Cat Urination Problems


Urine marking outside of the litter box, accompanied in either a crouching or standing position, occurs in sexually intact or neutered male or female cats. Urine marking in the standing position is called spraying. It is performed by males and by females.


Reasons for Elimination


Inappropriate elimination should not be viewed as intentional acts of malice or revenge. Cats that have been neutered at the appropriate age and that have never roamed outdoors or even seen another cat may begin to eliminate outside the litter box. Neutering is unlikely to prevent urine marking, given the right set of circumstances. A sexually intact cat that has begun to urinate inappropriately, however, should be neutered without delay. The hormonal influences related to reproduction may motivate urine marking.


A cat's failure to urinate appropriately in the litter box may have several causes. A dirty litter box may cause a cat to avoid the box. One cat may faithfully use a box that is only cleaned once or twice a week, while another cat may avoid a box that has been used just once. Urine contains odors that identify the individual and mark a cat's territory. The location of food, water and safe places to rest are linked to a cat's sense of security within its territory. If these are disturbed or if a sensitive cat is disturbed for any reason, it may reaffirm its territorial claim and relieve anxiety by urine marking. Litter training is further complicated in households with more than one cat. An easily offended cat may avoid a box that has been used by a housemate, while another may be attracted to void in the box to cover the odors left by others.


Territorial conflict between cats in multi-cat households may cause problems relating to the use of the litter box. One cat may wait near the litter box to ambush another cat when it attempts to use the box. An increased level of anxiety could lead to inappropriate elimination. The longer the urine marking is allowed to continue, the more enduring the pattern may become and more difficult it may be to resolve. This behavior is self-reinforcing, increasing the likelihood that the cat will do it again. Inappropriate urination may continue because of environmental factors that have little or nothing to do with the initial cause, which may never be determined.


A cat can develop certain target preferences such as carpeting, and eventually mark all those surfaces throughout your home. Certain sounds or even certain times of the day may trigger marking. The problem can rapidly become complex. Regardless of the initial trigger, inappropriate elimination may reappear in times of stress because the act immediately relieves anxiety.


Do not scold or startle a cat in the vicinity of its litter box. A negative experience associated with the litter box could result in avoidance.


Provide one litter box for every cat in your household. Choose a variety of locations in quiet corners of your home to see which box attracts the most use. A cat that is harassed by others, even in play, should have an alternative box.


See your veterinarian on a regular basis so that physical problems can be detected early. Consult your veterinarian early when you detect a problem.


Long-haired cats, such as Persians, or Himalayans, are more easily soiled by urine or stool around the anus, tail, thighs, and paws. Segments of stool may adhere to their long hair and later fall off or be removed by the cat during grooming. Cats remove adhered feces by pulling out the soiled hair or by rubbing against the floor. Punishing cats for fecal soiling is not effective and only confuses your pet and makes it more anxious. Instead, a professional groomer or veterinary technician can carefully trim the long hair beneath the tail, around the anus and genitals, and at the back of the thighs. This makes maintenance grooming much easier.


Tips in Preventing Elimination


Do not scold or startle a cat in the vicinity of its litter box. A negative experience associated with the litter box could result in avoidance.


Provide one litter box for every cat in your household. Choose a variety of locations in quiet corners of your home to see which box attracts the most use. A cat that is harassed by others, even in play, should have an alternative box.


See your veterinarian on a regular basis so that physical problems can be detected early. Consult your veterinarian early when you detect a problem.


Long-haired cats, such as Persians, or Himalayans, are more easily soiled by urine or stool around the anus, tail, thighs, and paws. Segments of stool may adhere to their long hair and later fall off or be removed by the cat during grooming. Cats remove adhered feces by pulling out the soiled hair or by rubbing against the floor. Punishing cats for fecal soiling is not effective and only confuses your pet and makes it more anxious. Instead, a professional groomer or veterinary technician can carefully trim the long hair beneath the tail, around the anus and genitals, and at the back of the thighs. This makes maintenance grooming much easier.


Cats have a natural instinct to dig in soil or sand for voiding. The litter box is an artificial invention, and it is surprising that more cats do not eliminate in potted plants. To discourage your cat from eliminating inappropriately in your houseplant pots, devise ways to prevent access. Suspend plants or place them on an elevated surface or in a room that is off limits to your cat. If it is inconvenient to isolate the plant, cover the soil with wire mesh or aluminum foil. Leave this cover in place as long as your cat shows any interest in returning there. Above all, keep the litter box especially clean so your cat has no reason to avoid it.

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