Feline House Soiling
Although cats are known as being highly clean animals, one of the most common reasons they are brought to the vet is for urinating outside of the litter box (known as ‘’house soiling’’ or ‘’inappropriate urination’’). This is a frustrating issue, so the sooner you identify the underlying cause, the better the outcome for all involved. There are numerous reasons why this may occur, but it is commonly broken down between medical causes and behavioral causes.
It is thought that if a cat is urinating outside of the box, it must have developed a urinary tract infection. Urinary tract infections are actually fairly rare in cats, though we can see them in senior cats, or secondary to another health condition. What we more commonly diagnose is cystitis, an inflammatory condition of the bladder. Along with urinating in abnormal locations, we might see straining when urinating, blood in the urine, or frequent small urinations. Bladder stones are another medical reason for house soiling, and will present similarly to cystitis. Obtaining a urine sample to perform a urinalysis is the first step in diagnosis. From there, imaging (ultrasound or x-rays) is needed to rule out stones. Male cats are at risk for a urethral obstruction in both of these conditions (becoming ‘’blocked’’), so a correct diagnosis and initiating treatment is important to prevent a more severe scenario.
We also see something called polyuria, which is urinating large quantities. Because of the volume of urine being produced, it may stimulate a cat to urinate in other locations. We see this secondary to diabetes, kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, and several other diseases. Bloodwork (along with a urinalysis) is necessary to identify the cause in these cases.
A medical cause that is often overlooked is pain or arthritis. Cats will hide signs of pain, so we can miss it when it is present. If it is too uncomfortable for a cat to move to where the box is located, or to climb inside of the box, they will choose a different location.
Behavioral house soiling can be a sign of stress to something in a cat’s environment. Changes such as a new home, new pet, new roommates, construction nearby, stray cats in the neighborhood, can all be triggers. An aversion to the litter box itself is also possible. The cat may find fault with the location of the box, the type of litter substrate, the cleanliness of the box, or the size or shape of it.
In all of these cases, there are treatment options available. The best way to handle this problem is to have your cat examined. From there, it can be determined what diagnostics should be performed and which treatments are likely to help. Please call us at 410-687-1111 to schedule an appointment for your feline family member.