Help for Inappropriate Urination
Inappropriate urination in the cat is one of those types of cases that sometimes takes a LONG time and a few visits to figure out—not all the time because it is difficult, but because there are so many options for the cause of the behavioral problem.
When we ask the client the long, extensive list of questions, often they don’t know the bathroom habits of their cat enough to give us answers that will help us help you. If a child comes with the adult for a case like this, I often listen to the child more so than the adult. They know what is going on and often have the answer necessary to help us get to the bottom of the problem for you because they often spend more time with the pet. And often, you can figure this stuff out on your own by being your own “Sherlock Holmes” once you are educated to some extent on the reasons behind inappropriate urination.
Now, you can’t do a urinalysis on the cat, and if the cat is blocked with crystals, it can be a life threatening problem that demands emergency attention (blocked cats can die within 12 hours.) But this handout and the associated questionnaire will help you and your veterinarian figure out why the cat is having the problem.
A 1996 study determined the most common behavior-related cause for surrendering a cat to a shelter was inappropriate elimination. Several million pets are euthanized each year in animal shelters across the country for behavioral problems. Inappropriate urination is the most common behavioral problem that leads to euthanasia.
Spraying, Urinating or Marking? It is useful to distinguish between spraying, urinating or marking.
Spraying is more often a behavioral problem. Spraying is generally performed by the cat standing and spraying a stream of urine on a vertical surface such as a wall, windows, furniture, drapes, etc. This is a normal behavior performed by cats and serves to mark their territory. This is the reason the incidence of spraying in single cat households is only about 25% whereas in households with 10 or more cats the incidence increases to virtually 100%.
Urination is normal cat behavior but can be associated with a medical problem, especially if there is blood or crystals in the urine, vocalization, or indications that the cat is trying to get your attention during the urination process.
Territorial Marking happens in either a spraying or squatting position, but usually only a small amount is released and normal urination still occurs in the litter box with marking occurring in certain areas like on the door jams or window sills. Territorial marking behavior is more common in male cats but any cat may feel the need to scent mark its territory. Such behavior is usually manifest by the cat ‘backing up’ to the target and spraying or shaking a few drops of urine at said target. Typically this is ‘vertical’ marking (walls, table legs, televisions) and typically the targets are revisited at regular intervals. The owner may notice that the cat’s facial expressions change preceding elimination or note that the tail shakes as the marking process is happening.
Causes of inappropriate urination can fit into two categories: behavioral or medical. It is important to deal with inappropriate urination problems immediately. The longer the behavior persists, the more difficult it is to change. Behavioral urination includes spraying and territorial marking.
Medical Causes of Inappropriate Urination:
Inappropriate urination generally occurs when the cat is in the normal squatting position, but urinating outside the litter box. The cat may urinate just outside the box, on the carpet in the living room, on your clothes, in the bathtub, on a specific rug. . .well. . . the list can be endless. An exam is necessary to rule out medical causes of inappropriate urination. Medical causes include:
- Anatomical abnormalities
- Confusion. This subset of causes includes those cats that are toxic, old, senile, confused etc. It includes older cats with classic diseases such as hyperthyroidism and high blood pressure and any toxin or disease that can affect mentation. Obviously treatment requires attention to the underlying disease process first.
- Cystitis or bladder infection. Cystitis (inflammation of the bladder) is usually associated with frequent visits to the litter box and the passing of small drops of urine, with or without vocalization. The cause of cystitis may be viral or bacterial, inflammation as in interstitial cystitis, or irritation of the inside of the bladder and urethra due to urinary calculi.
- Debilitating conditions like arthritis of the hips and legs can cause enough discomfort to prevent entering or exiting the litter box. This can particularly apply if the tray is high sided. Making a step or getting a lower litter box for the cat may be an option.
- Declawing sometimes leads to refusal to use a litter box. Often the cat’s paws are tender & scratching around in cat litter can lead to pain & discomfort. In this case it is advisable to find a softer litter which is less harsh on your cat’s feet. Phantom pain, bone regrowth, nail regrowth or osteoarthritis can occur up to years after the declaw operation.
- Diabetes can cause an increase in drinking and therefore urinating.
- Drugs, such as steroids or diuretics which increase the production of urine
- Feline AIDS virus
- Feline leukemia virus (FELV)
- FLUTD (Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disorder) is another name for interstitial cystitis which can be caused by the excessive excretions of brain endorphins and stress triggers. Treatment for interstitial cystitis may include anti-inflammatory drugs or amitriptyline dietary alterations, increased fluid intake, acidifying agents and antibiotics. In humans, DMSO infusions are sometimes used with great success, but I do not know how cats would process this substance. Cats have challenges with lots of drugs (for example, Tylenol will kill a cat by breaking all it’s red blood cells so is extremely toxic.) Many drugs listed are not approved for use in cats. Severe cases if FLUTD with urethral obstructions need emergency attention.
