Did you know that inappropriate urination is one of the leading reasons why owners leave their cats at shelters?
Sometimes the symptoms happen gradually, and sometimes all at once. Maybe fluffy was peeing in the bathtub for a while, and that was tolerable, but now she’s started peeing in the clothes hamper, and your spouse is ready to kill both of you. Other times, the cat is meowing loudly inside the litter box, and then he goes and squats in a corner instead. No matter how it presents, it is important to recognize this could be more than your cat just trying to spite you. In fact, he or she may need your help!
Before we go any further: If you have a male cat that is straining to urinate, and is producing little to nothing, take him to the vet immediately. He could have a urinary blockage, which can be fatal if not rapidly treated in male cats.
Behavioral and medical problems can cause your cat to avoid his litter box. These causes are often closely related. Behavioral stress can lead to a medical condition known as FIC (feline idiopathic cystitis) and sometimes called FLUTD (feline lower urinary tract disease). The exact pathway of this disease is unknown, but it is believed that the behavioral stimuli cause inflammation of the lower urinary tract, leading to the clinical signs that you are seeing at home.
Medical causes also include serious organ or metabolic diseases such as diabetes, kidney disease, or hyperthyroidism, which can cause cats to drink and urinate excessively. Less serious causes include a urinary tract infection or bladder stones/ urinary crystals, which can be very irritating to the inner lining of the bladder and tract. These medical conditions can be diagnosed easily by your veterinarian through a urine analysis, some bloodwork, and imaging to look at the bladder.
Once you’ve visited your veterinarian and your pet has the “all clear,” here are some things you can do at home to help:
- Make sure you have the right number of litter boxes
The “magic number” of litter boxes given by veterinary behaviorists is “N+1,” where N equals the number of cats in the household. For example, if I have one cat, I need two litter boxes. If I have two cats, I need three litter boxes (and so on). It is also important to mention that, regardless of the number of cats in the household, you should at least have 1 box on every floor of your house. These boxes should be easily accessible and meet the criteria listed below. A litter box like this is simple, easy to use and keep clean, and preferred by most cats.
- Make sure you’re using the right type of litter boxes and cat litter
Cats prefer clumping clay litter, and tend to use it more readily. It is recommended that you scoop the litter box once daily. If your cat has clumping litter and is not using it, I recommend using Dr. Elsie’s Cat Attract Litter, which worked miracles for a cat that I had with FLUTD. Cats prefer large boxes that are easily accessed and do not have a lid, which may trap odors inside the box. A kiddie pool would be the perfect box, but realistically this isn’t possible for most pet owners. Instead, look for a big, wide, simple box. Fill it with at least 2 inches deep of cat litter, and place it in ideal locations. Viola! You may be surprised at what a difference this makes.
- Provide environmental enrichment
Boredom has been associated with FLUTD/FIC. Make sure your cat has plenty of things to occupy his highly intelligent mind. Play with him a couple of times a day, get him a cat tree, let him look out of some windows or walk him outside on a leash. This will lower his stress, which can reduce the signs and reoccurrence of FIC.
- Use pheromone diffusers
This is especially helpful when aggression between multiple cats may be playing a role. There are several pheromone diffusers, sprays, and collars that can help cats relax. My preferred brand is Feliway. Use them in rooms where the accidents usually happen, or in areas where there is a litter box.
- Change your pet’s diet
Most vets will recommend this the first time they see your cat for urinary tract disease, regardless of the cause. Some prescription diets are specially formulated to dissolve stones. My favorite diet for FLUTD is C/D Multi-care Stress, made by Hill’s science diet. However, if a prescription diet is out of your budget, try an over-the-counter bag of food for urinary health. Purina Pro Plan makes a “Urinary Tract Health Formula” that you can order online or at Petco.
If you do those steps and your cat is still having accidents, talk to your vet or a veterinary behaviorist to discuss other treatment options and to make sure a health problem was not missed!
Questions for Readers:
Has your pet ever had this problem? What worked for him or her?
If you try these tips, please comment below on what worked (or didn’t)!
Resources & References:
- American Association of Feline Practitioners
- VCA Hospitals
- Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine
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