By Dr. Christi Hanzel
Over the past couple of years I have had several frustrated clients bring their cats into the clinic because they began using the couch or some other piece of furniture as a litter box. I explain the importance of determining if their cat has an underlying medical condition or if this is a behavioral condition. There are several different diseases that can cause a cat to go to the bathroom outside of the litter box. A few of the more common causes include urinary tract infections, cystitis (inflammation of the bladder) as a result of crystals or stones in the bladder, and kidney disease. With all of these conditions it may cause your cat to have small frequent accidents inside or out of the litter box, blood in the urine (hematuria), or painful for them to urinate. The most important aspect in determining the underlying cause of this ailment is to get a very detailed history of the cat. There have been several instances while talking to an owner that they report that cat starting urinating outside the litter box after they got another pet, or something as simple as moving the litter box to a new location. Next, performing a thorough physical exam, collecting lab work with a urine sample, and sometimes even x-rays help in determining if there inappropriate urination is a medical or behavioral condition. If one of these conditions is diagnosed then proper medical management and a possible change in diet will be done.
If the previous medical conditions have been ruled out then it is most likely your cat’s misuse of the litter box is a behavioral issue. Cats have very unique personalities and sometimes the simplest things (like moving a piece of your furry pet’s favorite furniture) can cause them to be upset and urinate somewhere outside the litter box. Identifying if any changes within the house or a stressful situation that your cat may be experiencing are needed to help try to correct the problem.
Here are a few tips that can help to make sure your cat uses his or her litter box.
1. Always make sure that the litter box is cleaned out; ideally the litter box should be scooped out daily and washed with soap and water weekly.
2. Make sure you have plenty of litter boxes; a good general rule to follow is 1 litter box per cat in the house plus 1 extra (if you have 2 cats then you should have 3 litter boxes). Sometimes it’s the type of litter box that they do not like or the type of litter.
3. If there are multiple cats in the house try to place the litter boxes in different, quiet areas throughout the house. Some cats will become defensive of their litter box and not let the other cats near them.
Once these changes have been made and your cat is still having accidents medication may be needed. In some cases anti-anxiety or stress medications are given to help comfort and calm your cat. There is also an all-natural product called Composure that may help in these situations. This product contains natural ingredients like Tryptophan, Colostrum, and Vitamin B1. It can be given daily in your cat’s water to help relieve their anxieties and prevent them from inappropriate urination. We have had great success with this all-natural product, but only after ruling out a medical condition.
Cats urinating outside of the litter box can be a very frustrating problem for owners, and often times plays a big role in cats getting turned over to the shelters. Please help prevent this from happening to your cat if you’re having this issue with your cat please call us and set up an appointment today!