Dear Dr. Randy,
My cat is peeing in the house, not in her litter box. My friend says they do that when they are mad. Any thoughts? How can I get her to stop?
— James, Oro Valley
Unfortunately, this is a common but multi-faceted and frustrating problem for veterinarians and cat owners alike.
Cats urinate outside of the litter box for a multitude of reasons. Medical problems can include urinary tract crystals, inflammation or infection, diabetes, kidney disease, thyroid disease, and back or joint pain, to name a few.
Some cats will urinate on carpets, laundry and bedding when they find the cleanliness, placement, type and size of their litter boxes to be unsatisfactory. Sometimes a minor change in litter type or brand will meet with feline disapproval.
Once medical and litter box specific issues have been investigated, we look to behavioral possibilities, such as anxiety, territorial marking, inter-cat aggression and, of course, the frustrated-my-family-left-town-so-I-must-soil-the-heirloom-quilt scenario.
For the best long-term outcome, have your cat examined as soon as possible. These problems are much more difficult to resolve when owners wait for weeks, months and even years. Yikes!
Start by having your veterinarian examine your cat to help uncover potential medical problems, but don’t be surprised if he or she advises urine testing, a blood profile and even X-rays. Your veterinarian can also give you guidelines on litter box placement, type, number and deodorizing strategies, as well as tips on helping to retrain the wayward cat. In some difficult situations of prolonged or behaviorally based urination issues, an animal behavioralist and behavioral modification medications can be utilized.
To help prevent urinary problems, be sure to provide a reasonable number of litter boxes based upon your total number of cats. Scoop these boxes at least once daily, help your cat maintain a healthy weight, feed a good quality diet with some canned or moistened food (yes, canned food), and provide sources of fresh and filtered water. We swear by the Drink-Well bowls.
P.A.W.S. Integrative Veterinary Center is located at 300 E. River Road in Tucson. Randy Aronson VMD, CCRT, CVA, is co-owner. His radio program, Radio Pet Vet, airs 8-10 a.m. each Saturday on KQTH 104.1 FM. Dr. Aronson can be reached by calling 888-7297 or by visiting www.pawstucson.com.