While I am certainly no animal behaviorist I am a life long cat owner. Does that make me an expert, no. Do I believe myself to be an expert, certainly not, but it does mean that I have been tried and tested on most matters cat. I also like to think of myself as a responsible cat owner. The first thing I do when I notice an issue is admit that the root of the problem probably lies with me and I pull out my animal behaviorist literature and start testing and trying until the issue is resolved. I am a firm believer that a pet is for life unless I find myself in some sort of horrible circumstance. In that case, if no friends and family will babysit my fur baby I would find that fur baby a home myself, but this post isn’t about that. This is about peeing, so lets get to it.
Litter Box Woes:
Is the cat box too dirty/too small/in the wrong place?
They say have one litter box for each cat. In my house, we have two and we empty them twice a day. My mother always said to me growing up, ‘Would you pee in it?’ Cats love cleanliness, so be sure their toilet is clean! Make sure the box isn’t too small and it is also important that the box isn’t near their food/water. Litter box placement should be about convenience and security for the CAT. It shouldn’t be in an area that makes kitty anxious or feel trapped.
Have you changed kitty’s litter?
If you have, they might not like the change. It would be best to go back to what you were using before.
Do you use a covered box or a liner?
Our cats will simply not use the litter box if there is a cover on it. It wasn’t always like this, but one day that was just how it was, so goodbye cover! I will just simply say many cats don’t like liners for many reasons I won’t write. Also make sure you put enough sand in the box!
Are you using something too strong to clean the box with?
Cats have very sensitive noses and their sense of smell is much stronger than that of a human. Your cleaning product may be leaving a strong smell on the box. We use diluted dish soap to clean our box.
Is kitty sick?
Have they been acting strangely and how are their eating/drinking habits? If you kitty is sick it might be causing them to pee where they shouldn’t. I know this is common when kitty has a bladder infection. If you think your cat might be sick take them to the vet.
Is your cat in heat or sexually mature?
Unfortunately, our Chelsea went into heat on the early side, so we hadn’t gotten her spayed and my how unfortunate that was. We had to endure a week of no sleep, her bugging the crap out of our neutered male Hemingway and her peeing on EVERYTHING! She peed on the bathmat, the bed, the laundry and she even jumped into my purse one night and peed there (we didn’t notice this until we arrived at the hospital for an ultrasound smelling like cat pee)! Get your cats spayed/neutered by 6 months and if you forget and find your cat in heat or mature call the vet and schedule the surgery. Since it isn’t recommended to spay/neuter while a cat is in heat (female) I wish you good luck while you wait it out.
Have you added a new family member?
Be it fur or human both can be stressful for cats. When it comes to introducing a new fur baby check this link out for the best way to go about introducing a new cat into the house. I will go over how to stop inappropriate urination when a new baby is added to the family in another post later. For now, my best advice is to go slowly. Let your cat smell something of the baby’s first. Then let kitty approach your new baby and make sure you are supervising! You don’t know how your cat will react and always remember that a cat is an animal not a human. It might also be worth getting your kitty ready for baby by letting them smell and explore the new baby items or creams. I have even heard of some people playing a baby’s cry before the baby comes. The most difficult thing when bringing home a new family member (fur or human) is that kitty will get less attention from you, so be sure to play with your cat and spend time with them when you can. Maintaining their schedule is important too if you are able. The less stress the better.
Have there been any changes in the house that might be causing kitty to feel stressed?
This could be as simple as rearranging the furniture or not so simple such as a divorce. If you are feeling stressed your cat might also be feeling stressed. It is important not to make any major changes in their routine. Take some time to relax with your cat by playing with them and giving them attention. Also, I hate to say it, but it does happen; make sure no one is treating kitty badly when you are not around.
Kids wanting to be with kitty too much?
Being grabbed at can stress kitty out. Cats usually don’t want to be told what to do. When I was a child we were not allowed to touch the cats unless they came to us. Give your cat a high perch, so they have a child-free space and be sure to teach your kids why it isn’t good to grab or force an animal.
Another cat on the block?
Sometimes there might be another cat or animal hanging around outside of the house that is making kitty feel the need to mark its territory. I have never had to deal with this situation, so I don’t have any advice from experience. I will let you enlist the help of an expert when it comes to this one.
A Word on Discipline
Cats are not humans and if you come downstairs in the morning and see a big wet spot on the rug grabbing your cat and rubbing their nose in it does nothing. Cats and dogs need to be taught or shown something in the moment. You nee to catch them in the act, but you shouldn’t be violent or rough (aka no hitting). So, if I see Hemingway squatting on a blanket I tell him no, pick him up and bring him to his box. Then I think about why he was doing that in the first place and I consult the list above.
If you punish a cat for peeing in a location you object to the cat might become afraid of you and think they are being punished for peeing even though you are trying to tell the cat that their location for elimination is not a good one. You have to remember, cats aren’t misbehaving if they are peeing outside of their litter box. They simply feel like they can’t use it and your job is to figure out why.
Will it happen again?
Unfortunately, once a cat starts peeing in a place they will likely pee in it again unless it has been immaculately cleaned and the underlying issue fixed. My advice is clean the mess as soon as you can and clean it like you mean it. When Chelsea was in heat I spent the better part of every day washing pee out of things, like our bed. I sprayed the mattress with a ton of vinegar (I don’t remember if I used soap first), pressed to soak some of the vinegar out, sprinkled with baking soda, opened the window and let it sit for 4+ hours. Then I vacuumed it off and, presto, stains and smell gone forever. It took a long time, but it worked. She never peed there again while in heat.
Sometimes the issue takes longer to resolve leaving you with reoccurring peeing, so there may be times where you need to keep the object away from the cat. We have a few baby items which Chelsea will ALWAYS pee on and so we need to keep them shut away at night.
Over time we have learned that Hemingway only likes certain types of litter, an open cat box and lots of sand. Chelsea, on the other hand, needs an immaculate box and had some issues when our daughter was born. It isn’t always down to the cats though. One morning I woke to POOP on the floor. I could NOT figure out why it had happened, so bizarre, poop?!?! As it turned out the litter box was inaccessible over night. Fortunately, my better half opened the door to where is was in the morning.
If you have issues with your cat peeing outside of his/her box keep working with them and don’t give up. Eventually, you will figure out what is going on and if you really can’t do it on your own call an animal behaviorist before the shelter. Cats with urination problems are often deemed un-adoptable and are put down. I recommend keeping a savings fund of 300 for each cat. This can be used if you need a behaviorist, if kitty does pee on the rug/couch, or if kitty gets sick.
Here are some more tips if you are struggling with this problem.
If it happens, in our experience, any episode of house soiling is generally a single occurrence, but there have been a few times where it has lasted longer. Do I ever think our lives will be completely free of cleaning up pee where it shouldn’t be? No, I don’t, but I do know we have been fortunate enough not to have any peeing on the couch or rugs and I hope it stays that way.