Cats are lovable creatures and for the most part fairly tidy. They naturally take to a littler box and all seems well. Until it isn’t! For reasons unknown to you, your feline friend may start marking or spraying. Urine marking is a not a fun ordeal, nevermind the odor it can cause. But, why is it happening is the question of the day, right? So, how do you help your cat that is urine marking?
Feline house-soiling can be separated into three different categories:
- urine marking/spraying
- litterbox aversions
- medical problems
Urine Marking and Spraying
When your cat engages in urine marking or spraying, he is telling others that he lives here and this is his territory. Both female and male cats can spray or urine mark. This often occurs as a result of stresses your cat is experiencing. Those stressors may be in the form of recent changes in the household (new family member, new pet, remodeling, redecorating, new home) or seeing other animals outside the home.
Signs that urine marking or spraying may be occurring include:
- finding urine on a vertical surface such as a wall
- sometimes urinating outside of the litterbox but always defecating inside the litterbox
- may sometimes urinate inside litterbox and sometimes outside of it
- may be a history of recent change in the household which occurred at the time that behavior began
- urine may be near a door or window
Correcting Urine Spraying
Correcting urine marking or spraying behaviors involves decreasing stress. Your cat should never be punished for not using the litterbox. This will likely make the cat even more anxious and worsen the problem.
If your cat is not neutered or spayed, this should be accomplished as soon as possible. Hormonal influences will make resolution of the inappropriate elimination impossible in most cases.
Closing window shades and keeping doors closed so that your cat cannot see other pets outside may help if outdoor animals are part of the issue.
Anti-anxiety medications may be necessary to control the marking. Commonly used drugs include fluoxetin and clomipramine. Other medications which may be used are amitryptiline, buspar, and valium.
Feliway, a spray which contains feline pheromones which have a calming effect on cats, has been used with success for some cats as well.
Hormone therapy (Ovaban, Megace) is an outdated therapy and is now considered inappropriate treatment.
Urinating outside of the litterbox may result from a dislike of the box or the area surrounding the box.
Signs of a litterbox aversion include:
- urinating and defecating outside of the litterbox
- urine is not sprayed and is not found on vertical surfaces
- urination and defecation may occur on areas with similar textures (bedding, carpeting, etc). In other words, your cat may prefer the texture of your bedding to the litterbox and thus urinate on the beds instead of in the box.
Solutions Which May Help Resolve Litterbox Aversions
There are a number of things which you can do to urge your cat’s return to the litterbox.
- You should provide more than one litterbox. Rule of thumb is to provide one litter box for each cat plus one. If you have three cats, you need four litterboxes.
- Make certain the litterboxes are cleaned regularly. Litterboxes that suffer from a cat urine smell or smell of feces are likely to be avoided.
- Try different types of litters. Experiment with litters with different textures. Place two or more litterboxes with different litters next to each other and see which one your cat elects to use.
- Avoid scented litters.
- Avoid hooded litter boxes.
- Make certain the litterbox is in a calm, quiet location where your cat won’t be frightened, disturbed or harmed while using the box.
- If your cat is urinating in one specific area primarily, try placing the food dish in this location. Do not move the food bowl until the area has been unsoiled for at least four days.
When cleaning cat urine from carpeting or other areas, remove your cat to another room while cleaning. Use an enzymatic cleaner to remove the odor. Do not use a cleaner containing ammonia. Cat urine contains ammonia and this will confuse your cat.