Why does my cat pee everywhere?
October 16, 2005 9:11 AM   Subscribe

Catpissfilter: Help! My (slightly neurotic) cat is pissing where he ought not to piss!


My wife came to my house with her mad and loyal cat Phil. A lovely cat, though I suspect (if you believe in reincarnation) that it's very likely his first time around as a cat: he hasn't quite got the hang of it yet. Anyhoo- things were fine until a few months ago when he started getting these scratching scabs on his neck. Took him to the doctor and he checked out fine after a battery of tests. Not fleas, not cancer, not any common feline thing.
Cut to: this summer, we're packing to leave for 2 weeks , and the suitcases are open and getting filled, when he leaps into one and pisses into the suitcase.
I clean it out, let it dry that night, and the next morning, it's only open for 5 minutes and he does it AGAIN.

We chalked it up to him being pissy (pun intended) about us leaving. But yesterday, we're setting up to go to my niece-in-law's 2nd birthday and he climbs into one of her bags of presents and pisses in that (!)

This very morning, he pissed in an entirely empty bag.

Full disclaimer: my wife might not be the most assiduous person in the world about keeping the catbox clean. But barring that (easy fix) does anyone have any experience with this type of feline behavior where it WAS some kind of sickness?

I've had cats for years, and in my experience, I can tell a sick cat when I see one. This doesn't seem like a sick cat to me, but I'd love some feedback from the cat owners out there.
posted by asavage to Pets & Animals (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It's actually pretty common and I've heard lots of stories of cats acting out when the owners leave or return from a vacation. Pissing in the suitcase is one I've heard before. Pissing on the owners' bed is also pretty popular.

I don't know what the remedy is, but the last time I had a neurotic cat pissing on the side of my cat box the vet tried to convince me that my cat could benefit from prozac -- apparently this is a normal thing to give to pets now -- but instead I just started being better about cleaning the box every single day and the problem pretty much went away.
posted by mathowie at 9:18 AM on October 16, 2005

Yes, this absolutely can be a sign of a medical issue, so the first thing to do is get a full vet check done to make sure he doesn't have a urinary tract problem (common in males) - I know he had one recently, but that doesn't mean something hasn't arisen in the meantime. Often, inappropriate urination is the first sign of this and trying to manage a medical problem as a behavioural problem is a waste of time and energy (not to mention unfair). Also, if he isn't neutered, get him neutered, intact male cats mark much more often than neutered male cats (although most cats of either sex will mark given the right circumstances).

Second, assuming he has had a thorough vet check, including a urinary tract workup and blood workup and he's fine, AND you have discussed this with your vet, you can start by limiting his living space to a smaller area. Make sure that his litterbox is always clean, (scoop it every day and change it completely once a week) the litter is something he has used successfully in the past (have you changed the brand of litter you use? Some cats get so accustomed to a certain brand of litter that you have to gradually mix in a new one if you want to change or the cat will just stop using the litterbox), and make sure that his food and water is at least 8-12 feet away from the litterbox. Make sure the cat gets enough human contact, exercise (use a Cat Dancer or other toy) and stimulation during this time, and make sure that there are no "attractive nuisances" like piles of clothing or suitcases in the room. After a few weeks, if he has not urinated inappropriately while he's confined to a smaller area, you can gradually start increasing the area he has access to. You absolutely must make it impossible for him to access the specific things and types of things he has urinated on or you will have to start again.

Inappropriate urination is often a sign of stress of some kind, physical and/or mental, and it might be an idea to try and work out what changes have happened recently which could cause this (for example, what do you do with him when you go away?). Also, keep your house neat, some cats cannot resist the temptation of piles of clothes or other things lying around. And make sure you clean any accidents with an enzymatic cleaner like Nature's Miracle, anything else may leave enough of a scent behind that the cat cannot resist re-marking.
posted by biscotti at 9:30 AM on October 16, 2005 [1 favorite]

Medication can definitely help, but I would work on ruling out medical reasons and then behaviour modification first.
posted by biscotti at 9:31 AM on October 16, 2005

1. Have vet check for urinary tract infection.
2. Get rid of piles of clothes on the floor, or whatever seems to be a trigger (my cat will pee on piles of clothes or anything plastic).
3. Pet the cat! Sit with the cat for at least ten minutes a day, petting and praising the cat. This sounds like hokum, but it helped my cat immeasurably (by reducing his stress I suppose).
posted by unknowncommand at 10:19 AM on October 16, 2005

This is going to sound crazy, but its cheap so worth a try. Our vet suggested this when NOTHING else seemed to work. The cat was pissing everywhere except the litterbox.

