Is your cat peeing outside the box?

I often feel the leading cause of death for a cat is peeing outside of the litter box. No one can tolerate the damage and smell for long, and sooner or later the culprit is put outside to fend for him or herself or lands in the shelter. Fortunately for everyone, most of my clients bring their cats in before taking these steps. When kitties are young, they naturally dig and urinate in a litter box. Kittens don’t need to be trained to dig in soft scoopable litter. When this behavior turns to your carpet, laundry hamper, or bed, most folks feel the cat is seeking some revenge on them. Not true. A cat peeing outside of the litter box has good logic behind her behavior, even if it’s hard for us to understand.

Many diseases like kidney disease or diabetes can make cats drink and urinate more, while cystitis or other bladder disorders are so painful a cat must urgently go wherever they are. When it burns to pee in the box, the cat associates pain with the box and will seek safer places, like your bed, to try to pee without pain. No revenge, just kitty confusion.

Your first step should be a physical exam for your cat and to run blood work and a urinalysis. Occasionally, we need to get x-rays or an ultrasound to look deeper for answers. Most often, the problem can be solved here, but when the problem continues, we start looking for behavioral problems.

My cat Scout has been known to get stressed out by a new cat in the house, the new baby, or currently, construction in the house, and out of stress she will pee on our new carpet! Frustrating as it is, I understand that I need to arrange a safe hiding place for her during these times of stress. In her case, a little temporary Prozac usually does the trick. Other cats may need a larger, cleaner litter box or more of them in the house. Scented litters can really put cats off the box as well. Arthritic old cats need a low, easy-to-walk-into box or it becomes easier to pee or poop beside it. If you have a covered box, take the lid off and see if it’s less dark and crowded for her.

Cats need a safe, clean, pain-free area to pee. Hey, don’t we all?