Is your cat a whiz at missing the litter box? 

Living with a house-soiling cat can test your patience, and make you feel as if your cat has a personal grudge or vendetta. But, if your cat is failing to hit the mark with their urinary habits, they may have a justifiable cause, such as a health condition, stress, or the off-brand litter you purchased last week. Help your cat get back to appropriate self-expression by investigating their environment and behavior for the reason for their out-of-character—and out-of-the-box—behavior.

Has your cat visited the veterinarian?

When your previously tidy cat starts tagging the walls and carpet with their liquid signature, a veterinary examination is the first step toward resolution. Medical conditions that alter your cat’s urination or defecation habits, including those that cause pain, or increased frequency or urgency, can make them unable or unwilling to use the litter box. Such conditions may include:

  • Urinary tract infections
  • Feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD)
  • Kidney, bladder, or urethral stones
  • Diabetes
  • Arthritis 

If your cat is vocalizing while urinating, urinating in small amounts, straining and unable to urinate, has a tense abdomen, or producing bloody or malodorous urine, schedule an appointment at Providence Vet. They may be experiencing a urethral blockage, which is life-threatening, and requires emergency treatment.

Have you remodeled your cat’s litter box?

Cats are highly particular about their litter box design and routine. If you’ve recently changed your cat’s box or litter, that may be the culprit for your cat’s urinary crimes. The most common variables include:

  • Cleanliness — If your cat is perching on the edge of the litter box or eliminating right outside, their box may not be clean enough. Scoop litter boxes once or twice daily to remove solid wastes, and completely clean the box and change the litter weekly. 
  • Substrate — Sudden litter changes may not be appreciated. If you must change, do so gradually, and keep a second box with old litter available during the transition. Adult cats generally prefer unscented, fine, clumping litter.
  • Box size — Many litter boxes are too small. They should be roughly one and a half times your cat’s length. Senior cats need a low-sided box that is easier for them to get in and out.
  • Box location — Cats appreciate private, quiet locations. Compare the location of the litter box and the area they are urinating. Is there a difference?
  • Availability — Always provide one litter box per cat, plus one box, spaced out throughout your home, to prevent bullying and competition between cats.

Does your cat’s house soiling follow a pattern?

Is your cat repeatedly soiling in the same location, or on the same type of item (e.g., clothing)? They may have developed a preference for the way the surface feels under their feet. Once established, this habit can be difficult to break, making immediately addressing inappropriate urination essential.

Clean the area thoroughly, remove any targeted items, and then change the area’s purpose. For example, start using the area for feeding or playtime, which will discourage your cat from continuing to eliminate in the area. You can also restrict their access with a closed door or baby gate, or temporarily relocate the litter box to their preferred location. Once your cat returns, you should gradually move their box back to its original site. 

Is your cat being bullied?

Multi-cat homes may have a dominant cat who guards valuable resources from lower-ranking cats. Submissive cats will then seek another location to eliminate, rather than face a bully cat guarding the litter box. Multiple litter boxes throughout your home will ensure each cat has somewhere to go, and reduce their stress. 

Is your cat stressed, frustrated, or confused?

Cats may urinate inappropriately because of emotional conflict, although this usually is performed as marking (i.e., spraying) behavior rather than bladder emptying. A cat marks a surface by depositing small amounts of urine while standing, rather than one long void while squatting. If you can’t catch your cat in the act, you can differentiate marking from urinating by asking:

  • Is it a vertical surface? — Most cats mark on upright surfaces or objects.
  • Is it near a window or door? — Cats may be upset about something, such as a strange cat, outside.
  • Is the object new? — Cats may be concerned about strange smells, such as new furniture or flooring, and decide to mark the object with their own familiar scent.
  • Has my cat’s schedule changed? — Your cat may be expressing frustration over a sudden shift in their routine (e.g., a new diet, being confined more, or a playmate’s or owner’s absence).

To stop your cat’s marking behavior, clean all soiled areas with an enzymatic cleaner, restrict access, and ensure their exercise and social needs are met. Pheromone diffusers such as Feliway can help calm conflicted cats. 

You’ll notice this blog does not ask, “Is your cat seeking revenge?” That’s because no matter how cunning they seem, cats are incapable of vindictiveness and plots against humanity. Instead, your cat’s inappropriate urination is likely an attempt—albeit an effective attempt—to let you know something’s not right with their physical or emotional health.

If your cat is urinating outside the litter box, let’s work together to find the cause—schedule an appointment at Providence Vet as soon as possible.