Harry and William here and we would like to discuss a feline issue that can often be very frustrating for our two-legged family members, inappropriate urination. We meet many cats and their frustrated owners here at Stow Kent Animal Hospital when our feline friends start using the bathroom in places other than in the litterbox. This can be a very common issue amongst us cats; however there are steps that our human family members can take to help us make the right bathroom choices. Anytime that you notice your cat going to the bathroom in strange locations the first step you want to take is to have them seen by their veterinarian to rule out an underlying medical issue causing the inappropriate urination. There are many medical reasons that could cause a cat to pee out of the box such as bladder stones, urinary tract infections or urinary cystitis. These issues can be easily treated by your veterinarian and could be the solution to their urinary indiscretion. Once all medical reasons have been ruled out as the underlying cause of the inappropriate urination then it is usually attributed to a behavior problem. Learning that it is a behavioral problem can be very disappointing and frustrating for cat owners and since we can’t tell you exactly why we feel your favorite rug is the place to use the restroom it is frustrating for us as well. To help our human friends we would like to communicate with you some of the things you can try to help us make the correct bathroom choices.
1) Location of our bathroom
- We want to feel safe and secure while we are using the restroom so location of our litterbox is very important. One way to do this is to make sure our litterbox is placed in a quiet area of the house where there is less traffic. Make sure that you do not place the litterbox next to anything that sounds scary to us such as the washing machine, furnace, dryer, or any other noisy appliance. If these appliances turn on while we are going to the bathroom it could scare us into not wanting to return to that spot and preferring to use your closet or another inappropriate location.
2) Number of litterboxes
- We like choices so having more than one litterbox is an important factor as well. This is especially true in multiple cat households. An easy rule of thumb to follow is having one extra litterbox for the number of cats in your home, which means if you have 3 cats in your house you should have 4 litterboxes. You also want to spread these litterboxes out throughout your home because many cats do not like to go to the bathroom even near another kitty’s box. Even if you have multiple litterboxes if you place them all together in one location it is the same to us as having one giant litterbox.
- If you have multiple levels place a litterbox on each level of the house. Sometimes when we really have to go we do not want to have to go all the way down to the basement to find a box. This can be especially true in older kitties that may have arthritis and are too painful to go up and down stairs multiple times a day.
3) Type and Depth of litter
- There are many varieties of litter available out there but not every cat likes the same type of litter. Try and use a litter that does not have a strong deodorizer in it because although it smells fresh to you it can be too strong and harsh for our little noses. Try changing the type of litter that you use and you may find one that we like so much we never even think about going anywhere else. One also wants to be cognizant of the depth of the litter in the box. Some cats are deep diggers and some of very shallow diggers. A good way to find out which your cat prefers is to offer one that is shallow and one deep and see which box your cat prefers to use and go from there. It is also important to use the same litter consistently. Some pets begin to urinate out of the box when their owners buy a different litter, so it is important to monitor for any changes in litter box habits when transitioning to a new litter.
4) Type of litterbox
- Most of us do not like to use covered litterboxes. It’s much like our human counterparts disliking using an outhouse. It is best to uncover these covered litterboxes that way we feel like we have a nice open air bathroom. The height of the litter pan is also important; this is especially true for our older feline friends. Sometimes we are painful and arthritic and it is too hard to jump in and out of a deep box every time we have to use the bathroom.
5) Cleanliness of our bathroom
- We like a nice clean place to do our business so helping us keep it clean by scooping once or twice a day can help encourage us to be happy to use our nice clean space.
6) Stress, Anxiety and Change
- We are creatures of habit and if we are unhappy, move, introduce new pets into the household all of these stressful things could lead to inappropriate urination. If any of these life changes occur then we may need to take time to adapt. Sometimes we may even need anxiety medications or pheromone therapy (Feliway spray and diffusers) to help us deal with this anxiety. Sometimes other cats in the household guard the box (it could be very subtle) and therefore we are not allowed a turn to use the box and we have to go somewhere.
Like it was stressed earlier if your pet is having urinary problems it is very important to have them seen by a Veterinarian. Some urinary problems especially in males can be very serious and life threatening. If you are struggling with behavior problems contact your Veterinarian for support and guidance and try to make some of the above changes in your household.
-Harry & William
Stow Kent Animal Hospital
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