With the change of seasons coming upon us, we often notice an increase in kitties that present for urinary issues. Of course this can be a concern any time of year so it’s important to talk about what this all means for our feline family members.
The biggest question we face when approaching a case of inappropriate urination (or defecation) is trying to figure out the underlying cause. It’s important to not just assume it’s a behavioral issue as there can be very serious problems arising and this change in litter box habits is actually a sign or indication from your cat that there may be a problem.
Soiling outside of the box can be indicative of several medical conditions which include bladder infections, bladder stones, conditions leading to an increase in water intake (kidney disease, diabetes, etc), arthritis, bladder cancers (which are rare) and constipation. Cats are terrible at telling us there is anything wrong and often times, this is how they communicate with us. Of course urine marking and anxiety can also present the same way, but the only way to truly diagnose behavioral marking/soiling is to rule out these health concerns.
Medical causes are common, fortunately more common than behavioral causes. The medical reasons can be a simple urinary tract infection, but can also be more serious, even life threatening if the cat (often male) develops a urinary obstruction. It is imperative that you address these conditions sooner than later.
In our older cats, we often times diagnose arthritis based on changes of litter box habits. Cats with chronic discomfort/pain may find it difficult to get to the litter box on different floors or even have problems getting in and out of the box - making it seemingly easier to not use the box.
There are a few indications that may point us to behavioral marking/territorial issues. Spraying on an upright surface, using the litter box part of the time, defecating in the box, but urinating outside the box, changes in the household - indoors or outdoors, area marked involves clothing, bedding or returning to the same spot each time. Of course these situations do not eliminate a health concern, but it just goes to show how important a good clear history is in helping to sort out these conditions and behaviors.
If you have concerns or questions, please be sure to let us know, set up an appointment so that we can discuss the history, patterns and devise a plan. Behavior modification/enrichment in the house can often help with the marking behaviors, but we also occasionally have to turn to medications to help make life a bit easier for our kitties and therefore easier on us!
Cats are amazing pets and make great family members that oftentimes communicate with us more than we realize! It's so important that we take the time to listen - they don’t scream help, they whisper it.