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Can we stop our cat from pissing on everything?
July 1, 2014 8:43 PM   Subscribe

For several years my girlfriend's 5-year-old cat has been regularly pissing on soft surfaces, and it's getting worse.

Since we moved together to a new apartment few months ago it's gotten much worse—we have not had a week go by without something getting ruined this way. We have lost a couch and other upholstered furniture along with lots of bedding and clothing—often within weeks of buying these things.

The vet found nothing wrong with her but prescribed some pain relieving medicine anyway, along with diet supplements, in case this was a response to bladder inflammation. Neither had any effect, even after we went back to get a second course of the pain relievers. She had no real other suggestions.

The cat may be somewhat dehydrated because she refuses to drink water, even out of the various expensive cat bubblers and fountains that we have purchased in desperation. We give her very wet/liquidy food and hope she gets enough water that way. In my girlfriend's old apartment the tub faucet leaked and the cat drank from there; in this apartment it doesn't leak, and even if we leave it running slightly she seems to avoid it. But I'm not sure if this is the issue, because the cat pissed all over everything at the old apartment too.

In addition to the medicines and supplements prescribed by the vet we have tried "calming collars" and various calming and repellent sprays. Again, no effect.

We are at the end of our rope. We have rarely been successful in getting the smell out of anything that she pisses on and cannot keep replacing clothing and furniture all the time like this. Is there anything else we can try that has a real chance of working?
posted by anonymous to Pets & Animals (18 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Is she spayed? Have you tried a totally grain-free diet (wet food does not necessarily equal grain-free, by the way)?
posted by joan_holloway at 8:46 PM on July 1 [1 favorite]


I watched a bunch of Jackson Galaxy videos a while ago, and a lot of the cats he deals with seem to be completely unhinged because of another cat tormenting them from outside the windows. They will become a little crazy, and, among other things, mark their territory. Is there a chance this is a factor?

If so, you might want to check out the clips currently (I hope) still up on the Animal Planet site. They have a bunch of the strategies he uses: a motion-detector sprinkler to keep other cats out of the yard, coverings to block the view from the bottoms of the window, etc.

Otherwise, believe it or not, playing with the cat regularly, or, my favorite, clicker training, which can help keep it from going crazy from boredom, can potentially help. This could be an awesome stress reliever for you, too, and might help you enjoy the cat more (probably a nice change at this point).

All this supposes there's not a medical problem, which it sounds like you've considered already.
posted by amtho at 9:05 PM on July 1 [5 favorites]


Have you experimented with different litters? A few smaller pans with various types, one of them perhaps with cat attract litter, might get her to like her box more. I've also heard of people who have successfully retrained via confinement to a smallish bathroom fof a short period of time- like resetting the litter box habit.
posted by PussKillian at 9:07 PM on July 1 [3 favorites]


I had this problem with one cat and I hired an animal behaviorist (who's also a vet) to come to the house to assess my particular situation. It really helps if a professional can SEE your environment and see the cat in it. She recommended a few litter boxes, each with different materials. She also suggested some other things, and eventually the issue was solved.

I'd be concerned about the not drinking water part, though, and maybe having a professional in the house would be able to address that as well.
posted by FlyByDay at 9:12 PM on July 1 [2 favorites]


My cat does this if her litter box is less than immaculate, or if she doesn't like the material, or if she isn't getting enough water. Try adding extra boxes with different litters. I add a can of water to the can of wet food my cats get to help make sure they get enough water.
posted by zug at 9:16 PM on July 1 [2 favorites]


I'm sure you scoop the litter box regularly - like I do - but do you change the litter regularly? - like I didn't used to. Changing the litter regularly fixed it for Squirrley - who actually peed on me once when I was sleeping.
posted by vapidave at 9:24 PM on July 1 [2 favorites]


Seconding Cat Attract, which is expensive, but did indeed attract my elderly male cat when he became ill and started, ahem, misbehaving. The behaviorist is also a good idea.

I'm presuming your vet did full bloodwork? Kidney and thyroid issues can also cause this kind of response.
posted by thomas j wise at 9:25 PM on July 1 [1 favorite]


I'm sharing this since you said it has got worse since you moved in together.

My cat (despite having male housemates he was fine with) started peeing on things (sofas, beds, corner) when other males stayed over. The behavior spiraled out of control and just turned in to 'General pee party'. I tried lots of different things to try to stop it. My vet suggested clomicalm, but I thought that was just too weird and didn't take her up on it. Then I moved into a fancy place as a guest and my cat started peeing on all the owner's stuff and it had to stop. I gave him the pills, he never peed on anything again. He took the medication for around 6 months in total, there was never a plan for him to have it on an ongoing basis. He hasn't taken in in a few years and hasn't gone back to 'NOPE THIS THING IS MINE ACKSHULLY ALL THE WET THINGS ARE MINE' which is great. I know your cat is a lady, but just putting my experience into the mix since no physical cause was forthcoming.
posted by Trivia Newton John at 9:30 PM on July 1 [3 favorites]


Is your new place crowded due to merging households?

