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Pet Parenting Articles

Thinking Inside the Litter Box

As a veterinarian, one of the most common and heartbreaking situations that I've encountered is a family dealing with a cat who is urinating outside the litter box. As far as cat health problems go, this one is a biggie. The mess, the smell, and the sheer frustration of this problem combine to really damage the relationship between cat and family, and can lead to very sad consequences for extreme cases.

In certain situations, there may be a medical reason for this behavior, while in others it may be due to factors in the home, the cat's personality, or even the litter box and type of litter. Having a good relationship with your veterinarian and knowing what pet products can help are the first steps in solving it.

Here are some tips for dealing with a cat who is urinating in places besides the litter box.

Make sure you have a squeaky clean litter box.

dirty litterbox

Cats are fiendishly tidy, and sometimes they just say no to a dirty or smelly litter box. Urinating on a pile of clean laundry is just the easiest way for them to let you know it needs cleaning. Keep it clean and scoop it at least once a day.

Try new litter or a self-cleaning litter box.

automatic litterbox

A great way to keep the box clean is to invest in a self-cleaning box. That way you'll never have to worry if it's clean enough for your cat. Let the box do the work for you. Some cats don't like scented cat litter, so if you have just switched to it and problems developed, switch back. The same goes for certain types of litter. Give your cat a litter box smorgasbord to see which type of litter or style of box your cat prefers. Try boxes that are open and covered, round and square, and shallow and deep. For litter, you can offer clay, clumping, crystal, pine, wheat, and even shredded newspapers.

Use an enzyme cleaner on old accident spots.

pet safe cleaning products

If your cat pees on the carpet, the urine leaves behind a scent that tells other pets this spot was used as a bathroom. After you've solved your cat's problem with the box, she might continue to use the same spot on your carpet because it still smells like a toilet. Clean those spots with a good enzyme-based cleaner to prevent more accidents. You might even need a deep cleaner if the urine got through to the padding under the carpet.

Start with your veterinarian. 

litterbox health problems

Medical issues including a urinary tract infection, urinary inflammation, bladder stone, diabetes, or tumor can all cause a cat to urinate outside the litter box. A physical exam, lab tests, and possibly an X-ray or ultrasound can all help pin down the cause and develop a treatment plan.

For really tough cases, a veterinary behaviorist might be needed.

cat behavior problems

If you've ruled out medical issues like kidney disease, bladder stones, and diabetes, the problem could be emotional or behavioral. Talk to your veterinarian about a referral to a certified behaviorist.

Knowledge is power! Harness the knowledge of your veterinarian and available pet products and arm yourself with the knowledge you need to get your cat to think inside the box.

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