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My 8 year old cat has recently began urinating in inappropriate places. How can I correct this behavior?

At first he started urinating on the floor, in a small area in the basement. I moved a litter box to the area, thinking maybe he felt safer in this area and preferred this place (I have two dogs that go down into the basement from time to time, but are typically restricted from going down there). Since then, he's started urinating all over in the basement. In the 8 years I've had him, he's never not used the litter box. He doesn't seem to have any other symptoms of dementia, so I'm reluctant to suspect that.

Is there a way to correct this behavior?

  • Welcome! Can I ask a question.. when you say your two dogs visit, you mean they've relieved themselves in the basement? just trying to clarify +1 btw good Q – Yvette Colomb Oct 29 '13 at 14:10
  • @Skippy No. Visit means go to, not pee at. – Tester101 Oct 29 '13 at 14:23
  • @Tester101 oh thank you. Here it can meet do the business osrry – Yvette Colomb Oct 29 '13 at 14:30
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The first step for a responsible pet owner when their pet exhibits a significant change (such as described here) is to take the animal to the vet to make sure that there are no health problems.

Health problems can cause litter box issues in several ways.

  • A cat with urinary pain (an infection or stones anywhere in the system) will associate that pain with the litter box and will look for alternate sites.
  • A cat who was declawed (either front only or front and rear), or a cat with arthritis, may find the litter uncomfortable to use, and look for softer places to go.
  • A cat with anxiety or other mental disorders may suddenly decide that they need different boxes for pee and poop, and if you're only providing a single box, pee does not need to be buried.
  • Again, anxiety could cause feelings of insecurity, so they could be marking territory. This is especially true if the cat is not desexed (but I've had this problem even in a spayed female).

Once health problems have been ruled out, start looking for behavioral solutions. For one of our cats this phase took 2 years, so be patient and consider everything.

First, look at changes in the environment. Have you changed litter? Are the dogs new to the household? Have you moved? Etc.

If you aren't able to identify any changes (there's been a change, but sometimes it's hard to find), then start laying out litter boxes. One suggestion is to put a box everywhere he's gone. Another suggestion is to just put out a bunch and make sure that you clean the places he's been really well (use a blacklight to ensure it's gone).

Try different types of boxes (covered, uncovered, different sizes, different heights(sometimes an older cat will have a hard time getting into a tall box), different shapes, etc). Try different types of litter. Try different locations (some cats want a quiet place away from traffic, others want to be in the middle of everything).

Keep using the blacklight to track where he's going and make sure you clean where he's been really well. If you don't get rid of the smell, the cat will continue to associate that spot as a place to urinate. There are some cleaners you can use, like Nature's Miracle, or some common household products, such as vinegar. Don't use bleach to clean cat urine, as that can actually act as an attractant.

Some notes from my own experience:

We went through a phase with one of our cats where I changed litter suddenly and then he wouldn't go back to the box even after switching back to the original litter. I locked him in the bathroom with the litter box for about 2 days (with food and water placed on the other side of the room from the litter box), and then he was fine again.

We have another cat who has anxiety/territorial issues. We tried her on prozac, but that didn't help the litter box situation. Eventually, we set up her own litter box in the master bathroom, moved her food and water bowls to the bedroom, and made that her territory. When we are asleep or not home, she's in there with the door closed. She only interacts with the other cats when we are able to supervise. That's mostly fixed the problem (occassionally when we're home another cat uses her litter box, so we also switched to cat genies, a type of automated box, so she has a fresh box that's hers and we don't have to clean that box immediately if another cat uses it).

Good luck!

  • Amongst possible environment changes : have you started using bleach to wash the floor ? Though for such a sudden change in an 8 years old cat, I'd rather bet on health issue. – Skippy le Grand Gourou Oct 29 '13 at 16:23
  • We started using an attractant in the litter as well. It's working so far, major reduction in the problem for us. If I wasn't on the road, I'd get the name of the stuff. – John Cavan Oct 29 '13 at 19:05
  • Precious Cat Ultra Litter Attractant Is the attractant we tried. It didn't help our case, but I'm glad to hear that (an additive) helped you out! Generally I advocate for finding the source of the problem and fixing that, but an additive can be a stopgap to prevent further household damage while the problem is being investigated! – Zaralynda Oct 29 '13 at 19:18
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    @JohnCavan : Well, as a matter of fact bleach may be used as a fairly efficient attractant. Just put a few drops at the bottom of the litter. That's why you shouldn't put it on the floor. ;) – Skippy le Grand Gourou Oct 30 '13 at 12:45
  • Urinating (not spraying) on flat surfaces and even cold surfaces is often a sign for inflammatory processes in the urinary tract. I encountered this with two cats. Symptoms can get worse quickly in such cases, so I also recommend visiting a vet soon. If possiple, gather some spilled urine with a syringe (from an otherwise clean surface). Your vet can check it for crystals even if other particles are contained from the floor. – Ariser Aug 24 '15 at 21:42
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I agree with Zaralynda. You probably should take the cat to see the vet to make sure it doesn't have a urinary tract problem. If it does, treating the problem will probably result in it using the litter box again (though it might take several days even after the problem is gone). Aside from urinary tract problems cats will pee outside if they are stressed out, marking territory (as in having a dispute with some other animal in the house), or if they smell urine already there.

Clean up the area where the cat peed. This is very difficult especially if the surface they peed on is porous. Percarbonate (a solid which is a mix of hydrogen peroxide and baking soda) does a pretty good job of obliterating urine (rinse when you are done) and is not persistent and noxious like bleach.

At this point you have a few choices to make. Can you block off the area where the cat peed? If so that is a good way to prevent it from revisiting the area in case there is some faint odor lingering (cats have a sense of smell that is much stronger than ours). If not and you're worried you can put citrus peels there (or rub citrus peels on the area). Most cats find the scent of citrus rather obnoxious (but it varies from cat to cat).

I have had cats peeing in the wrong place for all the possible reasons. When it is a urinary tract problem a vet visit with treatment usually fixes the problem fast. The behavioral squabbles over territory / smelling old spots is harder to deal with especially on carpeted areas... but you can reduce the problem.

  • 2After cleaning with soap and water, I use the hydrogen peroxide and baking soda as well. For carpet and wood one great product is Nature's miracle stain and odor remover. It chemically breaks down the urine with enzymes, taking about two weeks. It really removes the smell. – Beo Apr 8 '14 at 15:16
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I won't repeat the information about having the vet verify that your cat is okay, but I would like to add some new information.

If the problem seems as though there's no solution, try adding another liter box to your home. The universal rule of thumb tends to be

"One litter box per cat, plus one extra"

While some single home cats can run flawlessly on one litter box, some cats need options.

On a personal note, my family has two dogs and one cat indoors. The cat has one liter box on each floor, and tends to prefer to use the one that is farthest from the dogs. Even though she gets along fine with the dogs, their location compared to her seems to have an influence on where she chooses to go to the bathroom.

protected by Community Dec 13 '15 at 21:17

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