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Dr. Joey
Dr. Joey, Board Certified
Category: Cat
Satisfied Customers: 4943
Experience:  15 yrs in practice, specialist canine/feline medicine
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My 7 year old tom cat has in the past 6 months started to pee

Customer Question

My 7 year old tom cat has in the past 6 months started to pee in the same location outside his cat tray, regardless of having a clean cat litter tray, yet he doesn't pooh outside it. He gets on with his tom cat brother (from the same litter) and the sleep and wash together, only chasing once every few days.
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Cat
Expert:  Dr. Joey replied 3 years ago.
Dr. Joey :

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.

Dr. Joey :

I cannot sugar coat this; this is going to be a tough problem to contend with. First, I always recommend we give a cat inappropriately urinating the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he has a true medical issue that is irritating him such as infection, bladder/kidney stone or even crystals in his urine. Therefore the first step is to have his vet perform a good exam followed by some testing, at least a urine check to search for medical problems. If one is found, then treating this may resolve the problem. IF nothing is found, then we must consign this to a behavioral issue.

Dr. Joey :

I do have a few suggestions you can begin to try until you get him in to be seen. First, be sure not to punish him when you find the disasters. I know it is our first instinct, but this only serves to increase anxiety and can worsen the situation.

Second, we must assess the litterbox situation. Do you have enough litterboxes? The recommendation by specialists at this point is that you have one box per cat plus one. If you have one cat, you should have two boxes. With two cats, that means three boxes -- yes it sounds extreme, but this is just the recommendation out there by veterinary behaviorists and internal medicine specialists. Some cats are extremely territorial about their box and may prevent another cat in the household from using the box. An especially fearful cat may not approach a box because something terrifying is between him and the box, such as a vacuum cleaner. Therefore, he 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, don’t put 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 he 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 does not 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 arthritic 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 he is a big cat, then perhaps try a larger box that he can maneuver around in. Some people buy one of the tupperware containers that is a low rectangular box and cut an entry-way into it. This works superbly. Our goal is that we want all the cats to love their boxes. We want them to jump in there, scratch around and make a big mess which means they 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 they can consistently use the box. You should not feel guilty about confining him to 1 or 2 rooms for a few weeks by himself until he proves he can make all urine hit the litter inside the box. 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 each cat daily doing what he 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 him know that you still care. I completely understand that this is tough with more than one cat, but do your best even if you have to rotate off who gets your time daily. If you already do this, then you are one step ahead of most to help your cats.

Dr. Joey :

The other thing it is very important to thoroughly cleanse all areas that a cat has inappropriately eliminated, whether that is just around the box or in other areas of the house (unclear from what you reported if he is going elsewhere). 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 he is more likely to go again in these it improves the odor for your nose as well.

Expert:  Dr. Joey replied 3 years ago.

You appear to be unavailable for a live chat or we are having a difficult time connecting. I am at a point I need to know what questions you have. We can continue our dialogue in this setting.

I hope that the information I provided has been helpful.

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