- Hyperthyroidism (excess production of thyroid hormone by the thyroid gland)
- Kidney failure: Early signs of kidney failure may include drinking and urinating more often.
- Metabolic disease
- Nutritional disorders
- Painful bladder infection: UTI’s can also be present without crystals. This form of UTI is much easier to cure than when crystals are present, but both forms require antibiotics and a food change. Usually Hill’s Science Diet or IAMs is recommended as we see the least number of UTI’s on these products.
- Partial or complete obstructions
- Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD)
- Urinary stones or calculi: When the water is frozen outside we see a greater incidence of this because cats on high ash diets don’t have the water they need to process the food, they get dehydrated, and stones form more readily.
There are two major types of crystals…Calcium Oxylate and Struvite. To be sure of which type of crystal is present a sample is sent to a lab where it can be properly identified. Of the two crystal types mentioned above, Struvite is the more common so most veterinarians skip the cost of having it identified and simply treat using antibiotics and food change.
Crystals in male cats are especially bad and can cause blockage of the urethra where the cat is unable to urinate. If this happens, it is an emergency situation and can cause death within 24 to 48 hours if left untreated. The urine builds up in the system and becomes toxic to the cat basically poisoning the pet.
Sometimes the crystals will stick together and form large stones which have to be surgically removed. This doesn’t happen very often, but if antibiotics and a diet change don’t help, the cat should be x-rayed to see if stones are visible. A “last-ditch” option would be to do a perineal urethrostomy on the cat (basically cut the penis off and spatulate it so that his urethra is as large as a female cat’s so that the crystals that keep forming can pass. It’s horrible, but it does save lots of cat lives that way. And the cat doesn’t seem to mind once it is healed. At least it’s far less painful!
In cases where crystals are present, besides antibiotics which are often indicated, a pH modified food-low ash diet is generally recommended to dissolve and disperse the crystals and includes: IAM’s, Nutro Max, Felidae, Natural balance, Science diet C/D, Science diet S/D, and Newman’s Own Organic Pet food although I’m sure there are others. Fish foods in general are very high in ash. Beef liver is usually low in ash.
Be Nice—Check Twice! When in doubt, call the food company or your local veterinarian and make sure the food is safe to feed—ESPECIALLY if your cat has already had difficulties with crystals. Your cat does NOT want to repeat its painful adventure twice. And do plan ahead. I can’t tell you how many times over the years I’ve seen cats come in with crystals because their humans were going out of town, ran low on their special cat diet, bought “just one bag” of some store bought food that looked pretty good, then BAM—with all the stress of changes in the environment, owner being away, new people in the house or boarding—the cat now has crystals again. When you find something that works. . .DON”T CHANGE THE PROGRAM!
Feed canned foods with quality, whole meat sources. Some may tell you (including your veterinarian) that your cat needs dry food to keep their teeth clean. However, others who make the switch to quality canned foods report fewer dental problems, not more. Solid Gold, Felidae and Wellness are some canned foods that have been recommend. Some of them contain cranberry, proven to help the urinary tract of cats with urinary problems. Raw food diets formulated for cats may also be lumped into this category.
And always make the change to the new food gradually to prevent diarrhea.
Stress is another factor associated with inappropriate urination: Cats can sometimes be very dependent on their owners and may have separation anxiety. These cats are more likely to spray. Cats that have had many changes in their routine such as moving to a new house, the introduction of a new spouse, new baby or new cat in the household are considered to be more likely to spray. A loud noise, dogs, children, or other stressor may have scared the cat while he was using the box, causing him to avoid it.
Cat spraying may also be stimulated by the sight, sound and/or smell of another cat. If possible, decrease access to windows and doors to decrease the sight, sound and smell of other cats. Cats often urine mark when they are insecure about their environment.
Sometimes something so simple as getting new piece of furniture can lead to urine marking. Leather furniture seems to be especially vulnerable to being marked, possibly because the acids used to tan leather may be similar to urine components. At other times the cat may pick up cues that the owner is preparing for a trip will urinate in the suitcase in an attempt to let other animals know who the suitcase belongs to. Often they will pick the person they are mad at in the household and urinate in their shoes or on their side of the bed or on their laundry. This is really annoying.
