The Vet Is In: Peeing (vs. thinking) outside the box

By Friends & Neighbors September 15, 2013 00:10

cat-in-the-boxIn this high-tech era of innovation and invention, thinking outside the box is not only encouraged, it’s all but mandatory in executive suites.

But when our cats start thinking and then peeing outside the box, that’s trouble. Vets call it “inappropriate urination,” but in reality it’s far worse than inappropriate. Hormone-laden cat urine stinks – even from our cuddliest feline friends – and can damage household items.

The good news is that this behavior can be prevented. Solutions can be as simple as changing the litter more often or playing with your cat more frequently. In other cases, believe it or not, fighting with your spouse or kids could be causing the problem and a domestic truce could get your kitty to resume thinking inside the box.

In more serious cases, veterinary intervention is necessary. Or you might try putting your cat on Prozac – but more on that later.

The first step in dealing with peeing outside the box is to rule out medical problems. Bladder infection, sterile cystitis, bladder stones, sludge, crystals or chronic concentrated urine can all cause the lining of the bladder and urethra to become irritated and painful, which can cause wayward urination.

If your feline pal is crying or straining and little or no urine is being passed, the cat’s urethra may be blocked, and he or she should see a veterinarian immediately. Such cats will be in extreme pain and will rapidly become toxic. The bladder may even rupture.

Diabetes, renal failure, hyperthyroidism and some other medical conditions can cause cats to drink more water and urinate more frequently, most likely in unwelcome places. Veterinary treatment will result in less water consumption and less urination where you don’t want it.

Diet can also play a role. Indoor cats that eat only dry food often don’t drink enough water and produce very concentrated urine. This can inflame the bladder and urethral lining, causing a burning sensation and, yes, peeing outside the box. Switching to canned food, which is 70 percent water, will dilute the urine and eliminate inflammation.

Quality canned food also reduces a cat’s carbohydrate intake, thus curbing obesity, which itself can lead to medical problems resulting in inappropriate urination.

Multiple clean, non-plastic water bowls, water fountains and unchlorinated water will encourage cats to drink more water and result in fewer kidney, bladder and urethral problems.

If medical problems have been ruled out, behavioral issues are likely causing out-of-box elimination.

The bladder is the center of stress in cats (think headache or back pain in people). Anything that upsets the cat can result in urination any time and any place. New pets, new people, tension between people in the house, remodeling work or long absences by the cat’s favorite person can all cause stress.

Keep your pet happy by minimizing change and noise. Provide climbing structures (cat trees and condos), scratching posts with catnip and new toys. Finally, spend more time with your cat, who will love the attention.

Obesity, old age and arthritis can make it difficult for a cat to get to the litter box or get in and out. Moving the box, changing the type of box, or having more boxes available can help. Have one for each cat in the house, plus one more. Make them easy to get to and away from foot traffic, noise or dogs. Many cats do not like covered boxes, which may cause them to feel trapped. And forget box liners; cats hate them.

Keep the cat box clean and odor-free: Remove waste at least twice daily; change the litter and wash the box at least once a week. Most cats prefer litter that resembles sand or clay. Avoid brands that are fine, dusty or heavily scented, as they can cause respiratory problems and drive cats to pee elsewhere. Because plastic retains odors, replace old litter boxes every six to 12 months. 

Stress and anxiety triggered by interactions with other animals can cause male and female cats to mark territory. Cats that have not been neutered always do this. If the source of this stress cannot be eliminated, anti-anxiety drugs like Prozac – yes, a vet can prescribe it – can often stop this behavior.

The next time your cat goes outside the box, know that there is a reason and there is also a remedy.

Marv Ordway owns Twain Harte Veterinary Hospital.

Copyright © 2013 Friends and Neighbors Magazine

By Friends & Neighbors September 15, 2013 00:10
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