Get Your Cat to Use the Litterbox

CatChannel veterinary expert Arnold Plotnick, DVM, talks about how to stop cats from urinating outside of the litterbox.

Q: My 5-year-old male cat is healthy, but he has a major problem. He constantly pees outside the litterbox on the floor. We have had to put down plastic so that his urine doesn’t ruin the carpet.

How can we stop this awful habit? We keep the litter very clean and we have two litterboxes because we have two cats. The other cat has no problems with the litterbox. We have watched him peeing outside the litter box. Your help would be greatly appreciated.
A: A cat urinates outside of the litterbox for either a medical problem, marking behavior or inappropriate elimination behavior. First, rule out a medical problem. Take your cat to your vet and have a urinalysis, urine culture and an X-ray performed. Once you rule out a medical problem such as a urinary tract infection, bladder stones or idiopathic cystitis (inflamed bladder of unknown cause), you’re left with marking behavior or inappropriate urination behavior.  

When cats engage in urine marking, they usually spray the urine onto vertical surfaces. It sounds like your cat is not spraying, but rather, is squatting and urinating on the floor and the carpet.  My guess is that your cat is engaging in inappropriate urination. Most cats do this because they do not like their litterbox, they especially like the spot they’re urinating on, or both. Your job is to make the litterbox more appealing and the spot he’s going on less appealing.

First, to make the spot he’s going on less appealing, deodorize the areas that he has soiled. In fact, not only deodorize, but treat with something that enzymatically destroys the odor molecules. Many products are out there. Then, to keep him away from the area he’s been soiling, put something on the spot that will repel him. Double-sided sticky tape works well; cats hate the way the  tape feels on their feet. A product called “Sticky Paws,” large sheets of double-sided sticky tape, exists for this purpose. 

Make the litterbox more appealing by adding one more litterbox to your household. The  magic formula is “n + 1”: have one more box than there are cats in the household. You have two cats; you should have three boxes. Place the new box in a quiet, low traffic area. Do not put a hood on the box. Clumping, unscented litter is preferable. 

If these recommendations don’t solve the problem, certain psychoactive medications have been shown to help this problem. For this, you’ll need to talk to your veterinarian. Good luck!

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