Q: We are a family of six with a 13-year-old Labrador Retriever, a 3-year-old Golden Retriever and a 13-year-old, lynx-point Siamese cat. Our children have all gone off to college, but two of them are home for the summer. We’ve always kept our cat’s litterbox in my daughter’s room. The room is quiet and peaceful and she has used the litterbox with no problems over the years. The cat has now decided to use my daughter’s bed for a litterbox. I have washed sheets and comforters and it continues. We have been cleaning the box more regularly the last few weeks thinking that a dirty litterbox might be the cause. The cat and dogs have grown up together, so there is no strife in that regard. Last fall we got an automatic feeder for the cat, but I don’t think this is the cause, because this behavior has just started. We have not changed brands of litter or food. What should I do?
A: When a cat urinates outside of the litter box, it is either because of a medical problem or something that is upsetting the cat. First of all, you should take your cat to your veterinarian to make sure your cat doesn’t have a medical condition, such as a urinary tract infection, diabetes, hyperthyroidism or a bladder stone. Once a medical cause is ruled out, we’re left with behavioral issues.
Most cats mark by spraying urine on a vertical surface, but if the surface they are marking is horizontal, they mark by squatting rather than spraying. The fact that the cat is urinating on a socially significant object, like the bed, suggests that the cat is trying to send a message, either to the dogs or the people in the house, claiming ownership of the bed presumably because she is very fond of the person who sleeps in the bed (your daughter).
Even though this sounds like marking behavior, I think the first thing you should do is add another litterbox to the household. This litterbox should be in a different area from the current litterbox. If the current box has a hood, the new one should not. Use clumping litter instead of non-clumping litter, and dump the urine clumps and the stool every day.
There is a commercial product called Feliway that helps curb urine marking. It is a synthetic facial pheromone. When sprayed on areas where cats have sprayed urine or areas where you anticipate the cat will spray, it decreases the likelihood of additional spraying in those areas. Feliway also comes as a diffuser that when plugged into the wall, will diffuse through the air, resulting in a calming effect on the cats in the house. You may find that this alone helps to curb your cat’s aberrant urinary behavior.
If these methods fail, medication can be administered that often results in cessation of the marking behavior. The drug of choice for this is Prozac. If the urinating on the bed stops when Prozac is administered, the drug can be tapered, and in some instances, the cat can be taken off the Prozac completely with no return on the marking behavior. Good luck!