Feline Inappropriate Urination – Part II: Please Make It Stop

nce we've considered who is peeing in the heater vents and we have asked ourselves why they are doing it, we can  tackle the what, where, and how of  solving the problem.  Treatment has to be individualized to each situation and cat, or cats.  Of course, we may not discover the  exact reason for the inappropriate urination  so a multi-modal approach is best in most cases. 

1. The soiled environment.  The urine-soiled area needs to be thoroughly cleaned with an enzymatic cleaner, such as Nature’s Miracle, to  eliminate future visits.  The area also may need to be closed off from the offending cat.  Plastic totes, double sided tape, foil, furniture placement, potted plants, and invisible fencing may all be  used to prevent access.  If the specific area is not easily identified, a black light can help locate soiled spots.

2.The litter box.  Make sure the box is roomy and comfy for everyone who needs it.  Obese cats and large cats need more space.  As a rule, sides, liners and covers are bad.  Kittens, older cats and the infirm may have a hard time negotiating sides on the box.  Liners are just annoying when kitty   tries to scratch around and cover feces and urine.  Box covers trap smells and block kitty’s view of intruding other cats.  As a cat, one typically likes a 360-degree view while eliminating.

3.The box placement and number of boxes.  As stated before, one box per cat, plus one, is recommended; and make sure that there is a box on each level of the house.  Put the boxes in well lit, quiet areas away from food and water but close to where the cats spend the majority of their time.

4. Pick the right litter.  Most cats prefer fine-textured, unscented litter, several inches deep.  If in doubt, try litter box samplers.  Put out several different boxes with several different types of litter - clay, sand, paper litter, or even soil.  Let your cat cast its vote with urine and go with the demonstrated preference. 

5.  Cleanliness.  As a basic rule of thumb, scoop the box daily.  This may not be enough in multi-cat households if one box is particularly popular.  If you ask the cats, they would each want a personal litter box valet that kept the other cats out of the area, looked away while they used the box, handed them a kitty treat as they exited the box, and then removed any offending material immediately.  Always empty and thoroughly clean boxes every 1-2 weeks, depending on use.

6. Avoid punishment.  Never physically punish your cat for inappropriate elimination.  Not only  is that ineffective, but it quite likely will make things worse.  Punishment will create more anxiety and cats will not connect the crime to the punishment.

7. Medical treatment.  If your veterinarian uncovers medical issues such as drinking more water or urinary tract infection, treatment plans will need to be determined and implemented.

8. Anxiety and urine spraying.  Anti-anxiety medications may be utilized.  Drugs such as Prozac, amitryptylline, and busprinone can be  prescribed.  Medication use would need to be discussed with your cat’s doctor.  Such therapy is often life-long, although withdrawal of medication may be considered after long periods of good behavior.  We may also use pheromone sprays, such as Feliway, to promote positive feelings in the cats when they enter the area involved.

Feline inappropriate elimination is a frustratingly common problem.  It is imperative to act quickly when it happens.  The longer such a problem goes on, the more difficult it may be to correct.  Once the offending cat is identified, take him or her to your veterinarian for a thorough physical examination and have a discussion about your options.  Once medical disease is ruled out, together we may tackle the many issues discussed here and formulate our best plan.  With thought, perseverance, environmental manipulation and appropriate medications, we can  often help.