I remember reading one story in an animal communication book where the cat did just this. Apparently the man had recently started applying a new anti-fungal ointment on his feet before he went to bed. The cat smelled it, feared something had invaded its space and marked on top of it (and the bed covers) to let “it” know who was boss. The man, of course, thought the cat was taking his anger out on the man for some unknown reason.
Routine Tests for Refining Diagnosis of Inappropriate Urination:
A simple urinalysis with what we call a dipstick can detect the presence of glucose (sugar), ketones (liver or kidney problems), white cells (indicating infection) and even blood. Further, a glance at the urine sediment under the microscope can determine if crystals are present. The urine must be spun down in a centrifuge to view this most accurately.
Microscopic crystals can form in the bladder for a variety of reasons, but usually they have a dietary cause (feeding crappy, cheap, store-bought food which I will not name). These crystals end up scratching the inside of the bladder which is very painful and results in bloody urine and secondary bacterial infections.
A complete blood count (CBC) and blood chemistry panel help to rule out the various medical problems. See my handout on interpreting lab results to help you understand what those results mean. Cats should also have a thyroid panel done and be tested for Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV), and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV). A thorough history taken during this exam is time-consuming, but critical in making a correct diagnosis. You can often help us help your cat by being able to answer most or all of the questions in the Inappropriate Urination Questionnaire.
Addressing Multi-Cat Territorial Situations.
This is perhaps the most complicated case scenario. The more cats present in a household, the more likely there will be social problems and concomitant urine marking. Failure to Spay or Neuter a Cat can result in marking behavior; 87% of all male cats inappropriately urinating respond to neutering. Colonies with over 10 cats have inappropriate urination problems to some degree nearly 100% of the time. Intact males and females in heat will often urine mark as part of their natural reproductive behavior. This is why it is extremely important to neuter all cats not specifically meant for breeding purposes. Fertile cats are much more likely to mark with urine than are fixed animals. For benefits to spaying and neutering, go to: http://naturalhealthtechniques.com/Veterinary_Stuff/spay_neuter_benefits.htm
Medical problems must be ruled out in the appropriate animal. Obviously neutering may make a difference to the balance of the colony. If you have several cats, a bully cat may be keeping other cats from using the box or may be ambushing them while they’re using it. Provide as many litter boxes as cats, plus one extra—in two different locations, if possible.
One of the main things to address with this problem is to make the cat feel more secure in the environment in which he now feels threatened. With this in mind, try creating high places in which the cat can climb or jump. Put blankets and a little food in these areas. Place paper sacks or cardboard boxes in these areas for him to hide. Make sure there are several of these out of reach places so the cat will have several choices of areas to feel secure while still enjoying your company.
Place some of his food in the areas in which he sprays or puddles.
Sometimes placing a bell on the aggressor’s collar will alert kitty the bully is near. Always remember to use breakaway collars on cats. If possible reduce the number of cats in the household. Obviously the more dominant cat will probably be the one who causes the most problems (i.e. the dominant cat sprays to announce his/her presence and to establish dominance and the more timid cat may mark in response to the dominant cat’s aggression).
Reduce stressors and anxiety-provoking events by separating animals when they are unsupervised, by providing hiding spots, by covering the windows and by banishing the aggressor to less desirable turf.
It was suggested in one resource to put the dominant cat under a plastic milk crate in the center of the room each time he/she became aggressive toward the other cats in the colony. After a time or two of this, just telling the cat to behave or you’d have to put him/her into “kitty prison” rectified the situation.
Use counter conditioning and desensitization in the colony. Keep each cat’s food dish at a distance where the cats can see each otherbut not react. As you find this distance; very slowly move the dishes closer together. Use crates or gates so the animals can see but not injure each other. Play games with or groom the cats so they learn that they can have good experiences when the other cat is present.
What happens if MY cats are marking because they see another person’s cat outside? This is called Territorial marking and use of a magnetic cat flap to keep out “foreign” cats can help, as can screening glass doors, the use of semi-transparent cat flaps or windows to keep the cats outside from staring in and intimidating the colony.
How to correct a cat when caught “in the act”
Important! First, you want to make SURE the cat is not urinating and trying to tell you he is in trouble. Make sure he can urinate, that the stream is clear and yellow and that he/she is not screaming in pain. It sure makes you feel guilty to grab the cat and throw it outside only to find out they were in extreme agony and you just added pain to the insult. Some of those cats just run away and die. Sometimes the bladder is so full it bursts when they are thrown. You want to be able to forgive yourself when this is over.
