Cats

Updated on January 1, 2016
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Serena has been working as a veterinary technician and receptionist for over 15 years.

Why won't my cat use the litter box?

There are a number of reasons your cat might not be using the litter box. When I get a phone call from a distraught owner, my first question is always, "Is your cat a male?" This is extremely important because a male cat can develop stones in the bladder, which may travel to the urethra and cause him to become "blocked"; a life threatening condition.

Cats may develop infections or diseases, causing them not to use the box. Why? Well, if you've ever had a urinary tract infection yourself, you understand that it's painful when you go to the bathroom! When a cat goes into the litter box to urinate and it's painful, he/she will assume that the box is causing the pain and not want to return there. He or she will try out different spots around the house to escape the pain. Owners will assume their cat is upset or angry, but this is far from the truth.

Always assume first that any change in urinary behavior is due to a medical problem. Have your cat examined by a veterinarian and if no medical issues are discovered, you can assume it's a behavioral issue and go from there. Never automatically assume it's behavioral or you could miss a serious issue requiring treatment.

What medical issues could cause a cat to urinate outside the box?

  • Diabetes
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Liver disease
  • Kidney disease
  • FLUTD (Feline lower urinary tract disease)
  • Arthritis (making it painful for the cat to get in and out of the litter box)
  • Bladder stones
  • Bladder tumor

Behavioral Issues

Cats are very sensitive creatures. Any change in the environment could spark a strike. Moving the furniture around, welcoming a new pet or a new baby or changes in a family member's routine could affect negatively. Some cats are very fussy about the cleanliness or location of the box. Make sure the litter box is in a private location and keep it clean by scooping daily. Don't have the box in close approximation to the food and water. Don't change the brand or type of litter you're using suddenly or this could cause a problem. A general rule of thumb is to have one more litter box than there are cats. If you have one cat, there should be two boxes in the home. If you have two cats, there should be three boxes, etc.

What are common causes of inappropriate elimination due to behavioral issues?

  • Spraying/marking - If you have a male cat in your household that has not been neutered, expect some spraying. You can tell if a cat is urinating or spraying by watching the act. When a male cat sprays, his tail will be "quivering" in the air and the urine will "spray" rather than stream. Male cats can start spraying anytime from about 6 months and older. Female cats in heat may also spray to attract male suitors!
  • Change in litter
  • Change in litter box location (private, non-busy area of the home is best)
  • Litter box not cleaned daily
  • Change in environment
  • Change in routine
  • New pet in the home
  • Another pet is preventing access to the box (fear)
  • New baby
  • Senility (old age)

How do I resolve behavioral issues?

  1. Clean the litter box daily
  2. Find the cause of stress and remove it
  3. Move the litter box to a private location
  4. If your cat has picked a certain spot to eliminate, move the litter box to that spot (even if it's inconvenient for you). Once he/she starts using it consistently, slowly move it to the location of your choice.
  5. Try a product like Feliway which reduces stress/anxiety in cats.
  6. Clean areas where the cat has urinated thoroughly using an enzyme based cleaner such as Nature's Miracle.
  7. If everything else fails, you can always confine your cat to one room (preferably a bathroom) with food, water and a litter box. Once he/she is retrained to use the box, you can allow freedom and slowly move it to the location of your choice.

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