Feline inappropriate urination (urination in the wrong place) can be quite common. it often involves the cat urinating outside of its litter box in an inappropriate area or on an inappropriate object. causes are usually medical or behavioral.
Diseases of the urinary tract can cause inappropriate urination, including bladder stones, bacterial infections, and other inflammatory conditions that can cause pain and increased urgency to urinate. Kidney and liver disease can cause cats to drink more and therefore urinate more often. more frequent or urgent urination means cats may not get to their litter tray in time or the litter tray may become dirty very quickly, which may deter the cat from using it again until the litter tray is changed sand.
Age-related decline in brain function and hormonal disorders such as diabetes can also cause changes in urination habits. A cat’s mobility and sensory function can also affect its urination habits. Medical conditions that affect the nerves, muscles, or joints can cause discomfort, stiffness, or weakness such that a cat may not be able to reach the litter tray or get into the litter tray easily.
If your cat urinates inappropriately, it is very important to schedule your cat with your veterinarian for a complete physical exam and evaluation. it is important to rule out any medical cause of inappropriate urination before addressing any behavioral cause.
**Please note if a cat is having trouble urinating, i.e. the cat is unable to urinate or urinates normally (signs may include straining to urinate without urinating or urinating normally) . , with or without vocalization when urinating) could have a urinary ‘blockage’ – this is a medical emergency. ‘blocked’ urination is generally a problem associated more with male cats and can be fatal. See your vet right away if you suspect your cat might be blocked.
There are many behavioral reasons why cats may begin to urinate inappropriately. frustration, stress, or anxiety can sometimes cause a cat to change its urination habits. Any change in your routine, such as a new person in the home or a move, can cause changes in urination. They may also “mark” spots around the house with their urine as a way of marking their territory. Territorial “marking” can be considered part of normal behavior and can be triggered by the presence or scent of another cat. however, some cats will also “mark” their surroundings in response to stress or anxiety.
Cats can also change their urination patterns if they have problems with their litter tray. They may not like the type of litter tray, the material of the litter, or where the litter tray is located, or they may be put off if the tray has already been used but not yet cleaned. Some suggestions that can help with the behavioral causes of inappropriate urination are listed below:
- number of trays: providing multiple litter trays in various locations around the house. a cat needs two trays; each additional cat needs another tray, all in different places.
- Tray placement: Litter trays placed in areas that are unappealing to your cat will tend to discourage her from using the tray. Cats also prefer to urinate in private, so placing the tray in a quiet area away from traffic and household noise can help. Cats also don’t like to go to the bathroom near their food or water, so make sure litter boxes aren’t near food and water bowls or areas where you feed your cat (eg
- size of trays: make sure the litter tray is large enough for your cat to comfortably dig, turn and squat; that means at least 1.5 times the length of your cat (for example, an average cat is about 50cm from nose to tail, so their litter box should be at least 75cm long). many commercial litter trays are too small, but it’s easy to make your own using modified plastic storage containers.
- type of trays: cats sometimes have difficulty using certain litter trays, for example, an elderly cat with arthritis may have difficulty climbing onto a litter tray with high sides. an open tray without a lid, or one with lower sides would be much easier for an older cat to access. some cats don’t like covered litter trays, while others do. If your cat urinates inappropriately, try giving him a couple of different types of trays to try so he can pick one he’s comfortable with.
- litter: try different brands/types of cat litter until you find one your cat is happy to use. some cats prefer a sand or clay-based litter, and others prefer wood pellets or crystals. unscented litter is best, as cats can be put off by the smell of scented litters. cats need to dig, so make sure you fill the tray with litter to a depth of at least 6cm.
- Cleaning: Ideally, you should clean the litter tray daily (remove debris) and replace the litter once a week. don’t leave dirty litter out for too long, as this can prevent your cat from using its tray. For some cats, it is necessary to keep the litter box scrupulously clean. this may mean cleaning the litter trays several times a day. Cats may be reluctant to use the litter box if it has been recently deodorized or the cat does not like the smell of cleaners, so rinse thoroughly with water after cleaning. be sure to clean the tray with products that are safe to use around cats.
- How can you tell if your cat is happy with his litter tray? If a cat digs a lot in his tray, this usually indicates that he likes it. scratching the walls near the tray or the sides of the litter tray may be a sign that he doesn’t like something about the tray or the litter, so if you see your cat doing this, try changing something about the tray and/or or litter to see if your cat seems more comfortable with his bath.
- Cats may develop preferences for certain substrates to urinate on, such as a hardwood floor or carpet. restricting access to the area or object involved can help break the cycle.
- You can also try placing a litter box where the cat has been urinating inappropriately, as it may have gotten used to urinating in that particular area. if the cat uses the tray in that location, the tray should be left there for at least a week. then the tray can be moved slowly (a little each day) to a new, more suitable location, if necessary. this must be done very carefully to ensure that your cat follows the tray and continues to use it as you move.
- Some cat behavior specialists recommend spraying odor neutralizers in the area where your cat has urinated inappropriately. this eliminates the smell of urine, which can help decrease your cat’s interest in continuing to urinate on that spot. At the same time, you should provide litter trays in other places to further encourage your cat to urinate elsewhere. make sure odor neutralizers are safe to use around cats. If another cat has left its odors around the house and this has caused a change in the resident cat’s urination habits, it is important to remove the odors from the other cats. this can help reduce “stress” and lead to “marking” territory in the resident cat.
- If a new cat has been introduced to the home, it is vital to provide multiple litter trays throughout the house for each individual cat.
- Another technique to deter a cat from urinating in an inappropriate area is to change the function of that area into a feeding, playing, sleeping, or scratching area, which can reduce the cat’s desire to urinate there.
- Your vet can provide further advice. they can discuss, for example, feline pheromone sprays/diffusers that can help stressed or anxious cats.
marking allows a cat to surround itself with its own familiar scents. When cats “mark” territory, they usually back up to a vertical surface, raise their tail, stomp with their hind legs, the tail may quiver, and a small stream of urine is directed backwards. marking usually involves urinating on vertical surfaces, but can also involve urinating on horizontal surfaces. Although unneutered male cats are the most likely to “mark” with urine, marking has also been seen in neutered males and females. if another cat has placed its own scents in the area, cleaning up any areas the other cat has ventured into and cleaning up any material touched by the other cat (when possible) can help prevent your cat from feeling the urge to mark. make sure any cleaner is safe to use around cats.