Next, Do not ever hit a cat or use any sort of physical punishment. If you do catch your cat urinating in an inappropriate spot quickly move the cat & gently place him in the litter tray. If you shove the cat into it’s box, this will put fear into the cat and likely reinforce aversion to the box. It will associate the box with brutality. Not good. Rubbing his/her nose in the urine or feces is also a no-no. You will only teach your cat to fear you and the litter box stressing the cat even further. When you do this to a dog, it learns to clean up after itself by eating and drinking its own urine if necessary. Sad.
OK, let’s move on. . .
The interruption must come within the first few seconds of but no later than 30 to 60 seconds after the onset of the inappropriate behavior. If the cat is startled after it has eliminated and while it is digging in the carpet, the cat may be taught only to become more secretive or to abort the last phase of the elimination behavior. The startle must be sufficient to make the cat abort the behavior and leave but cannot be so horrific that the cat becomes fearful, so the startling technique needed will vary from cat to cat. Appropriate initial startles include soft noises such as a hiss or handclap.
Since cats hate to be surprised, you can use water bottles, clapping, hissing, and other sudden noises (such as snapping, “No!”) to stop unwanted behavior. However, be aware that these tactics will not work when you are not present. In addition, immediacy is key: even seconds late may render it ineffective. You must do it as soon as the cat starts the behavior.
Now, here are some other tips:
Do not capture your cat in the box in order to administer medication.
Reward the cat with a treat for proper use of the litter box.
Litter Boxes, Types of Litter and lots of stuff you pay us big money to figure out!
Often inappropriate urination sufferers will call in the big guns—a mobile pet vet or animal psychologist who comes to your home to evaluate the challenge and give you oodles of advice that you would prefer not to do but know you have to if you want to solve the problem. Here is what these professionals are looking for. A lot of information you say? Yes it is. . .
Finding Previously Sprayed Areas And How To Clean Them: Turn off all lights in the house at night to make things really dark, then use a black light to look for areas that need to be cleaned. I have used my own black light that we use to check for ringworm in animals, but a trouble light with a black light bulb would work just as well. The urine will glow bright green with the black light. Make sure the room is pitch black for best results. Get a big bottle of Nature’s Miracle and really saturate any place that glows.
You can also take some hot soapy bleach water (one part bleach to 27 parts water) and wipe down the walls or door jams and windowsills if the urine shows up in those types of places. Do not use ammonia to clean anything. Ammonia smell tells the cat that this is a spot that needs to be marked because they think it already has been when they smell ammonia.
Note: Windex and window cleaners contain ammonia, so if your cat is spraying on the windows—well—duh! Often cats may spray or urine mark in front of a window where they can see other cats in the neighborhood. They fell threatened because they can see another cat neighboring their turf. They may spray on the window or by a door. To deal with this problem try to block the cat’s view to the intruder(s). A border along the bottom of the window is often effective. Thoroughly clean all soiled areas. Also remove any bird feeders or other attractants which may bring outdoor cats to your home.
Location preference– Cats will usually only have one or two places they feel comfortable relieving themselves. Often they will urinate in one location and defecate in another. Keep litter boxes in different areas of the house. Don’t place the litter box in a garage or laundry room where loud unexpected noises can frighten the cat or they could be accidentally locked in that room. They will not want to go into the area to use the litter box.
Sometimes you just have to start with putting a litter box in the area that the cat is using (no matter how inconvenient it is for the human!) until it uses it consistently. After that, the box can be moved a few inches at a time to a more convenient location.
Make sure the litter box is accessible. You don’t want to have your cat be forced to urinate in a new place because the litter box has been blocked from his need. If this there is now a new scented area of cat urination to attract the cat back. Treatment is thorough cleaning, deodorization and shutting the cat away from this area until the memory has faded.
Most importantly clean the litter boxes often—at least once a day! Cats will be more likely to use them, and to be comfortable sharing litter boxes, if they are kept clean at all times. Cats have very strong noses and can smell about a thousand times better than humans. If YOU can smell urine, it’s blowing them away! When we go into a restroom where the toilet is not flushed or someone has urinated or defecated on the seat, we don’t want to use it—why should a cat be any different with their litter boxes?
Wash the litter box weekly replacing it with new litter. This is important. Old litter harbors stale urine smell which the cat doesn’t like so may decide not to use the box. I once used some old litter from the basement box to refill the upstairs box which my cat used daily. The next day, she left “kitty brownies” on the carpet for me. Her little way of telling me that the litter was dirty! Yuk.
