Dear Dr. Gaddy,
We have 2 male (neutered) cats, ages 7 and 5. After Sandy, they formed a habit of peeing on the carpet in the basement. We replaced the carpet with tile flooring and their peeing also became pooping as well, so tile didn’t work. We started to clean their litter everyday, sometimes few times a day and that didn’t work. We added another litter box (which is also located in the basement) and they didn’t even use it. And now, they moved upstairs, peeing on the area rugs and shopping bags, basically anything they see on the floor. What do we do? I am tired of smelling cat urine. I tried house odor sprays, candles, dehumidifier, etc. I hate to give them away as they are my boys but constantly smelling cat urine isn’t a happy home either! Please help…
– Arzu, Jackson, NJ
First let me tell you that you are not alone. Unfortunately, many cat owners experience this problem and it can be hard to determine what is causing it and how to fix it. Cats are interesting creatures (in more ways than one!) as each one is its own individual. As a veterinarian, it is a challenge because what may be causing this behavior in your cats may not be the reason another cat is behaving the same. So I will go through how I work through these cases.
First of all, we want to determine if this is due to a medical condition or behavioral change. Bring your cats in to see your veterinarian. They will do a thorough physical examination, and may recommend running some blood or urine tests or doing diagnostic imaging to rule out a medical reason for their behavior. This is also a good time to discuss any changes that may have happened around the time this inappropriate urination started, including changes to the litter, litter box, or location. Even changes to their environment can cause inappropriate urination/defecation, like new furniture, home renovations, new additions to the family (furry or not!).
If a medical cause has been ruled out, then we start to think that there is some behavioral or environmental reason why your cats are not using the box anymore. Do you have enough litter boxes in the house? A general guideline is 1 litter box for each cat plus 1 more box. For example, for a home with 2 cats, 3 boxes would be appropriate. The list of options can run on forever, including feline pheromones, methods of environmental enrichment for indoor cats, and even medication as a last resort. There are even veterinary behaviorists that can help you with these problems.
Again, every situation and cat is different, so involve your veterinarian and do some detective work to get to the bottom of the pee problem.