Feline Inappropriate Urination
Inappropriate urination or house soiling is one of the most common behavioral problems of cats seen in veterinary medicine. Many cats are given away or even euthanized because of the problem. House soiling can be caused by medical or behavioral problems or a combination of both.
Is a medical problem causing my cat to urinate outside of the litter box? Inappropriate urination can be a sign that your cat has a medical problem. Other signs may include straining to urinate, licking the genital area, and blood in the urine. Specific causes include urinary tract infection, bladder stones, bladder tumors, microscopic crystals in the urine, and even psychological stress causing bladder inflammation. Treatment is geared towards reducing inflammation in the bladder with increased water intake, antibiotics if an infectious agent is suspected, anti-inflammatory medication, diet changes if crystals are found in the urine and possible surgery if bladder stones are present.
Behavioral causes for inappropriate urination can be more difficult to treat. Territorial anxiety and litter box aversion are two common behavioral problems associated with house soiling. Urination and defecation can be used as a means of communication between cats. When a cat marks an area it tells other cats that territory has been claimed. Territorial anxiety can be brought on by the presence of another cat, the cat not being neutered, prolonged absence of the owner, stray cats coming near the house (window or doors), and fighting among other cats in the household. Clinical signs of territorial anxiety includes: spraying up on surfaces, urinating sometimes in the box and sometimes elsewhere, urinating by windows or doors, urinating on beds or laundry defecating in box but urinating elsewhere, and a recent move to a new househole or new person or animal in home. Specific behavioral modifications can be recommended if the specific stressor can be identified. However, many times this can be difficult and behavioral modification medication must be employed. Other treatments include odor elimination with proper cleaning products, and feline pheromone sprays. A feline pheromone spray is a concentrated spray that can have a calming effect on the cat. Proper use of these sprays includes spraying urine marked areas twice a day for at least one month.
Litter box aversion can lead to house soiling. Signs include both urination and defecation out of the box, two or more cats using the same box, the box is in a high traffic area of the house, box is not cleaned frequently, new brand of litter recently introduced, or a dog bothering the cat while in the litter box. If litter box aversion is suspected additional litter boxes should be placed in the house in alternate areas. We recommend one litter box plus one for each cat in the household whenever possible. Different types of litters should be tried and if the box is covered, the cover should be removed. Food should always be placed in an area separate to the litter box as cats do not like to eat where they eliminate. Litter box “buffets” can be employed with the guidance of the veterinarian. The buffet involves offering multiple types of litter in different boxes within a confined space for a period of time. Whatever the cause of inappropriate urination, the sooner the problem is addressed the more likely it can be solved. With the proper history and laboratory tests you and your veterinarian can solve this problem.