“Oh no! Not again,” you think as you tackle your laundry and discover your favorite sweater is soaked in cat urine. Why is your pet suddenly urinating on your clothes, your bed, the rug—any soft spot they can find? After all, their litter box isn’t that bad. You cleaned it recently. Well, maybe a while ago. It’s in a nice, private location next to the washing machine, which should be perfect. Yet your cat is refusing to pee inside the litter box. You may immediately think “urinary tract infection,” but let’s look at other potential causes why your feline friend is urinating inappropriately.

#1: Your cat may have developed feline idiopathic cystitis

Feline idiopathic cystitis (FIC) is a frustrating phenomenon that typically affects young, healthy cats. While urinary tract infections (UTIs) caused by a bacterial infection are more common in older cats, FIC appears in young to middle-aged cats with no known exact cause. FIC can present with blood and inflammatory cells in the urine, but bacteria that can cause an infection are rarely found, and any crystals present are generally not the cause of bladder inflammation. Instead, FIC is thought to occur because of one or more of the following reasons:

  • Defective bladder lining
  • Neurogenic inflammation
  • Stress
  • Abnormal stress responses

Stress appears to play an important role in triggering FIC, so manage your cat’s potential stressors by providing appropriate environmental enrichment, eliminating household intercat aggression, and offering excellent litter box accommodations. A diet rich in fatty acids and moisture can also help reduce the bladder inflammation associated with FIC that can cause cats to urinate outside the litter box.

#2: Your cat may have developed a chronic disease

Chronic diseases, such as kidney disease and diabetes, are other illness-related reasons for inappropriate elimination. With kidney disease, your cat’s kidneys begin to fail and cannot adequately concentrate urine. Since the urine is so dilute, water simply runs right through your cat, causing them to excessively drink and urinate. Because the kidneys can no longer fully filter out toxins and metabolic wastes from your cat’s bloodstream, they will drink more in an effort to flush out these wastes, creating a vicious cycle.

With unregulated diabetes, glucose levels skyrocket, and your pet will drink more to help flush out the excess glucose crowding the bloodstream. As they drink more, they’ll urinate more, and may develop a urinary tract infection, doubling their urinary issues. If you’ve noticed your cat drinking and urinating more, they may have developed kidney disease or diabetes.

#3: Your cat may be suffering from stress and anxiety

Cats are sensitive creatures, and the slightest schedule or environmental change can disrupt their litter box habits. Rearranging your furniture, changing work schedules, or—heaven forbid—bringing home a new puppy can create stress and anxiety in your cat, and they may react by avoiding their litter box. In some cases, the stress from sudden changes or bullying from other household cats can trigger a feline idiopathic cystitis episode. Help reduce stress in your cat’s life by providing plenty of environmental enrichment in the form of daily play, scratching posts, hiding places, lookout towers, and predator-prey experiences with toys and food. Also, avoid any sudden changes, and help promote a feeling of calm with Feliway products that diffuse a relaxing feline pheromone.   

#4: Your cat may have a poor litter box experience

Cats are naturally fastidious animals, and they tend to avoid less-than-clean areas, such as dirty litter boxes. If your cat is peeing outside the litter box, check the box for cleanliness and hygiene. Ideally, the box should be scooped at least once a day, if not twice, and fully emptied and disinfected weekly. Most cats prefer fine, unscented, rather than heavily perfumed, litter, and they like it deep enough to bury their waste. When looking for the perfect litter box, choose one that is large enough to comfortably fit your cat’s entire body, tail included, with enough room for them to turn around and scratch in the litter. You may prefer a covered litter box to minimize messes, but your cat may feel trapped and uncomfortable, so offer them a variety of litter boxes to find the one they like best. Place the boxes in out-of-the-way quiet areas, avoiding rooms with loud appliances, such as the furnace or washing machine, which can startle your cat while they’re eliminating. If you have more than one cat in your home, offer more than one litter box. A good rule of thumb is one box per cat, plus one, so two cats should have three litter boxes.

If your cat is having problems urinating late at night or during the weekend when your family veterinarian is unavailable, turn to your animal emergency hospital in Spokane. Urinary issues, especially in male cats, can be life-threatening, and require immediate treatment. Our Pet Emergency Clinic and Referral Center team is standing by to care for your pet during an emergency—give us a call.