Updated: Apr 2, 2020
If there is one topic that I see constantly posted or asked about, it’s the trials and tribulations of why someone’s beloved cat is inappropriately peeing. Despite popular belief, inappropriate urination is not random and cats aren’t doing it just because. While it may be frustrating and even angering, your cat is trying to tell you something in one of the few ways it knows how. While diet and individual anatomy and physiology are absolutely factors when it comes to inappropriate urination, there are many behavioral things to consider as well.
Change is probably the number one cause of behavior based inappropriate urination. Change can be extremely stressful on a cat. Most cats are not raised to be used to change and have quite a hard time adapting to it. Stressful changes can be big or small and they can seem insignificant to you, but may be a big deal to your companion. Changes can include:
Moving to a new home
New/Moving furniture in the home
Change in work or school schedules
A new kitten, puppy or another companion pet
A new boyfriend/girlfriend or significant other
A new baby or children
Scents Cats have a VERY good sense of smell. It’s known to be said that their sense of smell is so good they could smell every individual ingredient in a cake. Impressive. Unfortunately sometimes to our detriment this means, the tiniest smell could cause them stress. Things to consider:
New/change in perfume/cologne
A cat’s sense of smell is more than just important for finding food, it can define who has been where and what belongs to who. The litter box is one very scent soaked location that your cat identifies as his or her’s! Litter box stressors can include:
New litter that
Has a new/different scent
Has a different texture, some cats have preferences, likes and dislikes (fine, pellet, water etc)
Made of different materials (wood, paper, clay, crystals, silica, dirt, sand, walnut, wheat, corn etc.)
Clumping versus non clumping
Litter level. some like more, some like less
Even the box type and features can influence a cat’s behavior. You should have at least one litter box per cat plus one. They should be distributed throughout your home, including on various levels if you have a multi floor home.
Box type (standard box, automatic, toilet)
Size of the box (too big, too small)
Entry type (top entry, front entry, door/flap attached)
Open versus closed
The litter box opening can be a consideration. Depending on the age of your cat they may not be able to use a top entry box, even a front entry may have a tray that is too high causing pain for an arthritic cat. A door flap may cause anxiety, not knowing what is on the other side.
Cleanliness A box that is too clean can stress a cat. As mentioned prior the litter box is the biggest scent soaker you have. It is the primary cat ID. If it is too clean this could cause stress and either make a cat make a mess of the box or find other places that it can claim as their own. This is a primary concern with self cleaning litter boxes or scooping litter multiple times a day. A box that is too dirty. Location
Some locations of the litter box may stress a cat due to being located in a high traffic area. Maybe they feel corned or in a vulnerable place where the box is located. Maybe the box needs to be in a more secluded place so it can’t be accessed by others.
Cats can be very territorial. While cats can be seen in colonies and many enjoy companionship, they technically are not pack animals by nature. Many in fact prefer solidarity. Keep in mind that hormones heavily affect territorial behavior. Intact males for example are looking for a mate and in doing so they need to let any female around know that they are available. This results in spraying. Males also spray to let other males know this is their space. If another male sprays on their spay, a territory war has started and an endless cycle of spraying on spray can result. Females also can spray to despite popular belief. They too are looking for a mate. The pheromones in the spray tell a story for all males and females that come by. The only way to resolve this behavior often times is to spay or neuter your companion. If your companion is already altered there is something else stressing them out. Anything new could be considered a threat, an intruder in their space. A cat or other wandering animal outside could be a source of stress.
Bullying from other animals can cause stress. Are other animals ganging up on your companion? Cornering them? Hijacking them while eating or while using the litter box? Even if your companion is not involved, this can cause stress. If other cats are getting into it or having territory issues, your companion may be upset, stressed, or anxious about how other animals are interacting. Stress can occur even when humans are bullying or disrespecting an animal's space or needs.
Jackson Galaxy is the cat behavior guru. He has several wonderful books that really help owners get on the same level as their cats and figure out not only what is stressing their cat, but how to mitigate this stress in positive, constructive and easy to follow ways. We highly recommend his books. Total Cat Mojo: The Ultimate Guide to Life with Your Cat helps owners identify stressful issues that may be contributing to behavior problems, how to resolve them and how to keep them a thought of the past. Catification: Designing a Happy and Stylish Home for Your Cat (and You!) talks a little about behavior but primarily talks about how to redesign your home to diffuse problem areas and allow everyone to live peacefully, giving your cats room to mingle and have safe spaces.
All these factors can greatly influence why an animal may be upset. While we all wish our companions could talk to us, inappropriate urination is a sure sign of great distress in any number of situations and its one of the few ways your companion is communicating with you. As their guardian it is now your job to get down on their level and decipher what they are telling you. How to Remove Urine
Urine can be a pain to get rid of. If your companion can still smell it, they most likely will continue to use that spot as a place to eliminate. The following is a more natural, inexpensive and easy to put together urine, stain and odor remover. You’ll need:
Empty spray bottle
Liquid dishwashing soap
1. Pour 8 oz of hydrogen peroxide, 3 tablespoons of baking soda and a drop of liquid dish soap into the spray bottle. Gently mix.
2. Saturate the area. 3. Allow to dry. If there is baking soda residue when dry, vacuum away. DO NOT use on wood floors or wood furniture, the solution will eat away the surface. The solution is safe on most furniture, fabrics and carpets, but doing a test stop is always recommended.