Eau de Litter Pan
March 30, 2014 4:38 PM   Subscribe

How can we solve our older cat's sudden obsession with urinating all over the house?

After the death of our oldest cat in December, we adopted a kitten that we adore. However, since the kitten has arrived, our middle cat has began urinating all over the house. He had not had this problem before - the only time that he had previously gone in the house was right after we found him, as a kitten. His problem has gotten so bad that my dad has threatened to put him down if it doesn't stop.

The two cats share one litter pan, which I think is a major part of the problem. I am a strong advocate for getting at least one more pan, but there is really nowhere in the house where the older cat goes and the kitten doesn't. The kitten is a massive eater and goes to the bathroom multiple times a day. She is a strictly indoor cat, while the older cat is indoor/outdoor. Our previous cat was also indoor/outdoor, and she and our middle cat split between going outdoors and using the litter pan.

The older cat has gone to the bathroom everywhere - in closets, in our garage, in our shoes, etc. - despite being two feet from the litter pan. I think he's afraid to go, and I don't know if I can blame him, since the kitten's scent is dominant there.

What is the best thing for us to do in this situation? I love both cats, and I would be heartbroken if we had to give one up.
posted by DRoll to Pets & Animals (6 answers total)
I suggest a visit to the vet, in case this is a urinary tract infection. My mom's cat did the same thing.
posted by Carol Anne at 4:43 PM on March 30, 2014 [7 favorites]

Two things to start off with:

Rule of thumb is one more litter box than you have cats. An alternate is one litter box per floor if you have a multi-floor house. But it sounds like you absolutely need a minimum of one more litter box.

Also, check for UTIs. Crystals are incredibly common in male cats, and they are quite painful, enough so that your cat will start avoiding the litter box just to try to avoid the pain. Resolving this long-term might mean a different cat food less likely to produce struvite crystals and finding ways to encourage your cats to drink more. We have a very nice water fountain which we clean very well at least monthly which encourages them to drink more.

I know it seems like a hassle to increase the number of litter boxes in your house, but you just gotta do it. Make it big, make sure it has sides so he views it as safe. And scoop your litter boxes obsessively until the issue goes away, cats (just like us!) like to do their business in a clean, sweet-smelling place.
posted by arnicae at 4:44 PM on March 30, 2014 [3 favorites]

Absolutely, my next step would be one more box and a vet checkup.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 4:50 PM on March 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

Also - patience. Cats don't like change, and a lot of big things have changed for Middle Cat (MC) in the last four months. In the last four months alone MC has lost his good buddy, and had his turf invaded by a kittenish interloper. Though you had the best of intentions, MC is feeling defensive and unsettled, everything in his world is in a state of upheaval. This is so, so hard to say when you're getting your favorite shoes ruined and having to bleach the carpet, but give him some time. Lots of affection, time.

If you catch him about to pee somewhere you can swoop him up and set him (gently) into his clean litter box. If you catch him just after he did it - just remember, punishing him will do no good. Cats just don't operate that way. It will make you feel (slightly) better but not impact him in any way.

In the interim, to protect your home, cats don't like plastic wrap or crinkly metal - when I've had feline pee issues in the past I've resorted to covering my couch with an old blanket then putting plastic wrap/tin foil/what have you all over it. Cats also don't tend to like citrus, so get some essential oil and spritz it in the places you'd really like to protect from his depredations.

And just remember - extra litter boxes (add two, it doesn't matter if they're in areas of the house kitten uses, MC will appreciate it) and clean them multiple times a day until this whole thing settles down.
posted by arnicae at 4:51 PM on March 30, 2014 [3 favorites]

Please please take him to the vet. My male cat has also undergone some recent stress and started peeing everywhere and it turns out he has, per the vet "a raging bladder infection." Emotional stress can lead to really serious physical problems for cats. They are babies about change. Start with the vet, before you try to make any other changes - just think how easy it will be if the whole thing can be solved with a 10 day course of antibiotics!
posted by something something at 5:50 PM on March 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yeah, it is crazy to just have one litter pan. The general rule is the number of cats plus one, and it doesn't really matter if the newly-problematic cat was okay with just one before.

Also nthing vet visit. We just lost a cat with outside-the-box pee issues. We first went to the vet a year ago and got a diagnosis of, "Nope, just an asshole" and changed our behavior and that seemed to mitigate the issue somewhat although not entirely. Because the peeing behavior was intermittent and she wasn't showing anything was wrong besides that, it took us a month or two to figure out that something was actually wrong when it ramped up again a couple months ago and it turned out she had developed severe diabetic ketoacidosis in the meantime. When figured out something was up we got her in to the vet, but it was too late to save her. I feel really bad about this still. I know you think that the new kitten and the peeing are connected, but you don't know that until you have the cat checked for physical issues.
posted by charmedimsure at 6:43 PM on March 30, 2014

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