Q: I am hoping you have some ideas of how to make my cat stop peeing on things outside the litter box so I can keep him, because I am losing my mind.
Rumple was a stray and came to our door three years ago. We immediately fell in love with him, and after a week of trying to find a previous owner, we decided to keep him. We got him neutered and learned he has feline leukemia virus (FELV).
Last year, he had a really bad UTI and cystitis, which caused him to have a very hard time peeing, and there was blood every time. We got him an antibiotic shot and everything went back to normal.
Now (a year later), he has randomly started peeing on surfaces other than his litter box. We took him to the vet (a month ago) and she gave him another antibiotic shot assuming that it was a UTI. We did not do blood work because the vet says he is young (approximately 4 years old) and kidney failure/disease is unlikely even with him having FELV. He always squats to pee so we don’t believe he is marking. But he is very specific about what he pees on. Never furniture, but mainly soft surfaces that have been on the floor, like backpacks, towels, bathroom rugs, etc. He also pees in the toilet.
We have gotten him two new litter boxes with two different litters (one is litter that he has always used and the other is Cat Attract). He uses one of them to pee in sometimes, but at other times it’s on items outside the box. The litter boxes are scooped daily.
Every time we think he has “gotten better,” he pees on something else. His attitude has not changed otherwise, and he is a normal loving cat. I’m hopeful he will stop doing this so we can keep him, because I cannot simply get rid of him (he is a part of our family), but I also cannot live with my house smelling like cat pee. I feel helpless in this situation of trying to figure out why my cat suddenly starting peeing on things. —B. K., Illinois
A: “As long as the veterinarian has ruled out medical causes, it appears to be behavior,” says veterinary behaviorist Dr. Nicholas Dodman, chief scientific officer of Canine Behavior Studies and professor emeritus at Tufts University. “Rumple’s behavior is suspicious of urine marking, though it is flat surfaces. The marking appears to be strategic, sending a signal to whoever’s backpack it is. The cause may be impossible to determine, a cat or cats outside or a cat in an adjoining apartment. I’d like to know the relationship with the person who has the backpack. Is there a person or cat in the house who this cat doesn’t get along with with, or is there is a change that’s been going on inside the home? It’s hard to say, or possibly impossible to pin down the source of stress. Ask your veterinarian about fluoxetine (that’s generic Prozac), and see if that course of treatment helps. If not urine marking, this won’t do harm, and if it is urine marking, it will help a lot or solve the problem.”
I’m not sure if you have other cats, or where you have litter boxes or how many there are. I suggest having one box on each level, and one more box than the number of cats. Certainly, using Feliway spray may help if Rumple is marking, and if the problem may be between cats, Feliwy Multicat is your ticket to help.
“Perhaps you haven’t tried the right litter for your cat,” adds Dodman, also the author of Pets on the Couch: Neurotic Dogs, Compulsive Cats, Anxious Birds, and the New Science of Animal Psychiatry, “The finer the particles, the better. A large-enough litter box is important. Make the toilet more attractive.”