When Your Cat ‘Misses’ The Litter Box

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This is a sponsored post by veterinarian Elizabeth Arguelles, owner of Just Cats Clinic at Lake Anne Plaza. She writes weekly on Reston Now.

Even though we love our cats very much, we may not like every single thing they do. There are definitely some feline behaviors we can live without! Scratching our furniture, shedding on our black pants and coughing up hairballs are a few habits we’d just as soon not have to deal with.

One of the most frustrating, however, is our feline friends’ occasional tendency to urinate outside the litter box. When our cats, whose bathroom habits are normally quite fastidious, start finding new places to use as a litter box, it can cause an unsightly mess and leave the entire house reeking. And making matters worse is the fact that once a cat starts urinating in a particular corner, on a living room sofa, or on a piece of its owner’s clothing, it will probably continue to do so for a long time.

Urinating outside the litter box can be due to a variety of issues, some more serious than others. If you notice that your cat is doing it, it is critical that you address the situation immediately — both for your cat’s health and the integrity of your carpets and furniture.

Any time your cat starts urinating outside the litter box consult your vet immediately.

Your vet might suggest that you make sure that your cat’s litter box is clean. Some cats will urinate in inappropriate places if they find their litter too dirty. Switching to new litter can also lead to urinating outside the box if your cat doesn’t like the change.

If resolving the litter box situation doesn’t halt the inappropriate urination, the next thing to look for is stress. Sometimes, cats will begin urinating outside the litter box when they feel insecure, when there is a new cat in the house, when you’ve started using a new cleaning agent or when there is a new human addition to the family. The point of urinating outside the box can vary, depending on whether they are trying to mark their territories or signal their displeasure to you, but the results are the same.

If both the litter box’s condition and stressors can be ruled out, then there are a variety of infections and diseases that can cause inappropriate urination. Cats can’t tell you if it hurts to urinate and they might be trying to alert you to that fact. The causes may include:

  • Crystals in the urine
  • Bladder stones
  • Kidney stones
  • Urinary track infection
  • Idiopathic cystitis

Your vet will check your cat’s blood work, urine and x-rays to determine if any of these issues could be causing the urination problems. If they are, the vet will prescribe the appropriate course of action.

Regardless of the cause, the longer this has gone on it can be challenging to retrain your cat to use the litter box once the problem has been resolved. Be sure to talk with your vet about strategies get your feline friend back into the box.

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