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Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Cat
Satisfied Customers: 38890
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 45 years of experience.
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My 9 year old male cat has started to wee inside the house a

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Hi, my 9 year old male cat has started to wee inside the house a few times. He is not usually a naughty cat and I thought it may be attention seeking. I am just wondering if it could be something else though. He is a bit quieter than usual and his routine is different. He asks for his breakfast and eats 3/4 of a packet, then comes back for the remainder of the packet about an house later. He usually comes back for some lunch, another 3/4 packet but he is not getting up until about 3.30pm instead of about 1.30pm. He usually lies down and does a very cute thing with his front paws when he wants a bit of attention, but he hasn't done this for a few weeks now. I did take him to the vets a few weeks ago as he had a lump on his tail, but this is now ok. At the same time I asked the vet to look at his ears as he shakes his head quite a bit. She agreed that they were very dirty and gave me some liquid to put in his ears for a week or 2 to clean the ears and stop the itching and the head shaking. It is since then he has started to wee in the house, so I am not sure if this might have something to do with it?

You're speaking with Dr. Michael Salkin. Welcome to JustAnswer. I'm currently typing up my reply. Please be patient. This may take a few minutes.

Jackie, I'm sorry that your question wasn't answered in a timely manner. Where is it in your house that Tinker has been inappropriately urinating, please? Flooring, bedding, on clothes, on certain objects, furniture, on walls?

Customer: replied 10 months ago.
No problem, I appreciate you responding. He has only done it on the floors (carpet). We own a B&B and the very first time, he was accidentally shut in the breakfast room overnight and he did a poo, so we didn't take any notice of this. This was quite a while ago though. The next time which was about 3 months ago, he did a wee in the breakfast room in the same area in front of the guests. Then about a month or so ago, he did it in the hall when my husband was talking to some guests, so again he did it in front of people. The other night, he woke us up as he was scratching at the carpet in our bedroom and I managed to stop him before he did a full wee. There was a little bit but I showed him the back door and he went out. The yesterday, he did a wee in our lounge in the corner on some plastic sheeting that had paper inside it. I didn't notice this until after he had done it. I have shouted at him each time and he knows that he has done wrong. Strangely enough, his brother also did a wee in the house the other week too, but he has only done it once. He came in from outside extremely excitable doing playful things that I have never seen him do and he did a wee on the mat at the bottom of the stairs. I showed him the back door too as he knew that he had done wrong, but he has not done anything like this since. I have put a cat litter tray down but Tinker has not used this since the last episode so no more weeing in the house either. He has gone a little bit quieter than usual but I don't know if it is bad enough to take him to the vets.

Thank you for the additional information. These episodes are too infrequent to represent a medical problem. Instead, he (and his brother) appear to be marking. I have advanced training in feline behavior and am pleased to discuss Tinker's behavior with you. I must admit that retraining him is going to be a challenge but perhaps after reviewing my notes that I use when lecturing about his behavior you'll have a better idea of how to address it.

Tinker is clearly exhibiting marking behavior. He is not likely to be eliminating inappropriately due to litterbox aversion or a medical disorder. Please note that marking on a horizontal surface (the flooring) is marking behavior (a communicative function) caused by the same stimuli that causes spraying. We’re not sure what cats are trying to communicate to us but we do know that wild cats will mark to announce their presence. It’s reasonable to assume then, that Tinker is doing so as well. He's essentially "taking ownership" of the marked areas. The most common cause is increased cat density - in the home or nearby. Emotional problems, such as a stressful relationship with a family member, separation anxiety, anxiety over his status in the existing hierarchy, fear, owner absence, moving, new furniture, inappropriate punishment, teasing, household changes (quite a few people changes in a B&B!) and remodeling in the home are examples of stimuli that can induce anxiety in our cats. The etiology can be difficult to diagnose, especially if the behavior is only manifested intermittently and because the stimuli for his inappropriate eliminative behavior may be imperceptible to you but readily so to him - another cat roaming outside, e.g. If emotional factors are influencing the housesoiling, you might notice other changes such as avoidance, aggression or an alteration in his general temperament.

Treatment involves two major considerations: 1) Remove the cause - easier said than done. You might have to be quite the detective to discern the stimuli for his inappropriate eliminative behavior 2) Prevent Tinker from returning to previously soiled areas by confining him to a very small area with the box and only allowed out when he can be supervised 100% of the time. When confined to a relatively small area, most cats seem to prefer to eliminate in the box rather than soiling the floor. It’s then a matter of confining him long enough for a consistent habit to become established. As a rule of thumb, one week of confinement is usually recommended for every month of soiling. He should be removed from the confinement area as much as possible for socialization and play, but never allowed out of sight. Food rewards may help when given after he uses his box. If he refuses to use the litterbox when confined to a small area, the confinement area should be changed to a large cage. The floor should be covered with litter, forcing him to use it for elimination. The litter is gradually removed and replaced with a litterbox. Once he has used the litterbox in a confined area for an appropriate amount of time, he can be allowed to have more freedom in the home. Previously soiled areas can be safeguarded by changing the behavioral function of the area by placing food bowls, cat bedding or toys in the area. The area can also be made unacceptable for him by placing a motion-activated alarm or lemon-scented room deodorant in the area. Plastic carpet runners can be placed upside down with the "feet" facing up. Plastic, foil, or double-stick carpet tape can be used to protect specific areas. Removing urine and stool odor is important. Products such as Nature's Miracle which are specifically formulated to work on these types of odors are recommended.

Some cats are extremely sensitive to changes in their environment. They may mark in response to the most minor of alterations. You must strive to keep the home environment as constant as possible. When situations exist that are likely to upset Tinker, you might want to consider confinement, closer supervision and the use of anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) medication such as paroxetine (Paxil) and fluoxetine (Prozac). In fact, most behaviorists feel that without the use of psychotherapeutic drugs our chance of correcting inappropriate marking behavior is near nil. (Personal note: My two cats began marking as kittens. After 6 months of fruitless treatment they became outdoor cats - for 12 years.)

Nobody wants to confine their pet as I've described but his behavior requires desperate measures. My male urinated on my pillow while I slept - an obvious behavior designed to make sure that his sister and I knew who's bed it really was. He apparently was anxious about his status in the hierarchy of my home.

Success in management with psychotherapeutic drugs is measured by a 70% reduction in adverse events. In other words, if my cat urinated on my pillow 10 times monthly prior to drug administration but only 3 times monthly after drug administration, success in treatment is acknowledged. Needless to say, that didn't please me and I certainly hope that you have better "success" than I.

Please respond with further questions or concerns if you wish.

Dr. Michael Salkin and 3 other Cat Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 10 months ago.
Superb in depth response, thank you so much. I have my work cut out for me, but you gave me such brilliant advice, I am sure it will work. Definitely recommended.

Thank you for your kind words and accept. I appreciate it. I can't set a follow-up in this venue so please return to our conversation - even after rating - with an update at your convenience. You can bookmark this page for ease of return.