Behavior Problem Tip: Inappropriate Urination (Cats)

There are a variety of medical reasons why a cat may urinate outside of the litter box. If you are having problems with your cat urinating out of the box, first visit your primary care veterinarian to assess your feline friend for any underlying medical causes (such as urinary tract infection, bladder stones, kidney disease, diabetes, or many others).

If your veterinarian suspects the problem is behavioral, here are some strategies to try: 

  •  Increase the number of litter boxes in your home. Research shows that the number of litter boxes in the home should equal the number of cats plus one (e.g. 3 cats = 4 litter boxes).  
  • Consider adding a litter box near the area where the problem occurs.
  • Litter box hygiene is important. Scoop daily at a minimum and do a complete litter change weekly.
  • Use mild dish soap and water to clean litter trays and replace old, stained boxes.
  • Consider a different type of litter. Studies suggest many cats prefer clumping unscented litter.  
  • Clean soiled sites with an enzymatic cleaner.

If these tips don't fix the problem, please contact me to discuss other solutions.

My favorite story about a kitty with a urination problem was a sweet 17 year old girl named Daisy who had only three legs.  She spent most of her time in the teenage daughter’s bedroom and had soaked the carpet with urine. After the owners replaced the wall-to-wall carpet, Daisy continued to urinate in her preferred spot on the carpet. Frustrated, the owners brought Daisy to see me. I diagnosed arthritis, chronic kidney disease (which causes a large amount of urine production) and a urinary tract infection. The owners told me that the litter box Daisy was expected to use was down two flights of stairs, past a combative young male cat, through a small cat door and into the garage.  There was one litter box in the garage which was scooped every three days.  The litter was changed every three months or so, though it was topped up when scooped.

I prescribed antibiotics to cure the urinary tract infection, implemented medical management of her kidney disease, and suggested that Daisy should have a litter box in the daughter’s bedroom. The owners were horrified by the thought of putting a litter box in their daughter’s room. They insisted the smell would be intolerable. I pointed out that the room already smelled like cat urine. Also, old Daisy, with her numerous medical problems, should not be expected to trek down to the garage to use the box. The owners had not realized the hardship that they had inadvertently placed on Daisy and chose to add a litter box to their daughter’s room.

I saw Daisy a year later for her annual exam. She was doing great and had not had a single urinary accident. Most importantly, the owners were no longer resentful of Daisy, and they were enjoying their sweet old girl in her golden years.