Inappropriate elimination may be due to a medical condition, a behavioural disorder, or both.
Diseases of a cat’s lower urinary tract are often grouped together and termed Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease or FLUTD. Even “stress” can lead to certain urinary medical conditions in your cat, such as cystitis. If your cat is eliminating outside their litter box, the first step is to have them examined by your vet at Sydney Animal Hospitals.
A medical condition may cause your cat to urinate outside of their litter box because they often want to seek a different location that allows them to stretch or move their bodies more easily than they can in a confined litter tray. They may also associate their pain with being in the litter tray and develop an aversion to it. The pain can be due to inflammation in the bladder (cystitis), gastrointestinal disease or osteoarthritis (inflammation in the joints). Diseases such as kidney disease and diabetes may cause them to urinate and defecate more thus causing their trays to fill up more quickly. This can encourage them to find cleaner locations to eliminate.
Signs to look out for if FLUTD is a possibility are:
- Urinating in unusual places
- Increased frequency of urination
- Straining to urinate
- Blood in urine
- Foul smelling or cloudy urine
- Excessive grooming/licking of their back end
Complete obstruction and being unable to pass any urine (this is an emergency and requires urgent veterinary attention)
Marking – Cats can mark their territory with urine or stool. This behaviour is often triggered by anxiety or frustration. For example, they may be marking when there is an uncomfortable relationship with another person in the house or another cat. The cat may be in the same household or a cat in the neighbourhood which is encroaching on their territory.
Location – It may be due to the location of their current litter trays. Cats prefer to eliminate in quiet and calm areas. If their litter trays are either too few or in busy, loud areas they will eliminate in their preferred location.
Aversion – Lastly, they may be experiencing litter box aversion. Some prefer to urinate in one box and defecate in another. So if you only have one box per cat, inappropriate elimination may be occurring due to this. The type of tray may also be the cause. If the tray is too high, too small, or simply not clean enough they will choose to eliminate elsewhere. Another possibility is if they are experiencing pain or hear a loud noise at the same time as they are voiding.
Treatment involves first ruling out any possible medical conditions. This would require a urine sample and urinalysis (looking for inflammation and infection) and possible blood tests (ruling out kidney disease, diabetes etc). Depending on results, further tests may be required such as urine culture or imaging (e.g. ultrasound).
Once medical conditions are ruled out you will need to address all the above possible behavioural causes.
Most importantly, make sure your cat has enough environmental enrichment in your home. Cat scratch posts with lots of levels so they have a choice to lie up high if they want to. Toys, play time, interesting places to explore (even an empty cardboard box!) and a good choice of resting spots with good views outside or into the room. Pheromones can help create a calm environment for some cats. Diffusers and sprays are available. Ask your vet at Sydney Animal Hospitals for further information on these products.
Make sure their litter trays are in quiet places in your home and away from where they eat and drink. Ensure you have enough trays for every cat plus one.
Experiment with the type of litter tray and type of litter substrate. Some cats prefer covered trays or deeper/more shallow trays. You may need to have both on offer and put them next to each other to see which one your cat prefers. If you don’t have the space for two next to each other, rotate them every 10-14 days to see which your cat prefers. Try to do only one change at time so you know for sure which one your cat likes or dislikes.
Ensure you clean out the litter tray daily and avoid using harsh chemicals to clean it such as bleach or ammonia.
Urinary conditions in cats are often lifelong and diet plays an important role in managing their comfort and health. Urinary health cat food will moderate their intake of certain minerals like calcium, phosphorous and magnesium that can cause crystals to form in the urine (making them more prone to FLUTD). Some foods are even formulated to help cats prone to stress so as not to trigger their urinary problem.
Speak to our staff at Sydney Animal Hospitals to find out more about our Hill’s Prescription Diet’s focused on managing stress and urinary conditions.
If you are not sure what to do for your cat or if you are concerned they may have a medical condition, call your nearest Sydney Animal Hospital to book in an appointment with one of our vets.
Newtown (02)9519 4111
69-73 Erskineville Road Erskineville
Inner West (02)9516 1466
1a Northumberland Ave Stanmore
Norwest (02)8883 0411
Unit 8, 1-3 Celebration Drive Bella Vista
Kellyville (02)8883 0533
106 Windsor Rd Kellyville
Newport (02)9997 4609
1 Palm Rd Newport
Avalon (02)9918 0833
710 Barrenjoey Rd Avalon Beach
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