Inappropriate urination in cats, or urinating outside the litterbox, is a frustrating condition for cats and their owners. House soiling is a commonly misunderstood condition. It is also one of the most common reasons for healthy cat euthanasia.
There are multiple medical problems as well as behavioral issues that can lead to inappropriate urination in cats. This condition may also be an entirely normal marking behavior especially in male cats.
In order to control this condition, underlying causes of inappropriate urination should be determined. Cats, by nature, are particular and fastidious. Any change in their litterbox, type of litter, location of litterbox, cleanliness of litterbox, or other cats using the litterbox can cause them to avoid their litterbox resulting in house soiling.
Geriatric cats can have difficulty positioning themselves in their litterbox due to arthritis. Older cats may simply need a larger litter box to keep things tidy.
Urinary bladder and kidney diseases are common in cats and the most frequent medical cause of inappropriate urination. Cats frequently get bladder and kidney infections, bladder and kidney stones, a syndrome called Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease, and rarely bladder and kidney cancer.
Conditions resulting in polydipsia and polyuria (excessive drinking and urination) cause inappropriate urination as well. This includes kidney failure, diabetes, hyperthyroidism, and liver disease.
A Veterinarian can determine the cause of a cat’s urinary problem with a physical examination, urinalysis, blood tests, x-rays, ultrasound, and a urine culture and sensitivity.
If all the tests are normal, inappropriate urination may be a behavioral condition. There are psychotropic drugs like Elavil, progesterone injections and synthetic hormones, and environmental pheromone products, such as Feliway, that can potentially modify a cat’s elimination misbehavior.
While extremely frustrating, all causes of inappropriate elimination in cats should be considered. Environmental issues, such as changes in the litter box, should be seriously addressed. Medical disorders should be diagnosed and treated by a Veterinarian. And behavioral causes of inappropriate urination should be considered, but as a last resort.
Pamela Dragos, DVM is a Veterinarian practicing in Phoenix, Arizona. She has over 20 years of experience in small animal medicine and surgery. She graduated from Arizona State University in 1986 with a Bachelor of Science in Zoology and earned a Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences in 1990. Dr. Dragos can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.