Do not clean the box with strong smelling or citrus-enhanced disinfectants as cats avoid these smells. Rinse the box well after washing it. Some people believe it’s important to leave a little urine smell. Personally, I think a cat is smart enough to find a place to use as a toilet if the substrate is what it likes. Rinsing with a solution of one part bleach to ten parts water followed by air drying will help kill odor causing bacteria.
How many litter boxes should you have and where should they be placed? Make sure you have at least one litter box for each cat in your house. Many experts recommend one litter box per cat plus one. That may add up to a lot of litter boxes.
The litter boxes should not be right next to each other. Some cats do not mind sharing. But it is far better to avoid potential future problems by giving each cat their own box. When the urge to eliminate hits in the kitchen after a meal, a tiny kitten may not be able to climb two flights of stairs to get to the box. Cats love convenience and are lazy. They prefer to have the litter boxes in places that are EASY and CONVENIENT to use (for them!) Likewise, a geriatric cat may not be able to easily negotiate stairs or a litter box with tall sides.
Any new cat should be placed in a large room with a litter pan for a few days so he can get used to the new box in a new environment before exploring the rest of the home. If possible, you should find out what kind of litter the cat used previously and use the same kind in your home.
Cats are also very sensitive to the smell of other cats and will especially avoid the excrement of an ill feline. If one cat is sick or on medications, this may change the odor of the sick cat’s excrement and the other cats may avoid the box.
Make the litter box a place of solace and security. Make sure he is never disturbed while toileting. Do not put it in noisy or busy places like next to the washer or dryer, the television, stereo speakers, alarms or timers. If the cat has been startled or abused while using the box in a certain location, she may wish not to return to use that location again. Locating the litter box near outside doors or windows makes the cat nervous as well because they feel they have to keep an eye out for trespassers and strangers while urinating. Select one or more discrete or screened off areas for cat pans in handy quiet corners.
Covered Litter Boxes: Consider covered litter trays for further discretion only if you can clean the box out regularly. The odor builds up faster in a covered box and often owners don’t take the time to clean the box as often because it’s a bother to reach into the covered apparatus. Also, extra bacteria and urine often find their way to the creases and edges of these types of boxes. And sometimes, cats are afraid to go in them in multi-cat situations especially if there is a dominant cat that waits to attack the weaker cats when they are in a compromised situation.
Dogs or children are notorious for stalking cats and often can only catch them while in the act of going to the bathroom, so if you have young, crawling children, a kid’s gate may be necessary for that secure and sacred kitty space.
Dominant cats sometimes ambush the meeker cat while in the vulnerable position of trying to use the box.
We recycle our zip lock bags and clean the litter boxes a couple of times each day putting into the zip lock all the neat clumps. We replace the Ziploc bags weekly or each time the get half-full. What I like about them is that when you zip the bag, you zip in the odor. It’s really very neat and tidy. The garbage pick up people appreciate you as well.
Tips Animal Communicators Have Found For Why Cats Urinate Inappropriately:
(Note: Many of my clients use Lydia Hiby www.lydiahiby.com and really like her.)
- They like to urinate on plastic shopping bags because of the plastic odor that they try to cover up.
- Cats don’t like the smell of fabric softener sheets. It doesn’t smell like their owner and so they try to mark the clothing because they think the clothes have been somewhere else.
- Scented kitty litter gives cats a headache.
- Sometimes they are mad at the owner for not getting their way. For example, they want to go outside, they are mad at their mom and dad for trying to get pregnant, they don’t like the new renter because they are mean to cats, they don’t like new additions to the house or there have been some changes in relationships (new boyfriends/girlfriends)
- The owner may come home with other animal smells on them. They urinate on the clothing to mark their territory.
- Sometimes cats pick small throw rugs with non-skid backing to urinate on. This is caused by an odor from the backing that somehow tells the cat to urinate there (probably an ammonia-like smell). Cat-repellent sprays or washing the rug may help; you might just have to get rid of that rug.
Some Common Reasons for Litter Aversion Syndrome (LAS):
Litter Aversion Syndrome (LAS) is really just a fancy way of saying that many cats do not like the litter they are offered. This is especially common with clay litters, leading many people to conclude that something (excessive dust?) is unpleasant to the cat and serves to deter them from using the product.
Some cats develop an aversion to the litter because of a bad experience with it. For instance if the cat has diarrhea and soils her paws in the process of covering, she may associate it with the litter.
How do you know if kitty is starting to develop an aversion? Possible cues are eliminating just outside the box and not wanting to be in the box. Scratching outside the box but not inside. If your cat is perched precariously on the edge of the box, not wanting to touch the litter inside the box and leaps out as soon as finished, you can probably interpret those cues as not wanting to touch what is in there.
