According to the ASPCA, inappropriate elimination is the most common behavior problem reported by cat parents. Let’s take a blog post to examine a behavior dreaded by many cat owners: urinating in the house.
FIRST THINGS FIRST: Is your cat SPRAYING or URINATING?
Spraying is characterized by the cat spritzing a small amount of urine on vertical surfaces, usually while standing upright. Urinating involves squatting and releasing a large amount of urine on a horizontal surface.
TIME TO VISIT THE VET
Sometimes issues that seem behavioral in pets actually stem from underlying medical issues. If urinating is what your cat is up to, a visit to the vet can rule out a urinary tract infection, urinary crystals or stones, diabetes, kidney failure, or other medical conditions. Since our cats can’t talk, sometimes urinating someplace that grabs your attention is a way that cats try to communicate that something is wrong.
NOT LIKING THE LITTER BOX
Sometimes cats will refuse to urinate in the litter box because they don’t like the type of litter being used, the depth of the litter in the box, the type of box itself, or the placement of the litter box. Also, some cats demand a cleaner litter box than others. One cat may tolerate several days without a scooping, while another cat may refuse to use the litter box if it is not scooped daily. Also, sometimes pet interactions within the home discourage the cat from using the litter box. The number of litter boxes may need to be increased. If a vet visit has ruled out a medical issue, try changing these variables one at a time to see if you can figure out how to make your litter box more appealing to your cat.
Spraying urine on surfaces is a way that cats communicate with one another. It’s sort of like reading email…er…pee-mail. Cats can learn about one another’s status, readiness to mate, the last time they were in the area, when they plan to return to the area, etc. from urine markings. How informative! But still undesirable when it’s happening in your home, of course.
The most notorious spritzers are intact (un-neutered) male cats, since hormones can increase spraying behaviors. Spraying is also more common in multi-cat households.
Cats will often spray when they feel threatened or nervous. Anxiety could be caused by the presence of other cats inside or outside of the home, conflict with other pets in the home, major changes to the home environment, etc.
WHAT CAN YOU DO
If your cat is urinating inappropriately:
- Visit the vet to rule out a medical issue.
- If it is not a medical issue, experiment with the litter box situation. Increase the number of litter boxes. A good general rule is one for each cat in the house, plus one extra. Try scooping daily. Place the litter boxes in low-traffic areas with at least two exits so your cats feel secure using the box and can avoid conflict when doing so.
If your cat is spraying:
- Spay or neuter your cat if you haven’t already done so.
- Use enzymatic cleaners to remove the smell completely so your cat is not inclined to mark the same place again. Do not use an ammonia-based cleaner; this encourages further marking.
- Change the litter box situation (see above).
- Reduce stress. Can you determine any source of conflict that may be stressing your cat? If so, can you remove or reduce the stressor? For example, restricting your cat’s view of the outdoors using blinds may cut down on stress caused by seeing other cats outside. Some cats also respond well to calming pheromone sprays.
- Increase engagement and escape routes within the home. Things like feeder toys can also keep cats engaged while you are away during the day and lower stress levels. Increasing play with your cat while you are home can also help. Providing escape routes and perching areas for cats to avoid other pets in the home can also reduce stress.
- See a vet. If all other options to reduce stress have not helped, your cat may need medication prescribed to lower stress levels.
Cat urination and spraying indoors can be a vexing problem! Remember, your cat is doing this to try to communicate with you and other cats. With some diligence, patience, and careful observations, you can determine what your cat is trying to tell you, and how to help him feel at ease. Good luck!
Note: This blog post is solely informational and is not meant to replace the advice of medical professionals. If your pet is experiencing an unexplained change in behavior, please see your vet!