That’s right, cats are brought to veterinarian's offices and shelters everywhere to be euthanized, or relinquished and consequently euthanized, because they urinate outside of the litter box. This has got to stop. This is most often a treatable problem with a positive outcome.

Let's get some things straight up front. Cats don't urinate on the bed because they hate you or because they are spiteful. Your cat would have to know the very first time that he urinated on your bed that it would make you angry and he would have to want to hurt you in order for the urination to be spiteful. Cats simply aren't able to reason to this level and these types of emotions: spite and hatred. I mean, really, he is a cat, not a devious villain from a superhero movie.

Now that we've got that straightened out, why then do cats urinate outside of the litter box?

There are two broad categories of inappropriate urination:

  1. Urine Marking
  2. Toileting

Cats who urine mark are usually depositing small amounts of urine on vertical surfaces, while cats who are toileting are generally depositing large amounts of urine or feces on horizontal surfaces. Both female and male cats urinate outside of the litter box. That’s right, female cats spray, too.

Within those broad categories, there are four general reasons that cats abandon the box:

  1. Social stress
  2. Environmental stress
  3. Medical illnesses
  4. Anxiety/fear

Social stressors include a new boyfriend/girlfriend, new baby, a new dog or cat, and even cats that are outside the home. Environmental stressors include a lack of enrichment, too few litter boxes, inadequate litter boxes, and dirty litter boxes. All kinds of medical illnesses affect the urination habits of cats, such as kidney disease, urinary tract infections, certain medications, and diabetes. Cats can become fearful of the litter box if it is associated with pain or with something frightening like a loud noise.

If your cat is urinating on your bed, don't waste time. Go see your veterinarian for a medical work up and preliminary advice on what to do. Sometimes the fix will be straightforward, and sometimes your veterinarian may deem the case complex enough to refer you to a board certified veterinary behaviorist. You can find one at the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists.

There are some things that you can do to affect the problem, regardless of the reason why your cat is urinating outside of the litter box.

  1. Increase the number of boxes to n + 1, with n being the number of cats in the household.
  2. Clean the litter box each day. Come on lazy litter box scoopers, how often do you flush the toilet? Try flushing every other day and then let me know if you don't start going to the bathroom somewhere else. Now, get out there and clean your cat's box.
  3. Super size it! Boxes should be about the length of your cat from his nose to his tail. For Manx cats, add 12 inches.
  4. Spread the litter boxes out all over the house so that they are convenient for your cat. Notice that I didn’t say “convenient for you”!
  5. Enrich your cat's environment. Yes, I know that your cat has lots of toys. I have lots of shoes, but that doesn't stop me from shopping on the internet for shoes daily.

You can find more information about what to do for this problem here at my Cat Behavior page.

This is the take away: This is a treatable problem; get help now. Don't wait until your wife is 8 months pregnant or until you hate your cat to call your veterinarian. An unsoiled house and a happier cat are within your reach.

Dr. Lisa Radosta

Image: foaloce / Shutterstock