And/or are you still deciding where things go, shifting things around from time to time?

Both of these can be major stressors for cats. I have found Feliway to be really helpful before, during, and after moving.
posted by ravioli at 9:44 PM on July 1 [1 favorite]


One of my boys had this problem. My vet said the preference for soft surfaces was a reasonable indicator of pain. (Oh, warm, clean laundry? Yeah, the was getting peed on for sure.)

We solved it with a combo of:
wet food specifically for urine crystals
limited dry food (Rx)
lots of water - adding it to wet as needed if he wasn't drinking.

The crystals in his urine didn't show up immediately, but once they did we knew what to fix.
posted by 26.2 at 11:37 PM on July 1 [1 favorite]


If you don't already, try separating the water dish from the food—in my experience (5 cats,) they prefer to drink in a different area from where they eat.
posted by InsanePenguin at 2:46 AM on July 2 [2 favorites]


I had a similar experience to vapidave. I scoop daily, and every two weeks, I dump all of the litter and clean the box with water and a small amount of unscented soap. If you have access to an outdoor tap and hose, this is really easy. Being consistent about it has helped a lot with kitty toilet misbehavior at my place. Also, I keep an eye on the litter boxes to see if they need to be replaced, especially if the bottom of the box starts looking torn up.
posted by neushoorn at 3:31 AM on July 2


Have you tried putting cat pans in every room of the house?

There may be some pattern to where she pees. For example she might always be peeing in the bedroom. So having a cat pan in the bedroom might help.

My cat has been peeing in bad places. At this point clothing and sneakers do not go on the floor under any circumstances. But oddly she stopped peeing on stuff in my bedroom when my son camped out sleeping on the floor in a nest of blankets and my dreadful cat got to sleep with him there. He now seems to define cloth on my bedroom floor as bedding rather than litter.

I also put a cat pan in the bedroom until he had used it and then moved it to the bathroom. He took to using the pan first in the bedroom and then kept using it even after it had moved. Not that he is continent yet by any means.

If she is up to date on her shots and likes the great outdoors you might try taking her outside and introducing her to a freshly dug flower bed. I dunno if that would help but I would try it.

Nthing to replace the old cat pans. Also, put the new pans in the centre of the floor somewhere, not a corner.

Finally, in order to live with this, I find it easier to be on a routine. Every morning when I get up I do a search for puddles and get the clean up done before I go to work. Every time I come home I do a search and clean up wherever. Whenever I find a puddle I clean it up immediately. Whenever I suspect a puddle I investigate. This has been really important for me to hold the tide against becoming "the cat pee family". You know the ones, the people whose house smells eye-wateringly of pee.

Finally, if you are really desperate I would consider trying to house train your cat to use a litter pan full of cloth that can be laundered. You probably now own some sheets or a blanket throw or two you feel dubious about. If kitty insists on pissing on a blanket than putting a blanket into a litter pan makes your clean up and the all important smell control much easier. If you don't have any blanket or sheets or something easy to wash you can get two or three dollar fleece throws from the dollar store.

My biggest problem is the rug that I have to have on the floor to protect it from the office chair on casters at the computer desk. I haven't figured out a good solution to that yet.
posted by Jane the Brown at 5:58 AM on July 2


I had a cat like this. My animal behavioralist suggested confining him to a small room, like a bathroom, with a litterbox. She said that even a large dog crate would would, too. The idea was that if he had the litterbox right there in front of him he'd use it. Obviously, I took him out and played with him as long as I could supervise him, but if I couldn't supervise him he was in the bathroom with a bunch of toys and his litterbox. Once he got into the habit of using his litterbox he could have the run of the house again. In my case, it took a couple of weeks. It did work somewhat -- he would stop peeing on things for 6-8 weeks afterwards. Eventually he would revert to his old behavior though.

My friend swears by the Feliway diffusers.

The animal behavioralist also suggested putting 2 litterboxes on every level of the house. Since we had a 2-story house with a basement, we should have had 6 litterboxes out and about.
posted by Ostara at 6:22 AM on July 2


Is your cat de-clawed?
De-clawed cats often feel a lot of pain when attempting to use a litter box, so they find something else soft to pee on, like a bed. This may be alleviated by investigating a softer cat litter.

If your cat isn't de-clawed then there could be lots of other things at play here.

More litter boxes could be in order. How many do you currently have? Experts suggest you should have one litter box per cat, plus one additional litter box. So, even if you only have one cat, you should have 2 litter boxes.

