Why Your Cat Urinates Outside the Box and How to Avoid It

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Why Your Cat Urinates Outside the Box and How to Avoid It

If your cat is choosing to soil areas of your house outside the litter box habitually, chances are it’s a warning sign for a larger problem – one that I’m sure you will want to quickly address. Sometimes these performances are the consequence of a behavioral pattern, especially for male cats that are marking a new territory or feel threatened by another cat in the house, but other times these aversions to the litter box can be a telltale sign of a greater medical issue.

Here are some potential scenarios in which feline urinary accidents can be more than just accidents:

  • Something about the box has changed.

Did you recently move the litter box to a place that you thought would be more visually appealing in your home? That could be one reason that your cat is confused and is acting out. Considering moving the box back to the original location or gradually move it to its new destination.

Have you changed litter brands recently? When the litter you have in the litter box doesn’t appeal to your cat, he or she will choose not to use it. Cat owners: does that really surprise you?! Cats are more likely to use litter that has a more coarse grain, as opposed to a fine texture, because it feels more like the dirt or sand that cats are programed to seek when doing their business.

  • Your cat has a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) or similar urinary problem

Urinating outside the litter box can be a tip-off for a larger urinary problem or infection. Spend a day or so keeping a close watch on your cat. Is he or she urinating more often or choosing to soil a new place in your house? Does he or she make painful noises while using the litter box? Other warning signs for a UTI include blood in the urine or a strange odor around the box. If you notice any of these signs, please contact your veterinarian immediately as UTIs and similar infections can be fatal if left untreated. 

  • Your cat is displaying behavioral issues.

Many professionals believe that frequent trouble recognizing or using a litter box points to common behavioral issue for cats. The most regularly diagnosed behavioral issues associated with this problem include separation anxiety and litter box aversion. Litter box aversion involves a deep-seeder fear of the litter box and is common amongst cats that have been rescued from several situations or those that have or have had poor hygiene or a negative litter box experience as a kitten. Signs of possible litter box aversion include lack of covering, shaking of the paws or failure to use the box.

If finding out that your cat missed or avoided the litter box is a once or twice a year occurrence, you can probably chalk it up to laziness or spite for something your cat doesn’t agree with you on – and you know that they are capable of holding small grudges! But sometimes being a pet owner means carefully observing your pet’s behavior and analyzing a potential problem before it gets out of hand.

If you have multiple cats, you need to identify the culprit by separating the pack for a few days with their own litter boxes. Once you know which cat is displaying signs of litter box aversion, it’s time for treatment.

At Butte Oroville Veterinary Hospital, we want to make the diagnostic and treatment process as simple as possible. We do this by offering appointments or drops offs where you can provide a urine sample for a routine urinalysis to identify whether or not your cat has an infection or if it’s a behavioral issue that needs attending to. If it’s a medical concern, the appropriate medications will be administered after a routine check-up and if it’s a behavioral issue, we are happy to recommend the course of treatment to help diminish the accidents.  

Posted Thursday, January 16, 2014