cat piddler on probation
February 9, 2014 8:36 AM   Subscribe

I have an older cat, 16 years old, in good health. She's not using her cat box to piddle, leaving a nice wet spot on the floor just outside her cat box. What can I do to retrain her to use it?

Our little kitty has been an outdoor cat for most her life, with easy access to get outside and do her business. That's worked out great. In the past year or more, she's become less interested in heading outside as she's got tto clamber through a cat door, plus it's cold outside.
We have a cat box set up for her, which she uses for #2, but she insists on piddling on the floor. It's not all the time, but she's got a streak running now of several days. It's a bit on and off but she doesn't seem to want to use the cat box for urination.
We've tried putting the box in different places, tried different brands of litter. End result is the same, she's somewhat unpredictable in use of the box.
She's had a recent vet check and came out with a good bill of health. She jumps up on beds and laps, not with a lot of alacrity, still she gets where she wants to go. We've even observed her in the box sticking her rear end out over the edge of the box.
I'm looking for suggestions how I can retrain her to use the box, or any ways I can reward successful cat box behavior.
posted by diode to Pets & Animals (21 answers total)
How recent was the vet check, and how extensive? Was the vet looking at her with this litter box problem in mind? If not, the vet was likely not looking specifically at her intestinal tract health.

Pain on urinating is the main reason cats avoid the litter box. If she's come to associate it with pain, she won't use it for that reason. No reward or retraining a human can come up with will break that association as long as she's in pain.

She also could have developed a sensitivity to the kind of litter you use, not just the brand. If you use clumping or clay-based litter, you could try something completely different - crystal-based, or pellet-based.

But at her age the most important thing is that the vet knows she's having issues urinating and looks at her specifically for that purpose - physical exam, blood tests, urinalysis and maybe even an ultrasound if the other test results warrant it.
posted by kythuen at 8:43 AM on February 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

My 16 year old cat would pee outside the box. I saw her one time. She was in the box but close to the door so she actually was peeing the floor.

What I ended up doing is getting some puppy training pad outside the litter box which would absorb the pee and make cleanup easy

Then one day she stopped and keeps her pee in the box. It has been a year since it was a problem. Cats are hard to figure out.
posted by birdherder at 8:59 AM on February 9, 2014 [5 favorites]

IANAV, but I am in vet school. Did you discuss the inappropriate urination with your vet when you cat was last seen? How long ago did she see the vet? I feel like I've said this a million times, but inappropriate urination is often a sign of a greater health problem in cats. I would bring your cat back, and discuss the urinating outside of the litterbox with your vet. Your vet will probably want to know:
- when the inappropriate urination started
- does she sometimes urinate in the box, and sometimes outside, or is it all outside the box
- is she straining when she urinates, or does only a small amount of urine come out when she does pee
- have you noticed increased thirst or hunger
- have there been any changes in the house that may be adding to her stress (new pet, visitors stayed for a week, plumber has been here all week fixing the sink, new food, etc.)
posted by gumtree at 8:59 AM on February 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Have you tried Cat Attract? One of my elderly cats (going on 15) has developed issues in this respect, and this brand has worked surprisingly well in curbing his less desirable propensities.

If your kitty is in the litter box but urinating outside it, she may also have arthritis, which will make it difficult for her to squat. My family has had this happen with a couple of geriatric cats. The vet would need to do an X-ray to confirm.
posted by thomas j wise at 9:00 AM on February 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

My older cat started doing this - she'd be in the box but not really squatting, so the pee would go over the edge. I got a covered box, but then the problem was she still wasn't squatting, so the pee would go out the door, or right into the seam between the top and bottom, and run everywhere.

The best solution was a big plastic storage box - like the picture but I did not cut a door into it. She was able to hop in and the really high sides contained the pee. They also cut down on her throwing litter everywhere.
posted by Squeak Attack at 9:12 AM on February 9, 2014 [5 favorites]

If it is a hooded box, try taking the hood off. My experience is that older cats step into the hooded box but don't bother turning around in there and pee right at the edge/outside the box. For some reason this behavior pertains only to urination. For defecation they still manage to turn around and dig a bit.
When I take the hood off, older cat moves around in the box before finding a spot to pee and the pee stays in the box.
posted by travelwithcats at 9:23 AM on February 9, 2014

We have the same setup as Squeak Attack WRT the big storage box. We fill it about 4-6" with litter, no lid & it does indeed contain all deposits & most of the litter flinging.

