Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
My cat recovered from a urethral obstruction about a month ago. I’ve just discovered that he’s been peeing on my bed. It isn’t a lot of urine but it is enough to indicate a habit is forming. Is the obstruction linked to this peeing or is he trying to tell me something else? Nothing else in his environment has changed. ~ H
Siouxsie: Well, H, it’s not uncommon for cats that have had a urinary tract problem to start peeing outside the litter box.
Thomas: First, you should know that your cat may not be doing this on purpose! Occasionally, urethral obstructions can result in incontinence — the inability to control the flow of urine.
Bella: The fact that your cat is leaving small pee spots leads us to suspect that this may be the case. If he were deliberately peeing on your bed, you would totally know it, but if he “leaks” while he’s sleeping or just as he gets up, you’d probably see those smaller spots.
Siouxsie: We’d definitely recommend that you talk to your veterinarian about this. If it is incontinence based on his recent issue, it could resolve over time. Your vet may also be able to prescribe medications that could help.
Thomas: One potential behavioral reason is that urethral obstructions hurt like crazy, and your cat may be associating the pain of the blockage with his litter box. Naturally, with that kind of traumatic connection, he’s probably not going to want to keep using that litter box.
Bella: So what can you do about that? Well, there are a couple of things. First of all, try replacing your litter box. It’s possible that if his new box is a different color, size or shape, he may stop associating it with his previous pain.
Siouxsie: You may also want to try changing his litter. Keep to the same texture as much as you can, but go with a different fragrance (or no fragrance at all).
Thomas: Keep in mind that some cats have an easier time switching litters than others, so in the beginning you may want to keep the old box and litter and also have the new box and litter available as well. You don’t want to cause bigger problems!
Bella: The next thing you need to do is make sure you clean your bedding in a way that truly removes the urine odor. First, darken your bedroom and examine your quilt and sheets with a black light, which will make cat pee (and other organic substances) glow. Once you’ve found the pee spot (or spots), use a cleaner that will not only get rid of the stain but any semblance of the odor.
Siouxsie: Cats have a much stronger sense of smell than people do, so don’t rely on your nose. Three products we’ve tried that work well are Anti-Icky-Poo (an enzyme-based cleaner), Fizzion (a carbon dioxide-based cleaner) and Only Natural Pet Stain & Odor Remover (a cleaner that uses bacteria and natural surfactants). The first two are available at most pet stores and online. The Only Natural Pet product is a little bit harder to find these days, but if you can get it, it’s worth a shot.
Thomas: After you clean your bedding, get some puppy training pads and put them on top of your quilt in the area(s) where your cat has been peeing or leaking. That will give you more of a sense of the size of the spots.
Bella: If the spots where he pees are close to a window, consider the possibility that he may be seeing another cat or animal outside that’s causing him some territorial stress. If this is the case, try putting paper or cardboard over the lower half of the windows in that room so your cat can’t see out into your yard.
Siouxsie: Cats are never trying to make a statement by peeing! Inappropriate elimination is caused by one of three things: Pain, chronic health problems or stress.
Thomas: If your cat is going outside the box, the first thing you should do is call your vet. You need to rule out health problems before treating the peeing as a behavior problem.
Bella: Hope this helps, H, and that if your kitty is dealing with incontinence as a result of his recent urethral obstruction, that it resolves quickly.