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

Renae    Sandpoint, ID

9/22/2013 1:30:11 PM

First total cruelty to de claw a cat. Often the tenderness in the paws makes them not want to use the littler box , it hurts to dig, some cats get infected paws. Paws will stay sensitive, so ripped up newspaper may be OK.

Judith    Medway, MA

8/30/2013 1:58:37 PM

Hi, I got my male cat at 5mths old, he was neutered at 6 mths and he still urinates on furniture about 1ce a week, and/or when he catches me off guard, so it definitely is behavioral or marking territory. I do clean with an oxy pet cleaner that seems to work pretty good. He is good about using the very clean litter in upstairs bathroom. All bedroom doors are closed. I will put another litter in downstairs bathroom, but very curious as to why this makes a difference? He does get very lonely and constantly wants to play which I think is part of his behavior issue. Will they ever outgrow this urinating issue? Ruth from NJ on 7/24/2013 mentioned 2nd litter box worked. Were you eventually able to OPEN your bedroom doors and remove plastic from furniture? I will try sticky tape too. Thanks everyone for your input...

Ruth    Harrison, NJ

7/24/2013 6:46:03 AM

I researched everything about cats peeing on everything. I don't know why my cat starting doing this. He doesn't have a UTI. I ruled that out first. My husband wanted to get rid of him and I refused. I said I will try everything and anything to keep him. Bought water proof furniture protectors, water proof sheets for beds. made sure towels and clothes were off the floor....closed doors to bedrooms. The cat kept peeing on the furniture and I just kept washing the waterproof covers. The vet called and wants to put him on anti anxiety meds. I did next what I didn't want to do at all....I put another litter box on first floor on the sunporch. OMG!!!!! no more peeing on my stuff!!!!!!!!!! I had been fighting doing this because who really wants a litter box in their living space! I make sure to scoop it all the time and vacuum around it constantly and put one of the air fresheners by it. Still may look into the anti anxiety meds though because my cat is a very nervous cat. but SOOO lovable and affectionate! I will do anything to keep him. Just a suggestion to try this or anything to keep your pet.

Cat Editor    Irvine, CA

4/22/2013 1:00:53 PM

Linda: It sounds like your daughter-in-law's cat is spraying to claim his territory. First of all, both cats should be neutered if they aren't already. Second, introduce the cats slowly, confining the new cat to a single room of the house. Make introductions as rewarding for the cats as possible by offering favorite treats or toys when the cats are near each other but still separated by a closed door. Let each of them sniff a towel that has the other's scent on it and offer treats or toys, again, to make it as rewarding for both cats as possible. Third, be sure to clean the urine stain with an enzymatic cat urine cleaner to completely remove the urine scent. Also spray the spot with a synthetic feline pheromone spray. You can also plug in a pheromone diffuser to create a sense of calm in the entire room. All of these products can be found at a pet store. Fourth, if those steps don't help, consider consulting a certified cat behavior consultant and/or ask your veterinarian if feline anti-anxiety drugs are appropriate. No matter what, be sure to show both cats a lot of love and attention. Good luck!

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