Maybe she would like the open top better? Is there a lid on the box you'd like her to use now?
posted by yoga at 9:24 AM on February 9, 2014

The first time I had multiple cats and multiple litter boxes, I was surprsied that the cats used one box for peeing and the other for pooping. I'd second the kind of high-sided boxes people have recommended up-thread (we had one once that my partner had cut down from a plastic garbage can when we had a cat whose pee ended up outside the box even when he was in it). But another thing you might try is adding a second box, just in case your fella prefers not to pee where he poops.
posted by not that girl at 9:31 AM on February 9, 2014

I would suggest a 2nd litter box if you do not already have one. The rule of them I have heard is the number of litter boxes should be number of cats +1 so if you have one cat, then you should have 2 litter boxes. Your cat may like to use one litter box for peeing and the other for pooping.

Another option is to clean the litter box more often if you haven't. That may have her peeing near the edge if she is trying to not get into the litter box too much when it is full.
posted by Jaelma24 at 9:47 AM on February 9, 2014

I just discovered last week that my cat was getting scratches on one her hind legs from the Omega Paws litter box we had. It turns out she is just too long for the size of the litter box and her kicking over the litter resulted in her leg scraping against an unfinished edge.
posted by srboisvert at 11:22 AM on February 9, 2014

Well, after posting this I observed the culprit in action. She went into the room with the cat box, post meal-snack. I followed her quietly and watched the drama unfold. She climbed into the box (uncovered) and stood so her tail was just over the edge, then let fly.
Then she got out and began scratchng at the floor around the puddle as if she was covering it up. I don't think she is intending to pee on the floor, it may be the box is too short for her. it's a standard mid-size box. I'm thinking there is a functional issue here.
I'm going to try Squeak Attack's suggestion for a big plastic storage box, and probably cut a hole in the side like in the picture and see how that works.
posted by diode at 1:10 PM on February 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Google Nvr Miss litter box, it could help.
posted by analog at 1:28 PM on February 9, 2014

First the big plastic box, then the Nvr Miss if she's still missing the mark.
posted by diode at 1:34 PM on February 9, 2014

Also if a cat is peeing extra hard (i.e. standing in the box but spraying out), sometimes this means territorial anxiety so give a quick check to her surroundings, are any other cats giving her a hard time, was stuff moved around lately, does she still have her perch and hiding spots, can you rub her smell on stuff etc.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 1:49 PM on February 9, 2014

Did your vet do a urinary analysis at the vet check? Arthritis check? If not, I would strongly encourage you have your cat rechecked for those issues in addition to trying out different litters, litterboxes and box placements.

The thing is that with older cats, urinating outside the litter box is often considered A Sign, and should be checked out to make sure it's not a problem. Best wishes to you and your kitty.
posted by i feel possessed at 2:06 PM on February 9, 2014

If your cat isn't having mobility issues then a top entry box may be the ticket.
posted by 26.2 at 2:42 PM on February 9, 2014

Our cat did exactly this--standing in the box and spraying out--when she got really old. I think there was too much arthritis for her to squat properly.
posted by LarryC at 11:43 PM on February 9, 2014

Yes, we use a large plastic storage bin as well. Works great.
posted by getawaysticks at 6:06 AM on February 10, 2014

Data point: My older cat was doing this. I took her to the vet, and they discovered she had a urinary tract infection. Gave her meds, and then she went back to using the litter box as normal.
posted by crLLC at 7:46 AM on February 10, 2014

Our older cat has always had problems with aim, perching on the edge of the box, and hated the top-entry box we got her (neither cat liked them much; we think they felt that much more trapped, as they have a bit of a cantankerous relationship).

Our solution was to put puppy pads on the floor in front of the litter box. She occasionally scrunches them up with scratching after she's done the deed, so we just go into the laundry room, where the boxes are, and straighten them out periodically.
posted by telophase at 11:34 AM on February 10, 2014

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