Inappropriate house-soiling (or peeing or pooping in the wrong place) is the number one cause of re-homing and euthanasia in cats. Yes, we know, it is incredibly frustrating.
However, it is important to remember that your feline friend is not exhibiting this behaviour intentionally. Rather it is their cry for help and thus it is so important to understand the underlying causes in order to help rebuild the special bond between you and your beloved cat.
Why are they doing it?
When a cat is peeing in the wrong place (on the carpet, the sofa or the bed! for example), there are, broadly, three potential causes:
1. A medical condition. For this, your first port of call should be your veterinarian to make sure your cat isn’t suffering from a urinary tract disease or other condition.
2. Changes to their environment. This could be recent boarding, a new pet, and changes in routine or family gatherings. Such changes can stress cats out and lead to behavioural issues, including urine spraying/marking their territory, especially in multi-cat households.
3. The litter box. Litter box size, location, litter type and cleanliness can all affect a cat’s toileting behaviour.
What can we do?
If your vet has ruled out health problems by examining your cat and also analysing her blood and urine and imaging, the conclusion is likely to be that the cause is behavioural. There are a number of ways to help reduce your kitty’s anxiety, remembering that it is natural for cats to mark their territory anywhere and everywhere!
Litter box management
● Make sure there is at least one extra litter box per cat in your home, noting that the size and location of the litter boxes is also important.
● Make sure they like the litter being used (they can be very particular in this department!)
● Keep the litter boxes immaculate. Clean daily. Cats are meticulous and cannot be blamed for not wanting to urinate or defecate in dirty litter boxes (consider your reaction when you go into a dirty public toilet)
Cats by nature are territorial and predatory creatures. They need mental and physical stimulation! Access to the outdoors allows them to exercise this instinct for both mental and physical stimulation. If confined indoors they may become bored, which can lead to stress. This stress can precipitate urinary health and behavioural problems. So, particularly if they are indoors, they need a variety of interactive and solo toys.
There are five pillars of a healthy feline environment:
1. A safe place: to avoid and evade threats, noises, unfamiliar persons or objects, and other cats. Perches or shelves are ideal.
2. A variety of cat friendly areas: separate areas where your cat is able to eat, drink, go to the toilet, play and rest - without being challenged by another cat.
3. Opportunity for play and predatory behaviour: catnip enhanced toys and food balls.
4. Affection and individual attention every day. Some cats get over-stimulated by petting and have a “threshold”. Watch the twitching action of the tail to check if you are getting close to a cat’s upper limits to avoid being bitten or scratched.
5. An environment that “respects the importance of a cat’s sense of smell”. Strong smelling detergents and cleaning products can upset cats, as can the scent of a rival’s urine.
Nutrition is an important adjunct to the management of urinary problems in cats. Complete and balanced Hill’s Prescription Diet c/d Multicare Stress, available by recommendation from your vet, is specially formulated to support your cat's urinary health, while also managing stress. In addition to choosing the right nutrition, many cats with urinary issues can also benefit from eating canned or pouch foods as part of their daily diet as they contain more water and help to keep the urine more dilute.
So don’t despair
There is hope for cats that pee where you don’t want them to. It is a complex process focused on both ruling out or treating underlying medical causes by your veterinarian, and modifying the home environment to re-establish regular litter box usage. But remember — it all starts with a visit to the vet!