Go get a bottle of L-lysine vitamin supplement, crush some into a fine powder and sprinkle in their food. We are going on six months without 1 inappropriate piss.
posted by spartacusroosevelt at 1:16 PM on October 16, 2005

Funny this should be posted right now, when I was thinking of posting something similar. My wife and I have three cats between us. One of them (which we couldn't identify at first) has started eliminating outside the litterbox. We took them all in for bloodwork and urinalysis. Turns out that two do have UTIs, but we've determined it is the one who does not that's been pissing outside the litterbox. This is very uncharacteristic for her--she's very placid and otherwise well-behaved--and there have been no changes in the environment lately except for an unfortunate flea infestation flare-up (which we are dealing with).

It seems to be a behavioral issue, but those are hard to diagnose and deal with in cats. My vet suggested some kind of kitty pheromone thing called feliway, which we just got. So far no luck.
posted by adamrice at 1:40 PM on October 16, 2005

In addition to the possibilities mentioned above (especially stress, which is the most likely candidate)--my older cat does this when his anal glands need to be expressed. Many cats do this on their own, but for various reasons some do not. These reasons can range from being obese to having allergies.

Take a look at your cat's posterior and see if...ahem...his bunghole seems pink or irritated. Watch and see how the cat behaves around the litterbox. If they strain, take a long time, or run off frantically after they finish then these are all warning signs.

If your cat is constipated, this can have the same sort of effect--including the peeing on the carpet. These are all things to run by a vet. We feed our cat a tablespoon of canned pumpkin a day (high fiber diets helps both problems) and have his anal glands expressed when he gets to the peeing-on-the-carpet stage.
posted by divka at 2:46 PM on October 16, 2005

I agree with the advice to get the cat checked for a urinary tract infection or stone, not to mention keeping the box cleaner and making sure it gets some regular attention/affection

In addition, make sure you clean up any spot where it's pissed really well, otherwise its likely to revisit it. There is an enzyme product called Nature's Miracle that is available at many pet stores that does a great job of getting every trace of stink out.

Finally, if a urinary tract infection or bladder stone ends up being part of the issue, try giving the cat water away from its food (and litter box). Cat's prefer a separate water source, for some reason, and generally have heathier urinary tracts if they are getting enough water in their diet.
posted by Good Brain at 2:49 PM on October 16, 2005

we've determined it is the one who does not that's been pissing outside the litterbox

I don't know that I'd assume this is behavioural. It could easily be that the other cats' urine smells weird to her (from the UTIs), which is making her reluctant to use the litterbox. With three cats, you should have at least two litterboxes anyway. I'd try adding another litterbox in a different location and see if that helps.
posted by biscotti at 3:29 PM on October 16, 2005

Just to second mathowies comment: I too have experience with cats "acting out" by pissing on luggage when there is a move going on. I believe it truly makes them anxious, they understand luggage means a more extended absence, and they may be trying to put their mark on you/your stuff. I second the petting the cat, and thinking about what arrangements you have when the cat is absent. Make the cat feel secure.
To me, this sounds entirely like neurotic cat behaviour and nothing like a physiological issue, but I'm not a vet ...

Also, not sure what to suggest re: how to stop it. Punish the cat when it happens, I guess, but I am not a cat lover either so take that with a grain of salt!
posted by Rumple at 4:50 PM on October 16, 2005

In addition to checking for a UTI, also have the vet take an x-ray of the cat...sometimes the peeing can be caused by something that the x-ray will catch...ALWAYS a good idea whenever you cat is sick.

We had the same problem with our 2 yr old himi....she ruined a $3K leather couch... After determining that it was not a physical problem we moved on to behavior. We took off the lid to her box. We added another litter box. We changed the litter.

Finally we have her on 2.5 mg of Fluoxetine which is just a generic brand of Prozac. She's been a perfect little girl since we started about 2 months ago.
posted by AmericnJewl at 9:11 AM on November 2, 2005

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