Choosing the Best Litter Box: Try different types of litter boxes with different depths—shallow, deep, wide open, covered or partially covered; After finding a litter the cat will use, you will also want to experiment with different depths of litter. My cat starts to misbehave if I have less than ¾ inch of clumping litter in her box.
Does your cat prefer a covered box? Try this as a test: Place a litter box in an appropriate sized cardboard box which is on its side with the litter box inside. No need to get an expensive covered box. Give him both the covered and open choices in his chosen place and see which one he prefers to use. As you become more confident of his using one area and type of box, begin to remove the other boxes that he is not using.
How to Choose a Cat Litter Your Cats will Use:
Cats dig a hole before they urinate or defecate and cover after. (Note: Many cats do not cover their feces of urine. This is not an abnormal behavior. In the wild many cats leave their excrement out in the open in order to mark their territory.) Scratching behavior and scratching preferences provide clues as to the type of material upon which a cat prefers to eliminate.
Cats have individual preferences and some may not like the texture of a particular litter, or the smell of a fragrance added to the litter.
Find out what the cat is eliminating on because that is the kind of material it prefers, then place that same substrate around the litter box so it can scratch on it before and after eliminating. For example, if it eliminates on plush carpeting, put a plush throw rug under the litter box or close to the area where you want the cat to eliminate and cover the trouble areas with aluminum foil or plastic. If the cat prefers smooth cold surfaces to eliminate on, provide it with a large empty litter box in that same area and cover the rest of the area with a rug, paper towels or some other non-smooth substrate. Once the cat is eliminating in the box consistently, add a very few tablespoons of kitty litter in the box each day and gradually increase that. At the same time, start taking up the rugs, paper towels or other things covering the floor first from the areas that the cat has NOT urinated on, and finally from the areas directly around the area it has urinated on.
Perfumed or “odor control” litter: Cats of all ages may develop an aversion to the litter box or substrate (material inside of the litter box). Some litters with a ‘perfume’ or ‘antiseptic’ smell may dissuade some cats from using them. I open and smell each litter before purchasing it so I can choose the litter with the least amount of perfumes and odor. You may also want to try different types of litter including clumping litter, sand, newspaper, and even no litter to see which your cat prefers.
Types of Kitty Litter Out There and Things to Think About:
Use litters that resemble the inappropriate substances the cat has chosen to use.
Clumping litter: If you are using a clumping litter, use anywhere from an inch to three inches of litter, depending on your cat’s preference for depth. Use a scoop with slots to retrieve the clump. Scoop frequently because the clumps will break down with agitation and will be harder to remove. If the waste products are removed regularly, the box will probably only need to be washed every week.
Worlds Best Cat Litter (www.worldsbestcatlitter.com) is made of corn and can be flushed down the toilet. It is dust-free and clumps well. Look for it in your local pet stores. Not only is it dust-free, it is the best clumping litter we have encountered. Cats also seem to love to dig and cover when using this product.
Shredded newspaper or paper towels are also relatively inexpensive and soft but do not absorb moisture or scent as well as traditional litters. Yesterday’s News® (Canbrands International) is a litter made from recycled newspapers that is formulated to absorb moisture well but is not as good at absorbing odors as some other litters. Many cats that are very fussy about using soft substrates will use this litter in the absence of any others. I’ve also seen these kind of litters with the name Good Mews and also have seen them sold in bulk through paper mills.
Sand: Fine grained sands are usually the most appealing. Number three blasting sand and fine-grade playground sand is inexpensive and soft to the touch. Sand does not absorb moisture or odor as well as commercial litters, but they can be dumped multiple times a day at very little expense. Generally large gravel size is less appealing to cats. Some lumber yards carry play box sand at a very inexpensive rate.
Sawdust or wood chips that do not originate from strong-smelling trees (e.g. cedar) can be useful additives in litter boxes. Saw mills may allow clients to have these for free or for a very small charge. Some of the newer clay litters have pine chips added to provide softening. Many cats dislike the strong smell of cedar chips.
Baking Soda Added: Some owners notice an aversion after baking soda has been added to the litter to reduce the odor. When the cat urinates on the baking soda, it fizzes and may be displeasing.
If your cat uses the bathtub or sink in preference to his litter box, he might prefer a smooth surface. Try placing less litter in the box, leaving the box partially empty.
