Hello I am Dr. Joey. Thanks for trusting me to help you and your pet today. I am a licensed veterinarian with over 15 years of experience. I look forward to working with you.
Oh what a frustrating problem! You are definitely not alone. Many cats have this issue. The first step is to determine if she has a true medical problem before we consign this being a behavioral issue. This means, I highly recommend you have your veterinarian see her to do an examination and then some screening testing which should include at least a urinalysis but depending on her age, screening for underlying issues that would cause increased water intake/urinations (kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, etc) may be indicated.
If no medical issue is identified then you do need to treat this as a behavioral problem.
As a behavioral issue there is no way to sugarcoat this...this will be tough to combat. But I have a few suggestions for you.
First, we must assess the litterbox situation. Do you have enough litterboxes? The recommendation by specialists is that you have one box per cat plus one. So, that means at least 2 boxes. An especially fearful cat may not approach a box because something terrifying is between him and the box, such as a vacuum cleaner. Therefore, she will eliminate outside the box instead of approaching it. With two boxes, the problem is solved.
Where is the litterbox located? Cats don’t like to have their litterbox close to their food or bedding. They like to have a consistent, private place to do their business. So, avoid placing the box in one of the busiest rooms in the house. Be careful with boxes in the bathroom. If a cat gets sprayed by the shower while eliminating in the box, you can be guaranteed she may refuse to use the box again. Is the box easy for the cat to get into? This may be silly, but some people keep the boxes in a closet and then forget to leave the door open!
I always like to assume you are doing a great job with cleaning the box (scooping all daily; cleansing out the litter entirely every 3 to 4 weeks and when you do this complete change-out you actually cleanse the box itself with a non-ammonia cleaner). I recommend try a different litter. Try one that isn't as dusty and doesn't have an overt odorizer.
I think I forgot to mention above that if you have a hood on the box, take it off at least for now. Some cats start to hate the gas chamber effect they create. Other cats that are arthritis or on the larger side have a super tough time maneuvering into/out of the box to go, and ultimately give up and go near it. If you feel like it is a smaller box and she does have arthritis, then perhaps try a larger box that she can maneuver around in. Some people buy one of the tupperware storage containers that is a low rectangular box and cut an entry-way into it. This works superbly. Our goal is that we want her to love her box. We want her to jump in there, scratch around and make a big mess which means she likes being in the box.
Some cats need to be confined to a smaller area for a while until they earn the privilege to get back into the whole house by proving she can consistently use the box. You should not feel guilty about confining her to 1 or 2 rooms for a few weeks until she proves she is able to do this. During that time you can make the litterbox an excellent experience as noted above. Also we can work on reducing anxiety since this can sometimes play a role in these problems. If not already tried, buy a Feliway Diffuser. This releases the positive cat pheromone that makes cats feel awesome and are less likely to misbehave (cannot hurt and might help). Spend quality time with her daily doing what she likes whether that be petting, brushing, playing (laser pointer chasing, feather on a pole chasing, retrieving, etc) for at least 10 to 20 minutes a day. THis helps her know you still care.
could you tell me your suggestions please?
Above...starting. It takes a few minutes to type this. There are lots of things you can do. :)
As some final notes, be sure not to punish ther when you find the disasters (you noted you are not which is wonderful). If you did punish, it would only serves to increase anxiety and can worsen the situation.
The other thing it is very important to thoroughly cleanse all areas that she has inappropriately eliminated. I recommend using an enzymatic cleaner. These can help get rid of the odor. If you have carpets, steam clean. If the cat smells it, then she is more likely to go again in these areas...plus it improves the odor for your nose as well.
Finally, if you have done all of those things and no improvement, then it is time to discuss medication with your vet. Some cats are experiencing anxiety that we must address with medications (such as amitriptyline or fluoxetine).
PLease let me know if anything did not make sense, seemed confusing or you have any questions!
Thank you for your suggestions. Unfortunately, due to the configuration of the house, the only rooms where the litter box can be sited are the kitchen and the main living area which leads off the kitchen, so her tray is located in the kitchen. She uses it regularly in conjunction with urinating in other areas. I have tried different litter
Excellent for starting a few steps in trying to resolve this. Do what you can of the suggestions above. If she has not already been seen by her veterinarian, then this is a next step. Give the cyclic nature of this (not all the time) it makes me wonder if she has bladder inflammation such as from idiopathic cystitis (sterile, nonbacterial inflammation of the bladder). This is a common problem and if identified there is medication to help treat this. But a cure is tough; takes a long time to resolve.
If you have already had her checked out for medical problems (found nothing) and done the suggestions above, then it is time to have a discussion of medication with your vet. I know the thought of a daily long-term medication is daunting in a cat since they are a challenge to medicate. But potentially this could be compounded professionally into a transdermal ointment that is rubbed on the inside of her ear once daily or made into a liquid to be hidden in food or a chewy treat.
Please let me know if you have any further questions. If not, then keep me posted. I am always happy to answer followup questions. You can reply to this question at any time to submit a followup. My goal is to provide you with excellent service today. If there’s anything else I can do, let me know – it’s been a pleasure working with you and I hope to assist you again soon! Kindly submit a rating as you exit our chat.
Thank you for your suggestions. Unfortunately, due to the configuration of the house, the only rooms where the litter box can be sited are the kitchen and the main living area which leads off the kitchen, so her tray is located in the kitchen. She uses it regularly in conjunction with urinating in other areas. I have tried different a number of different litters and she now has one she likes (at least I thought she did). Her tray is completely changed twice a week and cleaned out as soon as we know that she has used it. I am wary of putting a tray, say, upstairs which is the only other place I could site a second one, as this would give her access to other areas where she has previously soiled. Last week I washed all the furniture covers and steam-cleaned the cushions underneath but she has wet on that overnight.I intend to have another consultation with the vet, as you have suggested. It sounds awful, and I wouldn't wish a long term bladder problem on anybody, but it almost would be a relief. As it is, my thinking is that it could well be behavioural as she did it (or something similar) at her last house, and was checked out by Blue Cross and subsequently my own vet and no physical problem was identified, but I take your point and will do so again.
It sounds like you are doing a great job with her litterbox care. Great job on getting rid of the urine smell (be sure to use an enzymatic cleaner). It is absolutely a relief to find a medical problem! Then there is a reason rather than behavioral which is daunting to try to deal with.
If something else occurs to me to ask you about, for how long does the opportunity for free advice last? Also, is there a way of saving this advice and getting in touch without going through all the details again?
You can alway reply to this question in the future to have a followup. Once we exit our chat the screen will change to one that is easier to print, and you may always return to the transcript of our chat. You go to your questions under your profile and then you can read this.
I must step away from the computer at this time. AGain, you may submit a followup in the future. Kindly submit a rating as you exit.