“The cat peed where? On the new couch! Is she trying to tell me something-do I need to come in?” This sentiment, or variations of it, has been heard by almost every practicing veterinarian at one point in time. If one incident has occurred, it is possible that it was a true accident. However, if your feline friend has changed up his or her bathroom habits this may warrant some investigation as this may be a clue to a lurking underlying issue.
Signs to watch for include straining to urinate (which can be confused with straining to defecate), urinating in small bursts, urinating outside of the litter box, licking at the genital region, and pink/red tinged urine. If any of these signs are noted, it is important to contact your local veterinarian. Possible causes for these signs include (but are not limited to) urinary tract infection, feline idiopathic cystitis (inflammation of the urinary tract), urinary stones, other illness (for example diabetes, kidney disease) behavioral causes, etc…
Depending on what your veterinarian finds, further work up and/or treatment may be indicated. If your veterinarian suspects your kitty may be having some anxiety in the home, there are some things you can try to help make life easier on your little one (and you).
1) The Golden Rule of the litter box: you should have one litter box for each cat in the home plus one. For example, if you have one cat, you should have two letterboxes.
2) Do not place the letterboxes side by side, this effectively creates one large litter box. If need be, they can be in the same room, but try to have as much space between them as you can.
3) Try an uncovered litter box. Although covered letterboxes can be nice for us (we do not have to view the contents of the box, the smell is reduced, etc…) it can be not so welcoming for your cat (when was the last time you enjoyed a porta-potty?) If your cat is a kicker of litter, try purchasing a large, clear plastic tub and cutting a door into the side of it. If the cut sides are rough, try placing tape or fabric over the edges so your kitty does not hurt themselves.
4) If you are lucky enough to have multiple stories, please keep a litter box on each level of your home. Also, try to not place impediments like baby gates in the doorways to rooms where the litter box is contained. Although this may keep out other pets or children from the litter box, it may also be making the litter box a hard to reach place for your kitty. Especially if they are overweight and/or are suffering from arthritis.
5) Try keeping the litter box in low traffic zones. Places like the laundry room may be convenient for us, but it can be loud and uninviting for our feline friends.
6) Some kitties are very fastidious about their litter box. Try scooping their litter out 1-2 times a day and cleaning out the entire litter box once per week. Try staying away from heavily performed products as this may be off putting to your kitty.
7) Try a little pheromone help. Feliway is a synthetic pheromone that has been shown to reduce anxiety in the home. Luckily for us, it can be found in most large pet stores and online. The plug in diffuser can be used in multiple rooms and the effects last for roughly 30 days.
8) Clean up on aisle 5! Clean up urinary accidents with enzymatic cleaners to make sure there are no products of urine left behind to entice your little one to keeping urinating in the same spot. Options include Nature’s Miracle, Anti-Icky Poo, and Urine Away. Try your local pet store or online.
9) Try picking up/blocking items that your cat seems to be targeting with their urine. Favorites of kitties can include laundry (clean or dirty), bath mats/towels, and your bed (try shutting your bedroom door).
10) Make sure your kitty has hidey holes galore! This may include cat trees with hiding areas or something as simple as paper bags (never plastic).
11) Get your play on! Laser pointers and other cat friendly toys are available at your local pet stores and online. Please visit www.indoorpet.osu.edu for play recommendations and other tips for your inside cat.
12) Always keep in touch with your regular veterinarian. If the abnormal bathroom behavior continues or other signs of illness arise, it is important that the situation be addressed as early on as possible to ensure your cat’s well being.
13) At any time you are unsure if your kitty is urinating, they look weak/lethargic, their behavior has changed (they were once very friendly and now they are hiding constantly or vice versa), your kitty vomits, or otherwise appears ill, please treat this as an emergency situation. A blocked cat can be seriously ill within hours and they can unfortunately pass away due to this condition.
With our busy schedules it can be easy to put off visiting the veterinarian for urinary accidents. However, for the best outcome for you and your furry friend, it is always best to tackle the situation at the onset. Hopefully, it may be a simple issue that can be resolved quickly and efficiently, and if not, your prognosis is almost always likely to have improved by early diagnosis and treatment. Listen to your cat, they are telling you something, but it is up to you and your veterinarian to figure out what that is.