Does your cat use the plant soil to urinate in? If kitty is choosing a potted plant for urination there are several steps to stop this behavior. First, make the plant unappealing. Place wire mesh or aluminum foil over the soil. Sometimes large stones are effective as well. In addition you may need to use potting soil in the litter box to get kitty to use the box. Gradually start replacing the soil in the cat’s litter box with the preferred litter. If the cat urinates next to the plant or still attempts to use the plant, then place the box nest to the plant with potting soil. Gradually replace the soil with litter and then follow the above protocol of slowly moving the box to a more appropriate location. If the plant needs it, add a small amount of vinegar to the soil to counteract the ammonia in the urine.
Cats with long fine hair like Persians seem to be more particular to substrate preferences.
Plastic Tray Liners: Some cats do not like the plastic tray liners. They get their nails caught or dislike the texture.
Fabrics: If the cat is using soft substrates such as bedding, towels, or laundry, consider softer litters.
LitterMaid (www.littermaid.com ) This automatic litter box looks really great on the surface (especially if you are lazy or can’t clean the boxes every day,) but there are three drawbacks to this product. 1) You need to make sure it has quite a bit of litter in it at all times or the urine starts to stick on the bottom of the pan and the rake can’t go through it. 2) If the cat urinates and the spray gets onto the rake, clumping litter will build up on the rake and it’s really hard to clean. 3) If the motor activates and the rake starts when the cat it in the box, the cat may not want to use that particular litter box anymore.
I purchased mine when they first came out ($300—ouch!) but I’ve seen them at Costco for as little at $118. They are not perfect, but if you are willing to spring for it, you might like it. This ensures your cat will have a clean box to use every time nature calls. The Worlds Best Cat Litter used in combination with a LitterMaid will guarantee your cat has a fresh, clean and inviting bathroom twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. Without a LitterMaid, it will be critical to manually clean the litter box at least twice per day. Cat Attract also works well in a LitterMaid.
Eliminating the Pet Odor:
Here are a few products that seem to be better than most. One of the biggest challenges is that if a cat has urinated on a carpet and the urine has penetrated the pad of the carpet and gotten into the wood flooring underneath, the carpet may have to be taken up, the floor cleaned with Murphy’s Oil Soap, allowed to dry and then the sub-flooring should be sealed with an appropriate paint. It’s a real bummer.
Natures Miracle Nature’s Miracle consists of billions of natural enzymes that turn organic stains and odor causing materials into a liquid that you simply wipe away. Eliminates stains and odors from pet accidents permanently–even urine odors other products fail to remove–with no perfume cover-up. For use on carpets, floors, furniture, clothing, cages, litter boxes, bird cages, and all pet living and sleeping areas. Non-toxic. Available in most good pet stores.
Have you tried OxiClean? It’s really the answer to cleaning up cat urine so you don’t have to smell it again. Especially with your laundry. It doesn’t bleach out colors and it “eats” up the urine as well a bleach does. I’ve found it at WalMart and Costco.
White Vinegar and water works well for immediate clean-ups. The vinegar smells strongly enough that often the cat won’t go back and urinate in the same place (so you won’t want to use it around their litter boxes.)
Odor eliminators that have been relatively successful include The Equalizer T11 (EVSCO), K.O.E.– (Kennel Odor Eliminator) (Thornell), Elimin-odors (Pfizer), and Anti-Icky Poo (AIP) (Bug-a-Boo Chemical). No odor eliminator can be expected to undo years of repeated assaults.
Feliway Spray Previously Marked Areas with Feliway (www.feliway.com). This new spray product made of feline facial pheromones will help retrain your cat to not mark in the house. Continue to spray key areas just prior to allowing the cat supervised visits to the rest of the house. Feliway helps to calm cats when put into new colonies. It is quite expensive and can be obtained through your local vet, the internet, and sometimes through pet stores.
What if your cat wants to toilet in a place that is not convenient for you? Your cat may exhibit a definite location preference and continually urinates in a particular location, there are several ways to solve this problem. First you must thoroughly clean the soiled area. You may then need to place something over the preferred area, such as furniture or maybe her food and water bowels since many cats do not want to eliminate where they eat. If your cat comes back and urinates next to the obstacles, try placing a litter box in the area where she is eliminating. If she uses the box, don’t make the mistake of moving it immediately. Leave the box in the exact position for 1-2 weeks (depending on the length of time the inappropriate behavior has been occurring). Then begin to gradually move the box 1 inch per day or every other day to a more appropriate spot. You may even need to move it slower than this. It may seem like a small distance to you but your cat perceives it as much more.
Physical Deterrents: Use upside down carpet runners (the ones with the spikes on the bottom), heavy plastic, aluminum foil, double-sided tape, motion detectors, pet repellents, or scat mats to limit her access to the area where she inappropriately eliminates.
