Fuzzy Side Up: Urination problems sure signs of issues for cats
Fuzzy Side Up
One of the most disheartening events when owning a cat is the unfortunate surprise of urine on your bed, favorite blanket, laundry or even on your kitchen counter top. Rarely do cats pee on something because they are mad or trying to get back at you. If your cat is urinating outside of the litter box, most likely he/she is trying to tell you something about their health. This can be very frustrating for a pet owner and is best dealt with quickly before the behavior becomes learned.
Inappropriate urination, or house soiling, is one of the primary concerns expressed to veterinarians by cat owners. Inappropriate urination is defined as urination outside of the cat box or in a location undesirable to the pet owner. “Marking” or “spraying” is when the cat urinates vertically on a wall or door to mark its territory. Female cats will also do marking behavior, especially in multiple cat households.
If you notice that your male cat is not urinating at all, or is crying when visiting the litter box, this is a medical emergency. Male cats can become blocked, unable to pee, and this backs up into the kidneys and can kill them quickly.
Inappropriate urination can be caused by an underlying medical condition, such as kidney disease or diabetes, or a urinary tract infection. A routine medical exam and some lab work done by your veterinarian will determine if a medical problem exists.
If a medical concern is ruled out, the pet may be urinating inappropriately for behavioral reasons. The problem could be something as minor as an un-scooped litter box. Sometimes, a new pet or family member has been added or left the household. Maybe the owner has changed the type of litter recently.
Cats are very observant to changes in the household and can become easily stressed. Is the box next to a noisy washing machine that scares her? Is a second cat in the house picking on the cat that’s peeing outside the box? Is your cat old and arthritic and having trouble getting in and out of the box? It can also be something else in the environment: Is your dog bothering the cat every time she goes to the litter box? Sometimes some investigation is necessary to figure it out.
“Marking” is usually the result of an unneutered male or unspayed female and can be stopped by having the pet spayed or neutered. If that doesn’t help, or they’re already spayed or neutered, the next step is to find the source of the feline’s anxiety. Often the culprit is an outdoor cat or new cat invading your pet’s territory.
The key to solving litter box issues is to do something right away. Cats will learn their new pee spots quickly, and it can become a habit that’s hard to break. It’s much more difficult to retrain a cat that’s been urinating inappropriately for six months, compared to one that’s been doing it for six days. Please talk to your veterinarian if your kitty is having any of these issues; we have many resources that can help. Cats are also very good at hiding disease, so a complete physical exam is the best place to start.
Rebecca Lemmon is a veterinarian at The Valley Veterinary Clinic in Rifle.
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