How Do I Keep My Cat From Urinating on Everything?

CatChannel veterinary expert, Arnold Plotnick, DVM, explains it could be because of medical problems, marking behavior or toileting trouble and offers solutions.

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Q: A frightened, 2-year-old female declawed cat with a non-registered identification implant in her neck literally showed up at our back door and moved in. No one responded to our search to reunite the lost cat with an owner, so we had her checked out and kept her. Soon she was urinating all over the house: sofa, beds, towels, beanbags, blankets, etc. We assumed that she wasn’t pleased with her litterbox and have worked hard to keep it clean and sanitized. We even opted for one of the automated versions. We can’t keep her outside because she’s been declawed. She’s a sweet cat but we need a solution to this problem. I’ve never been around a cat that smelled so bad.

A: Whenever a cat urinates somewhere other than her litterbox, it is either a medical problem, a marking problem or a toileting problem.

To rule out a medical problem, the cat should be examined by a veterinarian, and a few tests, such as a urinalysis, urine culture, and bladder X-ray, should be performed. Once a medical problem is ruled out, the list is narrowed to marking behavior vs. inappropriate toilet behavior.

Most cats mark their territory by spraying urine on vertical surfaces. However, not all cats will do this. If the item that the cat wants to mark happens to be on a horizontal surface, the cat will squat to mark the item with urine. In this case, you have to look at what the cat is urinating on to try to determine if it is marking behavior. The bed and the couch could be considered “socially significant” items, however, towels, blankets, and beanbag chairs don’t necessarily fall into this category.

It sounds more like an inappropriate elimination problem.  Your cat may not like the litterbox, or she may prefer the spots she’s going on, or both. Your job is to make the litterbox more appealing and the spots she’s going on less appealing.

Add a second litterbox to the household. The new box should not have a hood on it. It should be in a low-traffic area, distinctly away from the first box. You should use clumping cat litter. Remove the stool every day, and dump the clumps of urine every day or twice a day, so that the box appears clean all the time for the cat.

To repel the cat from the areas she’s been urinating on, you need to use an enzymatic cleaner, one that claims to destroy the odor molecules and not just mask the smell. You can also repel the cat from a specific area by using Sticky Paws. This product consists of sheets of double-sided sticky tape. You put the Sticky Paws on the surface that the cat is soiling, and when the cat goes to that area again, she will step on the sticky tape. Cats dislike the way it feels on their paws, and this will repel them from the area. Once they learn that this is an unpleasant area to be on, you can remove the sticky tape and the cat should stay away from that area — hopefully.

If these environmental manipulations are ineffective, there are several psychoactive drugs that are often very effective at stopping cats from urinating in inappropriate areas. Good luck with her!

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Reader Comments

Suzanne    McKinleyville, CA

7/24/2015 11:15:17 PM

My vet put my occicat on clomiprimene (SP?) which has helped. Since I began using Plantlife's RELAX, an aromatherapy oil, he has stopped peeing outside the litter box. I put one drop and just one drop in the palm of my hand, let it warm, rub my hands togethers and then touch the top of his head. His overall anxiety dropped significantly the first time I used it. Cats are very sensitive, so do not put the drop directly on them and put it only in a place they cannot lick. A full drop directly on a cat's head would be way too much for them.

Cher    Eugene, OR

4/26/2015 12:06:13 PM

BS to all the comments stating that the cat urinating out of the box is due to a declaw issue and pain. I have 5 cats. Two are declawed. Three are NOT. Guess what? My cats that HAVE their claws piss on EVERYTHING! I have 9....count them......9 litter boxes, various types of litter to see which they prefer. I have tried Nature's Miracle, enzyme destroyer, litter box scent destroyer, No spray, plus bought that pheramone stuff. Over a thousand dollars SPENT! NONE of those work! I am to the point where I am ready to toss my CLAWED cats outside cause my DE CLAWED cats are NOT pissing on my furniture, bed, linens, clothes, pillows, tables, counter tops, shoes, brand new carpet, rugs, wood furniture.

kat chaplin    keller, TX

4/25/2015 5:13:32 PM

Declawing causes a life time of pain. Been there and i am really, really upset with the vets who perfornm this surgery without being totally up front about the damage it does to the cat. For 30 years i have rescued cats and see on a daiy basis as declawed cats end up relenquised to shelters. Unspeakable! Banned in 40 countries, declawing is big business here. US vets will never convince me they have a cat's best intrest in mind as long as they continue to profit from amputating toes.

DLD    Culpeper, VA

4/25/2015 12:03:50 PM

It is a known fact declawed cats urinate outside the litter box because their paws hurt from bone regrowth and/or bone fragments. Dr. Plotnick published many articles, and not one of them mention the barbaric cruelty of declawing. I wonder how many declaws the good doctor performs?

Since 1966, there have been several articles in the veterinary literature that have examined the behavioral changes caused by declawing: FAQ

Yeon, et al., (JAVMA 2001) found that 33% of cats suffer at least one behavioral problem after declaw or tendonectomy surgery. The study showed that 17.9% of cats had an increase in biting frequency or intensity and that 15.4% would not use a litter box.
Bennett, et al., examining 25 declawed cats, reported that declawed cats were 18.5% more likely than non-declawed cat to bite and 15.6% more likely to avoid the litter box.
Morgan and Houpt found that the 24 declawed cats in their internet survey had a 40% higher incidence of house soiling than non-declawed cats.
Borchelt and Voith, looking only at aggressive behavior in a retrospective survey of pet owners, found declawed cats bit family members more often than did non-declawed cats.
Gaynor (in North American Veterinary Clinics, April 2005) described cats suffering from a chronic pain syndrome as a result of declawing that is associated with increased biting.
In a retrospective phone survey, Patronek found that among 218 cats relinquished to a shelter, 52.4% of declawed cats versus 29.1% of non-declawed cats were reported to have inappropriate elimination.
Landsberg reported that about 5% of cats developed either biting or litter box avoidance problems after declaw surgery. These figures were obtained by means of a written retrospective owner satisfaction questionnaire, approximately half of which were distributed by veterinarians other than the investigator.
Professor Nicholas Dodman, DVM, MRCVS, DACVB of Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine is notable that about 33% of all cats developed a behavior problem after surgery, either house soiling or increased biting...42 of 57 cats (74%) had at least one medical complication following surgery...

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