Urinary problems in cats can lead to frustration among owners as the cat begins to use inappropriate places as a toilet. Sadly, this is also the reason many cats are relinquished to shelters or euthanised. Your veterinary team understands this frustration. There are steps that you can take to bring harmony back to the home you share with your cat.

The first step is to bring your cat to your local veterinarian. Your veterinarian can help you determine whether the  urinary problem has a medical reason or a behavioral reason. The first thing your veterinarian will do is determine if there is a medical reason. This can involve collecting urine for a urinalysis and culture. It can also involve drawing blood for a complete blood count (CBC) and biochemistry profile. In some cases your veterinarian may want to take radiographs or ultrasounds of the bladder and kidneys.

Some medical reasons that can cause your cat to urinate outside of their box are:

  • Urinary Tract Infection
  • Crystalluria (crystals in the urine)
  • Urolithiasis (bladder stones)
  • Diabetes Mellitus (inability to control blood sugar levels)
  • Kidney disease (kidney is unable to create urine properly)
  • Hyperthyroidism (increased thyroid hormone levels)

Once your veterinarian has diagnosed a medical condition as the culprit, they can help you treat the condition and make changes to eliminate or reduce the symptoms that are causing the inappropriate urination.

If there isn’t any indication that a medical condition is causing your cat to use your bed as a toilet, then your veterinary team will work with you to determine if there is a behavioral reason behind your cat’s urinary problem. Three main behavioral reasons are marking, anxiety or aversion of the litter box.

Marking behavior can be tricky. Marking is a common hormonal behavior done by intact cats and is less likely done by cats that are neutered or spayed. Cats mark while standing with their posterior to the marked object and tail raised. Some “fixed” cats may mark territorially if there are outdoor cats loitering around your house or if there is anxiety in a multiple cat household. Your veterinarian team can help you make changes to help with this behavior.

Inappropriate toileting due to anxiety can be a trickier behavior to rectify. It is very common in multiple cat households or in a household where a new cat, dog or human baby has been introduced to the current cat’s abode. Cats do not take lightly to change. They like consistency. If you are changing your furniture around, redecorating or having visitors stay over, your cat may become anxious and start urinating outside of its litterbox. Your veterinary team can give you advice on helping your cat adjust to the changes and may recommend pheromone diffusers or medication to help your cat be more comfortable.

Last but not least, your cat may not like its litterbox. It can be because of a bad experience, your cat becoming older and less mobile or a change to the litter or the box itself. There are a few things to consider when creating a toilet space for your kitty:

Size: Your kitty should have enough space to circle, dig, urinate/defecate and cover up without touching the sides of the box. Those under-bed storage containers work great as a litterbox!
Cover: Generally cats prefer an uncovered box because covered boxes trap smells, however there are the few that do like them. Offer both and let your cat decide.
Liners: Cats generally don’t like the liners, especially cats with intact claws because their claws can get stuck in them.
Litter type: Unscented is best. Many cats may find the scented litter too strong. Clay litter is usually most desirable whether it be clumping or non-clumping.
Number of boxes: The rule is to have one box for every cat plus one. 2 cats = 3 boxes.
Location: Its best to have one box on every level of your house. Especially for those older cats that have more trouble with the stairs. Keep the box away from noisy, high traffic areas as well as noisy appliances like the furnace and laundry machines. Make sure the litterbox isn’t too close to the food dishes or bed. No one likes to urinate where they eat or sleep.
Cleaning: It is best to clean the litterbox every day. If possible, fully cleaning the litterbox with mild soap and water once a week. Don’t use strong detergents as this may cause aversion to the litterbox because of the strong smell.

Always remember that there is usually a good reason why your kitty may not be using their litterbox. Don’t become frustrated. Your veterinary team will help to determine the cause and best course of treatment of the urinary problem your cat ia experiencing.