Dr. Perry Jameson’s cat, Ollie, was recently urinating in inappropriate places in the home.
Recently I (Perry Jameson) awoke at my usual 5:30 a.m. time to work out prior to getting kids up, dressed and off to school. Followed by getting myself ready and off to work. Everything must go as planned to get my hour workout in my home gym before the chaos starts.
Lying on the floor by the treadmill stretching, I noticed an odor. I could see a wet spot on the side of the treadmill and of course I touched it. As I brought my hand to my face, I immediately knew what it was. Cat urine!
Inappropriate urination is one of the most frustrating parts about having cats. Why do they do this and how can it be prevented is a problem, even for me, a veterinary specialist.
There are two main causes for cats inappropriately urinating. One is a medical condition resulting in an increased volume of urine or increased urge to urinate. The other is a behavioral problem.
If your cat is urinating outside the litter box, the first thing to do is make sure he or she does not have an underlying medical condition. Diabetes mellitus and renal failure are the two most common conditions that will cause your cat to produce more urine than normal. Cats do not have inhibitions about urinating in public or on furniture/carpets that we do. So if they really have to go they may just go where they are. Blood and urine testing usually will reveal these diseases.
An increased urgency to urinate is caused by urinary bladder disease. Stones, infections, and tumors of the bladder may cause this. A urinalysis to look for evidence of inflammation and crystals may provide a diagnosis. Sometimes X-rays or ultrasound are required to reveal the cause.
However, the infamous feline idiopathic cystitis is the No. 1 cause of an increased urgency in cats. This an inflammation of the urinary bladder without infections, stones or crystals. We do not know what causes it and thus there is no great therapy.
In my experience, the two factors that help the most are maintaining adequate hydration and reducing stress. Dilute urine appears to produce fewer symptoms than concentrated urine and environmental stressors appear to bring on episodes.
If this were you or me, our physician would say drink more water, and we would force ourselves to do it even when not thirsty. As all cat owners know, it is impossible to force a cat to do anything they do not want to. However, there are ways to trick them into consuming more water:
Feed canned food instead of dry.
Get a circulating water fountain that promotes interest in water.
For some patients, I will teach the parents to administer daily subcutaneous fluids during an outbreak.
The bladder inflammation may sometimes require medications to reduce the pain and inflammation. There is also evidence that omega 3 fatty acids in diets or supplements may decrease and prevent flare-ups.
Environmental stressors not only cause FIC but also are the cause of the second category of inappropriate urination, behavioral problems.
Most behavioral-induced urination will be a marking behavior. They usually back up to a vertical surface and urinate a small amount. The behavior is more common in males than females. This is what my cat Ollie had done to our treadmill.
If you were to spend a day with Ollie you would ask what is stressful about that life. You wake me up by vocalizing before my alarm goes off to be fed, and, of course, gets fed. You then sleep wherever you want until getting fed again around 5 p.m. The rest of the evening is spent either on a human lap or bed until you wake up to start the next day.
There are three main stressors for cats: change in environment, not enough time with their humans, and other cats.
We are in the same home that Ollie has lived in for all 14 years of his life. There is no recent change in the layout or furniture in our home.
We were spending the same amount of time we always had with him. He gets his lap time and petting in the morning while I drink my coffee. All six humans return home no later than we always have, so he was not home without us for longer.
Our home is down to just two cats, Ollie and Inky. They have lived together all their lives. We have the optimal three cat litter boxes (one for each cat, plus one) so they are not stressed by competition for them. We had not adopted a new cat who might try to steal time with me or one of their secret sleeping places.
However, outside I began to see a new cat in our yard. This was a young male who would come up to our back door in the morning. He and Ollie would hiss at each other through the window. Cats are territorial and Ollie did not like this new upstart in his territory so he was urinating on my treadmill to mark it as his own.
We put pheromone plug-ins into several rooms in our home. These produce a calming hormone that is a stress reducer for cats. Over time, Ollie and the new cat started ignoring each other and I only found one more marked spot in my gym.
Dr. Henri Bianucci and Dr. Perry Jameson are with Veterinary Specialty Care LLC. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.