The Spay/Neuter Conundrum (Long version)

“For a couple months now, my cat has been urinating on my husband’s clothes any time he leaves them on the floor.” While this activity might help him be more tidy and might be considered by some to be somewhat humorous, this is the most common behaviourial reason to visit the veterinarian with cats. Inappropriate elimination habits are annoying and frustrating.

The problem can be either medical or behaviourial, so both possibilities need to be considered. A visit to veterinarian followed by a urinalysis will usually offer a diagnosis and then treatment can begin.

Bladder inflammation tops the list as the main medical reason for urinating outside the litter box. A urinalysis will determine if this is the problem and, with appropriate treatment, the problem usually resolves. Occasionally, there might be a stone or stones in the bladder and X-rays may be required to rule this out.

Most bladder inflammation cases are sterile. In other words, it is not a bacterial infection and antibiotics are not usually indicated. Diet changes are probably the most effective in most of these cases and my preference is to put the cat on to a completely moist diet, whether it is raw or good quality canned food.

Always make sure your cat has fresh water at all times. Drinking more water ensures a more dilute urine, which is very helpful in bladder inflammation.

If the problem is behaviourial, then the source of the problem needs investigation. You will need to go back in the cat’s history to find out what may have triggered the inappropriate elimination to start. There are many questions to ask yourself. For example, where is the litter box located? Cats prefer privacy and quiet — a litter box in a high-traffic or noisy spot might not be what they had in mind. Cats also don’t like to sleep or eat near the litter box.

Has the litter or litter box been changed lately? As fussy as cats can be with food, they can be just as fussy when it comes to the type of litter and the box style. If a recent change in either of these things has preceded a behaviourial problem involving urination, then it would be best to switch back.

Has there been anything or anyone new in your house? Changes such as house guests, a new baby, remodeling, or a new pet can stress your cat. Hiding or skittish behavior are obvious behaviours indicating stress. Many cats may not appear outwardly stressed, but may void urine out of the box to show their disapproval — for example, urinating on your house guest’s shoes. Another common sign of stress is excessive grooming resulting in bald patches.

Flower Remedies can work quite well in a number of these behaviourial cases related to stress or changes in routine, along with a diet change and possible administration of a homeopathic remedy. Medical treatments that are used for this problem include anti-anxiety drugs.

If you have a male cat that is urinating in strange places, licking himself a lot, crying during attempts to urinate, looks “constipated”, and has stopped eating, you have a medical emergency on your hands. He may be completely obstructed and unable to urinate. Do not delay getting him in to a veterinarian in Kelowna as this is not only extremely painful, but life-threatening. The sooner they are treated, the better the outcome.

Ways to combat the problem environmentally once it has begun include covering the area with a plastic drop cloth or aluminum foil (cats do not like urine to splash on them); placing a lemon-scented air freshener in the area as a repellent; place food or water bowls on the spot; if he/she is using the bath tub, leave a few inches of water in the tub; place the litter box on the spot and as the cat uses the box keep moving it gradually away from the area until it is in the appropriate place; place booby traps, such as an upside down mouse trap, on the spot; and apply two sided tape in the area since cats do not like to walk on this.

Always keep the box clean and fresh smelling. Avoid cleaning the litter box with products containing ammonia or any other strong smelling disinfectants. A final word of advice, be patient, with time and effort behavioral problems can be corrected.

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