For problems of long duration, confine the cat in a small room with a litter box, food, and other necessities; when regular litter box use has been achieved, let the cat out of the small room for increasing periods of time
Use spraying areas as feeding stations. This can also alter the cat’s perception of the appropriateness of these areas.
Medications and Natural Remedies used in Inappropriate Urination:
Rescue Remedy Bach Flower Essences are especially beneficial when you find yourself in stressful situations, such as, job interviews, emergencies, stress, when feeling tension, after getting bad news, before an exam or any time you loose balance mentally—like when your cat urinates on the carpet. The Essences quickly get us back to normal, so that we calmly can deal with any situation. It’s great for the cat as well. Just put three drops into its water dish daily until the stress subsides.
Homeopathic Drops from Professional Complementary Health Formulations: I have used three formulas over the years with success when combined with nutritional therapy and proper food. They are Cystitis or Urinary Aid V11 drops, Block Aid (for FUS), and Incontinence Aid V5.
Several drugs have been used to control inappropriate urination (to download an article on stress-related feline lower urinary tract disorder (FLUTD), send a bland email to firstname.lastname@example.org. This is no my particular area of expertise and this information seems to be good (if you are into using “real drugs” and I’m not.)
FLUTD: When inappropriate urination is thought to be responsive to psychoactive substances; Prozac, buspar, amitryptilline and chlopramine are the most common of these. Whenever a psychoactive therapy is instituted, owners should be aware that it may take several weeks to ‘kick-in’ and should be used in conjunction with behavioral modification.
Buspirone (Buspar) helps some cases of inappropriate urination without causing the adverse effects of sedation and ataxia, which commonly are seen with diazepam treatment. In cats treated for inappropriate urination, 56% returned to normal litter box usage.
Amitryptilline probably works best when the condition has actually been misdiagnosed and is in reality a sub-set of stress-related Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disorder (FLUTD)
Other Medications commonly used include: benzodiazepines, tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), and nonspecific anxiolytics. These more efficacious drugs have largely replaced progestin, which used to be the treatment of choice.
TCAs are now also the drugs of choice for some cases of FLUTD and sterile cystitis, following the model for interstitial cystitis in people. It is important to remember that for most drugs that have been used for years, no toxicity data exist for ranges that are traditionally considered therapeutic, and no range of therapeutic levels have been validated. For most of these drugs, the side effects may be more profound and affect more organ systems. Also, cats have different mechanisms to process these types of drugs than do other species and these drugs may not be licensed to use on felines. The dosages may also be far less or far more per pound of body weight than a dog or human. Since these drugs are human drugs, consult with your veterinarian before trying ANYTHING like this.
I once had a case where a client who was a medical doctor gave his cat a shot of Depo-Medrol ( a very strong steroid) for its skin problems. Little did he know, nor did he inquire, that the dose was 1/10th of the human dose. He overdosed his cat by 10 times the normal dose and killed it by shutting down its adrenal glands permanently.
Amitriptyline or Nortriptyline, both TCA’s, can relieve the anxieties associated with specific stimuli, such as litters or litter boxes, but unlike the benzodiazepines do not interfere with learning. If a cat being treated with amitriptyline exhibits the relatively common side effect of vomiting, the dose can be decreased or Nortriptyline can be used, but the new dosage may not be sufficient to control the cat’s anxiety. Alternatively, the cat could be treated with another TCA.
Treating such a cat with a benzodiazepine may cause decreased inhibition therefore increasing the behavioral elimination problem.
Don’t know which cat is the culprit? If you have multiple cats and do not know which one is the culprit, your veterinarian can give you some fluorescent dye to feed one of the cats. The urine from that cat will fluoresce when exposed to a black light (more so than regular urine of course!)
Your Questions Answered:
Is the smell of cat urine dangerous? Some people think it is. When the ammonia levels get so high and there is constant exposure it can cause a form of dementia. The association with this was made by studying hoarding cases. Among the toxic factors, which have been considered to contribute to the symptoms and progression of Alzheimer’s disease, ammonia deserves special interest for the following reasons: Ammonia is formed in all tissues and organs and ammonia is the most common endogenous neurotoxic compounds.
Other Helpful Handouts on NaturalHealthTechniques Website:
Good Books on Animal Communication:
- Conversations with Animals by Lydia Hiby www.lydiahiby.com
- Straight from the Horse’s Mouth by Amelia Kinkade
- What Animals Tell Me by Dr. Monica Deidrich
- What the Animals Tell Me by Penelope Smith
Great Links for inappropriate urination information: