Need advice on cat urination issue
July 6, 2009 2:53 PM   Subscribe

Cat behavior question: urinating outside (directly outside) the litterbox. Vet has ruled out any blood issues or urinary blockages.

I have darling, dear, adorable Coal. He will be 2 at the end of this month. Over the last six weeks, he has taken to urinating directly outside of his litterbox. All. The. Time.

I took him to the vet four weeks ago, when I realized this was a problem that wasn't going to go away. She tested him for everything generally imaginable in a young cat, and he's come out with a clean bill of health. She has suggested a high-resolution ultrasound (an ultrasound she generally gives to elderly cats or those with known urinary issues, in addition to the ultrasound she took at her office) and I am considering that, as he may have very small crystals/blockages invisible on her ultrasound. Barring that, it seems as though this is a behavior problem.

He no longer urinates in his litterbox at all. He still defecates in his litterbox, as normal. He stands with his two front paws inside the litterbox, his two back paws outside, and urinating like that - directly outside the box. I have always fastidiously cleaned his litterbox, when I wake up, before I go to work, when I get home from work, and before I go to bed. "Stale box" should not be a problem. He has, luckily and thank my stars, not ever urinated anywhere aside from the master bathroom floor.

I have four litterboxes in my house. Three are in the master bath, which is where his original one litterbox always was. There are now two litterboxes near where he often urinates, and those boxes have his old litter (World's Best). There is also a third litter box, about three feet away, with a new litter (Arm & Hammer Naturals - it was the texture that seemed most different from World's Best). There is a fourth litterbox in a guest bathroom with the old litter brand in it - that remains untouched in the last four weeks (by urine or feces). The other three boxes in the master bath have all been blessed by his feces, but not by his urine (in the last four weeks, at least). Is there another litter I should try? Does Cat Attract really work?

About three weeks ago, I had the genius streak and got some of those puppy training pads, and placed them all around the bathroom. He now urinates on those, which has been handy in showing me exactly where he goes when I am gone at work. They are still a bear to clean up though (they drip and aren't always watertight!).

I have cleaned up any urine outside a box by first wiping up any excess with a paper towel, then using Lysol or Clorox to sanitize the area, and then spraying with Nature's Miracle Advanced for Cats and allowing that to dry. Is there another technique I should be using to clean up his little mistakes?

I have tried using aluminum foil where I don't want him to urinate - that doesn't work since he sees it as a game and tears off large pieces of foil to chase around my house. I've tried picking him up and putting him inside his litterbox when I see him urinating outside, and that doesn't work; he just stops mid-stream and walks away, only to come back later and finish the job - outside the box.

One might think that I am somehow torturing him and he's acting out to get back at me. Alas, no. He lives an amazing life - he does not like other cats (he is very violent with them), so he does not have a kitty compatriot at home, and that is not plausible (the vet has recommended strongly against it). He gets plenty of cuddle time, and at least 45 minutes of one-on-one play time with me a day, either with a laser pointer, feather toy, ball chase, or other technique. He is indoor-only, and has been since he was rescued off the streets at six weeks of age by the Anti-Cruelty Society. I adopted him at twelve weeks. He's only ever known me as a companion. On the off chance I do have to travel out of town, my mom comes to my house and stays with him – the entire time I am gone. He’s never been left alone more than 12-14 hours at a time.

Other circumstances: We moved into this condo over a year ago. At the time, I was prepared for the worst, but he had no issues adapting and instead embraced his new, active life inside a bigger home and with terrific views outside. He spends much of his "alone" time looking out my windows and chasing after errant flowers, birds, and insects he sees outside. He has never had issues adapting to new people in my life, and I have had no new people in my life recently. He is the life of the party when I have them, but again, I haven't had one in the last three months.

I am sorry for the long post – I’m trying to provide as much information as possible! I love him more than anything, and if I have to keep cleaning up puppy training pads for the rest of my life, I will do so. I just think there has to be a better way. So, I turn to you for advice. Please help!
posted by MeetMegan to Pets & Animals (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
My cat picked up a similar habit a couple of years ago - front paws inside the box, back paws standing on the edge, butt hanging over the floor. I tried different litters, more frequent cleanings, etc, but the fix that worked was a litterbox with sides high enough that she has to decide between all in and all out.

