Why Do Cats Urinate Outside the Box?
You zoom into the bathroom to finalize getting ready for the day and step in a warm, wet spot on the rug. Wiping it with a paper towel you detect a yellow hue, realizing it is not water leftover from this morning’s shower routine but urine! “Why is my cat urinating there?” you wonder aloud with a few variable choice words.
When your cat starts urinating in inappropriate places, it can quickly become frustrating. It is important to realize that your feline friend is communicating that there is an issue that needs to be addressed and the sooner it is dealt with the better.
First, collect some more detailed clues:
Was it just this morning, a few days ago, or, come to think of it, didn’t the same thing happen just a month or two ago?
Details are great! A roughed out map of your house with litter box locations and housesoiling sites would be very useful.
Is your cat urinating small amounts and straining to urinate frequently? Or is there a single large puddle in the bathtub and your cat seems to be going normally besides location? Or are there urine spritzes decorating your walls?
If it is hard to tell, wear gloves and soak some urine up on a white paper towel and note the color. It can range from clear like water to yellow to very dark amber. If the quantity of blood is large enough to be visible, then the urine can be red to brown-red in color.
Have you moved, changed brand of litter, brought a new kitten home, started a new job with different hours, was away on vacation for the weekend? Consider all angles and timing of events. Cats can be very sensitive to changes in their life.
Do you notice an increase or decrease in thirst or appetite? Any vomiting or diarrhea? Showing normal behaviors such as socializing with you, playing, or napping comfortably? Or do they seem to be isolating themselves, hiding, or spending an unusual amount of time in the litter box?
Next, start a dialogue with your veterinarian.
Common Medical Causes
Urinary Tract Infections and/or Bladder Stones
These conditions cause inflammation to the urinary tract system that leads increased frequency and pain with urination. Your cat may feel urgency or associate the pain with the litter box and decide to try going elsewhere. There is an underlying cause that is easily identified through diagnostic testing.
Feline Idiopathic Cystitis
This is an inflammatory condition of the lower urinary tract system that usually results in similar signs of a urinary tract infection but has no identifiable cause. Research is ongoing for this condition and seems to be associated with stress.
Organ or Endocrine Disease
Kidney or liver disease, hyperthyroidism, or diabetes mellitus can cause a cat to drink more and urinate more often.
Arthritis or Neuromuscular Disease
With changes in mobility or pain with mobility, it can be challenging for a cat to use stairs to get to a litter box, climb into a litter box with high sides, or jump into a litter box with an opening on the top.
Cognitive Dysfunction or Senility
As cats age, they can have changes in their mental capabilities similar to people with Alzheimer’s disease. They may simply forget where they are supposed to go.
Common Behavioral or Environmental Causes
Although not pleasing to us, this is a normal behavior that a cat uses to communicate. Unneutered and unspayed felines use this type of communication more often and the more cats in the household the more likely urine marking or spraying will occur.
Social conflicts or aggression between cats or other household members can limit access to the litter box or create a stressful situation when trying to use the box.
Cats are sensitive creatures and a disruption or change in their “normal” can cause stress and anxiety. Was there a change that timed near to the start of urinating outside the box that may be causing stress?
Litter Box Concerns
Cats can be particular when it comes to their restroom. Many factors come into play when creating the purr-fect litter box experience and include the location, litter type, litter box style, cleanliness, and the number of boxes available. Learning their preferences is key to success!
Ok, it’s not always that simple. Sometimes your cat’s new urinating habit can be fixed by correcting one problem or it may be more complex and involve multiple issues listed above! But don’t feel overwhelmed; working with your veterinarian will be the best place to start to bring your cat back to the litter box.