Cats will continue to pee on things that smell like their toilet. If you haven't properly cleaned up the messes, your cat will continue to pee where she shouldn't be peeing. I watched this on "My psycho kitty " recently, and the owner had a very similar problem to you. The solution was more litter boxes and proper cleaning. You should get a black light and scour your home for evidence of cat pee. Take some masking tape to mark out the affected areas and then, thoroughly clean the pee-spots with an enzymatic cleaner, like Nature's Miracle. Cat pee is pungent and very hard to get rid of.... you really need a proper cleaner for this job! Continue with the black light every few days to really, really get rid of the pee smell.

Also, what type of litter box do you currently have? Chances are, it may not be the right fit for your cat. If it's a covered litter box, get rid of it immediately. Covered litter boxes are nice for humans, not cats. Think about going into a porter-potty full of poop on the hottest day of the year... not pleasant is it? That's what covered litter boxes are like for cats. If the litter box is small or even medium sized, get a bigger one, I mean a REALLY big one - you'd be surprised how much room some cats need to do their business.

If there's one area the cat tends to pee a lot, i.e. the bedroom, get a litter box in there pronto. You may not want a litter-box in there, but it's got to be better than all your stuff being peed on.

If the vet really truly can't find anything wrong with your little kitty, I would suggest trying some of these ideas. They sound simple, but seriously, a simple solution could be in order here, but you've got to do your homework too and change things up in the house!

First things first - get that enzymatic cleaner and clean, clean, clean. As much as you may feel that the cat is doing this to annoy you, trust me, cats are by their nature extraordinarily clean and it's their instinct to cover up their pee and poop. I'm confident this problem can be solved though, so don't give up (you sound at your wits end, poor thing!!) The good news is, the lady on the episode of "my psycho kitty" completely changed the habits of her cat with the changes I've outlined here.... and she used to sleep with a shower curtain on her bed to stop the cat peeing on it!

Good luck though, and here's to a pee free life! (hopefully!)
posted by JenThePro at 8:17 AM on July 2


Okay, there are several critical things to pay attention to whenever a cat-pee problem presents itself (assuming a vet has ruled out medical issues, of course, which are the cause of something like 90% of 'inappropriate urination' in cats).

(1) It really is important to remove ALL the smell/residue from anything kitty has previously whizzed on. You cannot do this with vinegar, baking soda, laundry soap, etc. -- you need enzyme cleaner (Nature's Miracle, Anti-Icky-Poo, etc.) and you need to use generous amounts and follow instructions on the label re. letting it dry.

Basically, peed-on areas that haven't been "deactivated" are basically like "HEY PEE HERE AGAIN!" beacons to cats, so you have to get to where the pheromones are *gone*. Get a "CSI light" (UV flashlight) and wave it around the house in the dark -- you will absolutely see some stuff fluorescing that *isn't* pee, but it should soon become clear which types of splash/puddling pattern characterize the weeing sites. Apply enzyme cleaner to these spots and then re-test once it has had time to process; really bad areas may need multiple treatments.

(2) Many cats hate (a) scented litter, and (b) covered boxes. Heavily perfumed litter substrate can make some cats want to seek other bathroom facilities. Covered boxes make some cats too nervous to do their business, and some larger cats have trouble finding an acceptable position inside them. I don't even use commercial litterboxes for my (4) cats, I just use giant plastic storage containers with a small cutaway in one side for easy access. This helps control scatter and prevents my enormous mutant male cats from shooting their business over the side when they decide to show off!

(3) Litter boxes need to be scooped out EVERY DAY. No exceptions. This is, hands down, THE most important factor in keeping the cat going to the bathroom where s/he should. I cannot even count the number of times I have been to the homes of *adults* whose cats' litterboxes are piled high with turds and reeking of ammonia, as if they've not even looked at it for a week or more. Ugh. Not only is this frankly inhumane, it's gross, given kitty is then going and stepping in an open sewer and then walking all over you, your stuff, and possibly your dinner table. No need to beat yourself up if you didn't know this, but habits need to change if you and your partner aren't on a daily scooping regimen. Like, seriously, anyone who isn't willing to scoop a box every day should not have indoor cats. It's not a negotiable thing, at all.
posted by aecorwin at 12:44 PM on July 2


I've heard of using valium or anti-depressant for cats with behavior issues. If not, maybe it would help you took it (sorry). Also, the litter box must be immaculate and not near the food. I'd mix extra water into her food.
posted by theora55 at 5:31 PM on July 2


Just seconding the cleaning recommendations above. That's critical. For us the only thing that solved our cat's issues, which we determined were due to stress/anxiety rather than a physical cause, was putting the cat on an anti-anxiety medication. It worked so well I wish we'd done it sooner. I might still have that couch...
posted by percolatrix at 9:15 PM on July 2


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