I switched to a rubbermaid storage bin (with a small box beside it as a step), and she hasn't missed since.
posted by Turbo-B at 3:25 PM on July 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

How close to the wall is the litterbox? My cat seems to prefer a much wider margin around the box than you'd think he would need - it's like he's afraid of being boxed in or thinks he's bigger than he is. He used to go half-outside and half-inside the box till we moved it further out. I'd say it's a good foot from each wall now (it's in a corner) but that seems to do the trick for him.
posted by andraste at 3:40 PM on July 6, 2009

Some cats like a bigger litterbox; you might want to try a larger one. One other thing to try might be an enclosed litterbox so that it's physically impossible for him to squat half in-half out.
posted by baggers at 3:59 PM on July 6, 2009

Yep, seconding the bigger box, some cats need the space in order to assume their preferred position. Also some cats like to perch on the side, and need a big enough/full enough box to be able to.

I might try some other litters as well, there was a study done on cat litters recently, I will see if I can find it online. You can also look here for good info.
posted by biscotti at 4:07 PM on July 6, 2009

Not an expert, but one of our cats is very fussy with respect to the litter that we put in his box. If we use the gravel type, he gets cranky and misses the litter box (on purpose - grrrr). however, when we go back to the scoopable kind, he is a happy lil feller.

Maybe try one litty box with a different kind and see if he likes it? Maybe go more to a sandy type? But I also think that Turbo-B has an excellent idea - all in or all out.

Good luck, as its frustrating - especially in a new home.
posted by fox_terrier_guy at 4:14 PM on July 6, 2009

I can only provide my answer to your question "Does Cat Attract really work?"

For me the answer is YES! My dad has an 18 y.o. male cat that always used the outdoors as his litter box. Now that he's older he basically used any corner he could find. Ignored two litterboxes that we placed in his usual spots.

Started using Cat Attract and after a few missteps that's all he uses (well, provided the box is scooped soon after).

In addition to considering a bigger little box as posted above, maybe try a different route and a litter box that doesn't have a big step to get into? Maybe he thinks it's just too much trouble for a simple pee =)
posted by Zoyashka at 4:18 PM on July 6, 2009

Also suggesting trying other kinds of litter. Our cat was having issues going outside the litter box until we quit using litter with crystals in it. I can only surmise he didn't like the crystals or they hurt his paws.
posted by tamitang at 4:18 PM on July 6, 2009

Get a litterbox with a top entry. A big Rubbermaid storage bin with 2-foot high sides, maybe at first with no lid, later with a large hole cut in the lid to keep the smell more contained, will only run you $10 and should solve the problem.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 4:41 PM on July 6, 2009

We had the same problem last year with an older kitteh we adopted. He was constantly peeing outside the litter box. I tried deep litter boxes, top entry litter boxes, cat attract, different litters, piddle pads, bathroom confinement, etc. What finally worked for us was getting a large, low Rubbermaid container from the housewares section at our local big box. The kind with wheels that is made to slide under a bed. It solved the problem immediately and he loves it still.

It seems that Frank (kitteh in question) didn't need higher sides to keep the pee contained, he just wanted more room to stand/stretch/squirt. The only drawback is that it's a bit of a pain to change the litter now (unwieldly) but I can live with it if he can!

Hopefully you have the space for one of these boxes but if you don't have the length, you could also try one of those squarish boxes made to go under washing machines to catch drips. It would probably give him a little more room to "go".
posted by muirne81 at 11:47 AM on July 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the excellent suggestions regarding the litter box. Does anyone have any ideas about cleaning up the messes? Does my process sound OK? I mop up any mess with paper towels, spray Lysol or Clorox bathroom cleaner, mop up with paper towels, and then spray Nature's Miracle and let it dry.

Thanks to all of you! I appreciate it!
posted by MeetMegan at 5:48 PM on July 7, 2009

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