September 4, 2017

Medical Issues

Inappropriate Urination in Cats – Causes and Solutions

by Countrycare Veterinary Professional

inappropriate urination in cats


Pearl is an absolutely sweet and adorable kitty. Sadly, at the early age of 3 months, she was already giving her poor family a major challenge with her inappropriate urination all over their house. It didn’t seem to matter if it were the family’s beds, their clothes sitting out, or the expensive carpet; Pearl would pee on anything. When we first saw Pearl for this issue, her family was desperate to stop this behavior. Sometimes, the solution to inappropriate urination isn’t an “easy” or “quick” fix.

Why is my cat peeing everywhere except the litter box?

There are many reasons that a cat may urinate outside the litter box.

1) Urinary Tract/Bladder Infection

One reason is that she has a urinary tract infection.  In this instance, because there is a known medical reason for the inappropriate urination, the treatment can be directly targeted at healing the infection. Some infections are complex or severe and may take time to resolve.

Besides infections, bladder stones, kidney stones, or urinary crystals may also be the cause of your cat’s urinary issues.

2) Behavioral Issues

For some cats, inappropriate urination may have started as a medical issue but continues on as a learned behavior or habit. Additionally, there are some cats that prefer certain textures or areas to pee and will do so even though a litter box is available.

3) Stress

Cats are very intuitive pets and can be very sensitive to stressors in the home.  Some stressors include:

  • a family member leaving for college
  • a new addition to the family (either 2- or 4-legged)
  • moving to a new house
  • other cats outside

Stress can lead to your cat acting out and peeing where he shouldn’t. If you are able to identify the cause of the stress, you can make small changes at home to reduce that stress. By reducing or eliminating the stressor, you can (hopefully) reduce his accidents, too.

4) Secondary Health Problems

Maybe your cat is peeing in the wrong place to show you that something else is wrong. For example, maybe your cat has arthritis and making it to the litter box is too difficult or too painful for her. Maybe there is some other disease process going on, and your cat is trying to show you that she doesn’t feel well.

What tests will my vet do to determine the cause of my cat’s problem?

Since there can be multiple reasons for your cat’s inappropriate urination, you should schedule an appointment with your veterinarian. To treat the issue properly, you need to know WHY it is happening. Your vet can perform diagnostic testing to determine the cause.

1) Urinalysis

We always recommend starting with a urinalysis. With a urinalysis, we obtain a sample of your cat’s urine and check it for things like blood, bacteria, and crystals (which are not normally seen in healthy urine). This test helps us to look for evidence of infection.

In addition, we can look for signs of bladder cancer, kidney issues, or diabetes. Sometimes, because of the results of the urinalysis, your veterinarian may recommend further testing.inappropriate urination in cats

2) Abdominal X-Rays

X-rays of the abdomen can show us bladder or kidney stones.

3) Blood Work

When we check your cat’s blood, we can measure platelets, white and red blood cells, glucose and more.  Results from blood work may indicate kidney disease or diabetes.

4) Diagnostic Imaging

Further imaging of the bladder (such as ultrasounds or special contrast x-rays) can show us internal masses that may be pushing on the bladder.

For Pearl, we started with a urinalysis which initially showed a bladder infection. After her treatment, she would do well for a little but then would continue to pee where she wasn’t supposed to.

We performed further tests to make sure that she didn’t have bladder or kidney stones or kidney problems. All those test results came back normal…but, obviously, her continued peeing outside of the litter box was far from normal.

What if the tests results are normal?

If all the test results are normal, but the inappropriate urination is continuing, the doctor may recommend a variety of treatments. Sometimes, changing your cat’s diet or adding some dietary supplements can fix the problem.

If stress is a contributing factor, your vet may suggest supplements to calm your cat. Products like Safety Zone Herbal Spray, Rescue Remedy or Feliway may resolve the issue.  Other times, medications like kitty Prozac will help. Your vet will help to figure out a plan based on your pet and the potential factors that may be triggering the inappropriate behavior.

How can I prevent inappropriate urination in my cat?

While some reasons are unavoidable, there are some things you can do at home to encourage proper litter box habits.

  • Have multiple litter boxes. In general, the rule is to have one litter box per cat, plus one extra box.
  • Clean out the litter box frequently. Some cats are very particular and will not use a box that is already dirty.
  • Have litter boxes on multiple levels of your house. If you have a multi-story house, put a litter box on each level of the house. Having at least one box on each level will improve the chances of your cat making it to the litter box in time.  Also, it will help an older, arthritic cat that doesn’t want to go up and down your steps.
  • Keep things the same. Cats can be sensitive to changes in their environment, including changes in the type of litter you use. Changing the litter may seem insignificant to you, but it could cause your cat to urinate inappropriately in protest to the change.
  • Find quiet places for the litter boxes. We all like our privacy right? Keeping the litter boxes out of the main traffic areas in the house will decrease your cat’s stress and hurriedness in the litter box.
  • Reduce stressors. Stress and changes in the home (see examples above) can all potentially lead to behavior changes in your pet. While we can’t stop all stressors, it is important to remember that our “little” changes could be the cause of our pet’s urination problems.

Pearl’s Solution

Pearl’s family decided to try to make some small changes at home to address the inappropriate urination. The family switched to a scent-free litter.  They started using bottled water instead of well water.  In addition, they started adding some supplements into Pearl’s diet to help reduce bladder irritation.

These small changes make a big difference in Pearl’s behavior. Pearl’s situation shows us that not all inappropriate urination is caused by infection.  Antibiotics aren’t always the answer to urinary issues.  If your cat is developing inappropriate litter box habits or is having accidents, do not hesitate to let your vet know right away.  Treat the medical issue before the behavior becomes a habit!

Certified Vet Tech Kaitlynn

Kaitlynn earned her Certified Veterinary Technician degree from Globe University, where she graduated at the top of her class. She is from a dairy farm in Casco and currently lives with her boyfriend, her dog, Milo, and her three cats.