My Cat is Peeing Outside the Litter Box. What Can I do? – Passionimo Answers your Questions
Is your cat urinating outside the litter box and you’re wondering why and what to do? You are not alone! The team of Passionimo is there to shed some light on this common problem facing cat lovers.
My cat recently got into the habit of peeing outside the box. Is it mad at me?
This is more likely a medical problem than a behavioural one. People will allow the situation to continue, thinking precisely that their cats are angry or being vengeful, when in reality, the problem may be caused by pain.
What are the possible medical issues behind this behaviour?
Here are the most common issues:
1. Urinary tract infection
2. Urinary crystals: This is a substance similar to sand that is formed in the urine. There are several types of crystals and each type is linked to a different cause. Your veterinarian can identify the type through a urinalysis.
3. Bladder stones: Bladder stones can be detected via an X-ray scan or an ultrasound. Depending on the type of stones, they can be dissolved with a special food or removed surgically.
What are the causes?
This issue can arise from a variety of causes more or less determined. In fact, stress in cats can lead to feline idiopathic (in short, an ailment for which no specific cause can be found) cystitis (inflammation of the bladder). Feline stress is much different from human stress. In cats, boredom can be a cause of stress in the long run.
While pets who eat lower-quality food are more prone to urinary tract issues, your cat could eat generic cat food all its life and never have this type of problem. Obesity and a sedentary lifestyle are other predisposing factors.
What should I do if my cat urinates in inappropriate places?
See your veterinarian right away to get a urinalysis. If bacteria are found, a bacterial culture will be done to determine the type of bacteria and the appropriate antibiotic to administer. In some cases, an X-ray scan will also be done to check for bladder stones.
What are the treatments available?
Your veterinarian will often recommend a special diet. It’s important that your cat eats only the prescription food; otherwise, the issue might resurface at a later time. Please note that, just like any other pet food, prescription food does not contain any medication.
It’s also recommended to increase your cat’s water intake. The more cats drink, the more they urinate, which leaves less time for crystal formation in urine.
Depending on the type of infection, antibiotics may be prescribed. There are also several types of bladder stones, with the most common being struvite stones and oxalate stones. Struvite stones can be dissolved with a special diet, but your pet must be restricted to that food. Oxalate stones are much more resistant and must be surgically removed.
What is the most serious urinary tract infection in cats?
That would be urinary obstruction, mostly present in male cats. This happens when the urethra—the long and very narrow tube draining urine from the bladder out of the penis—is obstructed by crystals or stones. The cat tries to push urine out, but nothing happens.
If your cat is affected, please see your veterinarian urgently. People will often confuse this issue with constipation and waste precious hours trying to relieve their pet. If urinary obstruction occurs, the bladder will continue to swell until it explodes, which could even cause death.
My veterinarian performed a urinalysis and X-ray scan, and everything looks normal. But the issue persists. What should I do?
Once potential medical issues have been cleared, it’s time to focus on behavioural issues. Here are a few tips:
• The first thing to do is to make sure that there are enough litter boxes in your home. The golden rule: one litter box more than the number of cats. You also need to place them in separate locations: 2 litter boxes next to one another = 1 litter box.
• If you have 2 cats, keep a close watch. When 2 cats live together, one can decide to guard the litter box from afar and prevent the other cat from using it. Cats send each other hard-to-detect signals—through their pupils and positions, for instance—and in that way, one cat can scare the other one from the litter box.
• Next, change the litter box. Remember that cats have a much more acute sense of smell. So, if you’ve been using the same litter box for 10 years, chances are it smells putrid to your cat.
• If you adopt a new cat, do not use the same old litter box you used for your previous cat. Get a brand-new litter box for your new companion.
• Please note that many cats do not like covered litter boxes. They feel trapped. For comparison’s sake, cats feel about enclosed litter boxes the way humans feel about those blue portable toilets.
• You also have to change the substrate, that is the litter in itself. Cats generally prefer a soft and ultra fine-grain litter that closely resembles sand. That’s why some cats might release their bladder or bowels on a bed because it’s a soft and plush surface for their paws.
• It’s also important to keep your litter box very clean. If it’s not clean enough for you to leave it in the living room, then that means it’s not clean enough for your cat.
• Choose a big litter box. Cats often like to turn around a few times before releasing their bowels. You could even use a shallow Rubbermaid-type plastic bin.
• Do not place your kitty box at the far end of the basement, in a dark place or close to the washing machine which starts at unpredictable times for your cat. The litter box should be easily accessible and in a quiet spot.
• Finally, do not put your cat’s food next to the litter box. Who wants to eat next to the toilet?
Let’s say my cat only pees on my boyfriend’s stuff, can I reasonably see this as a vengeful behaviour?
You must keep in mind that urine is only dirty to the human mind. What’s the first thing dogs do when they meet? They sniff each other’s butts. Cats spend 2 hours licking themselves every day, including the genital area. Plenty of dogs eat feces they find outside (thought that’s a separate issue!).
So, your cat is not getting even with you by urinating in inappropriate places. This is more likely a way to communicate messages such as “Peeing hurts” or “My litter box just doesn’t work for me”.
It’s important to note that if this behaviour stems from a medical issue, cats will associate the litter box with pain because every time they go there to relieve themselves, they hurt. Instinctively, they will decide to avoid it and find other places to urinate.
Can I do something about the strong odor of male cat urine?
Male cats use their urine to mark their territory and often choose vertical surfaces such as walls. This is their way of sending messages to other cats. It’s also a good reason to get male cats neutered, since only 10% of neutered cats will continue to mark their territory. Additionally, since hormones are responsible for the foul smell of urine, having your cat neutered should definitely help. In closing, here’s an interesting fact: 5% of female cats also mark their territory.
Do you have other questions?
Please do not hesitate to contact the Passionimo veterinary clinic closest to you.