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Help! My cat is urinating outside the box

If your kitty starts to urinate outside of the litter box, this can be a very frustrating problem that can seriously damage the bond you have with your cat.

The good news is that your veterinarian can help you sort through this problem, and hopefully help you correct it, so that you and your cat can cohabitate peacefully!

The first thing that veterinarians do when presented with the problem of a cat urinating outside of the litter box, is to determine if there is a medical or behavioral problem going on.

There are a whole slew of medical conditions that can cause your cat to urinate outside of the box.

There are medical conditions that cause pain when urinating. Cats will sometimes then associate the litter box with the pain and avoid using the box. These conditions include:

• Inflammation of the bladder associated with crystals in the urine
• Urinary tract infections
• Bladder stones
• Idiopathic cystitis (a frustrating inflammatory problem of the bladder with an unknown cause)
• Bladder tumors

Sometimes painful defecation can also lead to negative associations with the litter box. Conditions that cause pain during defecation include: • Constipation
• Anal gland infection or impaction

Some medical conditions will cause cats to drink and urinate more, leading to an overfilling of the bladder, and difficulty holding the urine. Medical problems that can cause this situation are: • Kidney disease
• Diabetes
• Thyroid disease

Also, cats with arthritis will sometimes stop using the litter box either because the box is located up or down a large flight of stairs that are painful to walk up and down, or if the sides of the litter box are to high, it can be uncomfortable for them to stretch up to get into the box.

Your veterinarian will want to do a thorough physical exam as well as checking a urine sample. Other tests such as an x-ray of the bladder, blood work to evaluate internal organs, or an ultrasound of the bladder may be recommended.

When a medical cause of urinating outside of the litter box has been ruled out, then we start focusing on management of behavioral problems. There are 2 basic reasons why your cat has chosen to urinate outside of the litter box. Either he or she is marking (spraying), or has chosen a new toilet area. See the chart below to compare the different types of inappropriate elimination:

Condition Characteristics of urine spots in house Causes of condition Treatments
Spraying/Marking Cat will back up to area being sprayed on, tail will often quiver. They will produce a small amount of urine on a vertical surface. Anxiety related: Unrest amongst cats, marking territory, submissive cat surrounding herself with her own scent, roaming cats in yard or any type of change in the household. May need to separate cats
Feliway calming spray
Keep roaming cats out of yard
Anti-anxiety meds
Chosen a new toilet area Cat is voiding it's bladder, so you will find a large amount of urine on a horizontal surface. 1.) Your cat may not like the litter box that is provided.
2.) Some cats would prefer to urinate on a different substrate then litter
The litter box must be large enough for the cat, and in adequate numbers (one more then the number of cats). It must be cleaned regularly, and in a quiet area. Remove covers from boxes. Cats that have a substrate preference should be prevented access to that area or substrate. If that is not an option, you can make the area undesirable to urinate on by covering it with aluminum foil or plastic, or turning it into a food and water station.

Many causes of urinating outside of the litter box can be corrected! Get your veterinarian involved early in the process for the best rate of success. For more detailed information on urinating outside of the litter box, please see the attached power point presentation.

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Westgate Pet Clinic
4345 France Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55410
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