Urinating in odd places can be the result of either a behavior problem or a medical problem and sometimes the difference is not always clear. Cats often urinate in unusual places to get their owner's attention when they are feeling unwell. Further, cats often urinate in unusual places in an effort to reassert their claim to territory, a need which can arise from psychological stress which can then easily lead to a diseased state. Other cats will display this behavior for purely behavioral motivations without illness. And still others have simple litter box aversion.'
There are many causes for this behavior, including psychological stress. It may be hard to determine exactly why a cat is urinating outside of the litter box and it is important to carefully observe all signs associated with this behavior. First, though, it's important to have your veterinarian evaluate your cat to rule out any medical issues, such as inflammation of the bladder, before undertaking a long term behavioral approach.
Some cats who are not using the litter box do so because they are marking their territory. This can occur in either male or female cats. It is more common in cats in multi-cat households, especially if there are five or more cats, and in unneutered cats. It can also occur when an inside cat is frequently bothered by the appearances of an outside cat at the windows. In this case, limiting access to views of that other cat can help. Neutering cats can also help a great deal.
Health problems can also cause litter box problems, even if a cat doesn't necessarily appear sick. For this reason, it is important to check with your veterinarian first. Some medical problems that can result in this behavior include painful urination or bowel movements due to bladder infections or intestinal disorders. Because of the discomfort associated with eliminating, your cat may avoid the litter box and begin to seek other places, hoping to find a location where it does not hurt. Only a trip to the veterinarian for a thorough physical examination - which may include a urinalysis - can rule out a medical problem.
Animals also develop preferences about where they like to eliminate. These preferences may be established early in life, but they may also change overnight for reasons that we do not always understand. If your cat often reaches out and scratches the carpet after using the box, he may come to prefer the carpet over the litter box. Many cats seem to develop a preference for soft surfaces, such as piles of clothes or the bed, while others may prefer slick surfaces such as the bathtub or the kitchen sink. Cats with an outdoor history may prefer dirt or grass.
To resolve a surface preference problem, the litter box needs to be made more like the textures your cat prefers for elimination. Likewise, the inappropriate places where your cat is soiling need to be made less attractive. For example, for a soft-surface preference, try the fine-grained, clumping litters. If your cat has been using the bathtub, provide a slick surface in the litter box by placing very little, if any, litter in the box. If your cat has been outside, try generic potting soil in his litter box.
If you can discover the cause, then the remedy can be fairly simple. However, much of the time the cause remains a mystery, known only to the feline mind. If nothing described above solves the problem, consider the following options:
Thoroughly clean the spots that have been soiled with an enzyme cleaner.
If necessary, confine your cat while retraining him to use the box.
Place food and/or water bowls at the spot previously soiled.
Cover the spot with plastic or foil to make it unattractive for your cat to walk on.
Provide multiple boxes in multiple locations in multi-cat households. One box per cat is best, but usually you can get by with two for one. However, you may need more than one even for one cat.
If you think your cat is marking or spraying because he sees another cat outside, try to block his view with blinds or drapes.
Some cats will urinate or defecate on tile or in the bathtub. These cats may prefer no litter in the box. Try using newspaper on the bottom of the box, or tilt the box using a pad or thin piece of wood. Put some litter in the low end. Your cat will use the end without litter and the urine will run down into the litter to be absorbed.
Discuss anti-anxiety medication options with your vet. Any behavior altering medication should be combined with a behavior modification program.
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