Is your cat peeing on the carpet? The bed? Anyplace other than where he’s supposed to be peeing? This is one of the most common reasons that cats are given up for adoption, and, sadly, often times it isn’t their fault!
The very first thing you should do, if your cat is peeing outside the litter box, is to take kitty to the vet. Why? Because a number of serious health problems can cause cats to pee outside the litter box.
These include (among others):
- Urinary tract infections
- Feline lower urinary tract disease
- Hormonal imbalance
- Kidney disease
Even if your cat has peed outside the litter box before, and the problem was not medical then, do not assume that kitty’s health is fine now.
Here’s an example. I work for a veterinarian, so you’d think I’d be able to recognize the difference between peeing outside the litter box because of a behavioral problem instead of a medical problem, right? Nope.
My kitty has a history of peeing outside the litter box when there is a weird smell in the house, or when she decides there’s something about the litter box she doesn’t like.
A few weeks ago I had to put an Elizabethan collar on her to keep her from scratching her ears (she has allergies). The collar makes moving around the house kind of a pain in the butt, and it makes it harder for her to get into and out of the litter box.
Well, a few days later she started peeing on my bathroom floor (at least it was easy to clean!). I, of course, assumed that it was just because of the E-collar, especially since she can navigate through the house just fine if it’s to get to, say, a can of salmon being opened.
Then one night she was snoozing in my closet and I heard her let out this little meow, and then she peed right there in the closet. My first instinct was to grab the nearest pillow and bop her, but I wondered if maybe there wasn’t a health problem going on.
Sure enough, my poor kitty has a bladder infection, and here I went ignoring it because I assumed, based on past behavior, that it wasn’t a medical problem! Stupid me. Anyhow, now she’s on antibiotics and getting better.
Moral of the story: don’t assume. Rule out the medical problem first.
It’s very helpful if, when you go to the vet, you bring a urine sample with you. If you don’t, then you will either need to leave your kitty at the vet’s until she pees, or have the vet extract urine straight from the bladder using a needle. Neither option is very fun for the cat.
Here are some ways to get a urine sample.
1) Tell your vet what’s going on and ask if they have any “lab litter.” This is cat litter that’s made from plastic pellets, so that it doesn’t absorb the urine. Clean and disinfect kitty’s litter box, then put a bit of lab litter at the bottom and wait for him to pee.
It may help to confine kitty to a bathroom until he pees. Obviously, this method won’t work if kitty has been avoiding the litter box entirely.
2) Alternatively, ask the vet for a syringe (the kind without a needle), and use it to suck up urine from someplace where kitty has peed on the floor. There can’t be any cat litter in the sample. This isn’t a great method, because your floor is obviously not sterile, but it works.
If kitty tends to pee near, but not in the litter box, then you can put a plastic garbage bag under the litter box and use this method. It’s cleaner than your floor, at least.
You’ll need about 3 mL of urine; the syringe will be labeled so you can tell how much you pulled up off the floor.
3) Use a clean (and preferably sterilized) yogurt tub or similar disposable container, and get a free catch. Yep, catch the urine as it’s coming out. This is actually the best method, because the sample has less chance of being contaminated.
After you’ve gotten a sample, you either need to get it to the vet right away, or refrigerate it until you can get it there. I know, it’s kind of gross, but you’ll get over it.
The cost for the vet visit and urinalysis will probably be about $75. Then there is the cost of treatment, if any, on top of that. By the way, your vet actually needs to see the cat before an accurate diagnosis can be made. Don’t bring your vet a urine sample without your cat and expect to get treatment options. Legally, the vet needs to see the cat to make a diagnosis.
Even though no one wants their kitty to have a medical problem, they are sometimes the easiest to fix when it comes to cats peeing outside the litter box.
If it turns out kitty doesn’t have a medical problem, and you still need to stop your cat from peeing outside the litter box, then watch for my next post!