Taking a little different direction this week. As a Veterinary Technician I also have a love for cats, especially my 2 kittens (very much adult cats, but they will always my kittens) Rya’c and Kiwi. Occasionally you will see posts focused on cats like Qwerty’s older siblings.
**Disclaimer: Anytime you suspect something is wrong with your pet, you should ALWAYS consult your veterinarian.**
So, your cat is urinating outside the litter box? This is probably the most common thing we see cats for in a Veterinary clinic, unfortunately it’s also a very common reason that cats are surrended to shelters, so what can we do to help these problems?
First and foremost ALWAYS contact your veterinarian first. The only way to determine if the problem is behavioral is to rule out medical reasons first. What will your vet be looking for? There are many things medically that cause a a cat to stop using the box: Urinary Tract infection, Kidney Disease, Diabetes Mellitus, Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease, bladder stones, and even pain are just a few. Your veterinarian will recommend blood and urine testing and even possibly imaging like x-rays or ultrasound. These tests will all help determine if there is a medical cause for the pee problems. It is also very important that you are honest with your answers, you are not being put on trial when a technician or doctor asks you questions, we are just trying to determine how we can help you and your kitty.
If testing comes back normal, do not fret, this is a good thing because your cat is not ill! But what do you do now?
Add more litter boxes. Nobody wants a toilet in their living room, but sometimes it’s necessary. A good rule of thumb is 1 litter box for cat plus 1, meaning if you have 1 cat you should have 2 boxes, 2 cats should have 3 boxes and so on and so forth. The boxes should not be right next to each other and you should also have a box on each level of your house. You could also try moving the litter box to where they are going outside the box, they may prefer that spot.
Clean your litter boxes more often. Do you like going to the bathroom in an out house that hasn’t been emptied recently? No, of course not! Your cat doesn’t want a dirty bathroom either. Clean stool and urine from the box daily and clean the box completely out weekly! Seem like too much work? It’s better than getting urine out of your carpet.
Change the Litter box itself. Cats typically do not like covered litter boxes or litter boxes in dark, compact spaces. You also want to have a litter box that is big enough for your cat, a good rule of them is they should fit completely inside from nose to tail and be able to turn around. If your cat doesn’t squat low enough and gets urine or feces out of the box that way, you can use a high sided box.
Types of litter. Some cats want a certain type of litter, if they are having litter box issues try putting different types of litter in different boxes and see which one they prefer.
Cats typically do not want to eat near where they go to the bathroom. Try moving their food further away from their litter box. You can also try moving their food to where they are going on the floor, this may stop them from going there.
Did you make changes to your house? Felines are very sensitive to change. I have met cats who decided to urinate outside the box because a table was moved or walls are painted. If this is the case I would recommend talking with your vet as this is a sign of anxiety issue and may need medications.
Avoid declawing. Declawing can change the way your cat walks and can cause pain, pain can lead to litter box avoidance. If your cat has already been declawed and is having litter box issues, it may be a good idea to have their paws checked and make sure there isn’t any cause for pain.
Adding another cat in the house or aggression. Sometimes if you have multiple cats in the house one cat can control the litter box and cause the others to become afraid of using that box. Add more litter boxes to allow the more timid cat to have an opportunity to use the box. Also try separating the cats that have problems once or twice a day to allow each cat in the house some times without each other.
More enrichment. Stress and boredom can go hand in hand. As lazy as cats can be they still want things to do. Have toys available. Play with them for 20 mins a day. Give them a window perch with view of a bird feeder so they have something to watch. This can reduce their stress level thus their anxiety level.
If you have tried everything, I recommend contacting your vet and discussing anxiety. They may recommend products like Feliway (this is not an advertisement, but this product is great) or they may recommend medications. If you are not comfortable with medications asking for a referral to a Behaviorist is another great option. It is NOT normal for a cat to urinate outside the litter box and it shouldn’t be something you have to live with, you may have to do a little work, but there are ways that you can improve your quality of life with your feline friend.
Here are some more resources to help with litter box issues: