Nothing ruins the bond you share with your feline friend more quickly than laying your head on a urine-soaked pillow or stepping in a wet spot on the carpet in socks. While you may chalk it up to your cat’s displeasure about your new puppy or seeking attention, cats aren’t spiteful creatures. Rather, they are highly sensitive to stress and environmental changes, which can often lead to urinary issues. If your cat is missing the litter box, here are several reasons this could be happening:
Stress — This is the top cause of inappropriate elimination in young cats. Changes in the environment or bullying between cats can trigger stress responses, which in turn can affect bladder health. Stress is the root cause of feline idiopathic cystitis (FIC), whose signs are often similar to a urinary tract infection. Cats with FIC have difficult or painful urination and blood in their urine, and will urinate more frequently, often outside the litter box. Resolving FIC is challenging and requires multi-modal treatment, such as:
- Environmental enrichment to prevent boredom
- Multiple resource stations for food, water, and litter boxes
- Hiding areas, preferably up high
- Climbing towers and scratching posts to satisfy a cat’s instincts
- Anti-anxiety medication
- Anti-inflammatory medication
- Pheromone therapy
- Separation of cats who do not get along
Poor litter-box hygiene or placement — Felines are finicky creatures who demand top-notch elimination facilities, and poor litter-box cleanliness or placement may shoo them away. Scoop the litter box twice daily and clean thoroughly with mild soap twice weekly. Avoid placing litter boxes in tight, enclosed areas with limited escape routes or next to noisy appliances.
Urinary tract infections (UTI) — UTIs are more common in older cats, while FIC is most common in young or middle-aged cats. The signs are identical for both conditions, but treatment differs. A UTI requires a prescription of antibiotics, often paired with an anti-inflammatory, to ensure your cat beats the infection. Additional diagnostics are warranted to determine the initial cause of the infection.
Arthritis — Common in older cats, arthritis makes posturing to eliminate painful and difficult. Cats come to associate that pain with eliminating in the litter box, so instead choose soft surfaces, such as rugs, clothing, or blankets. Pain medication, joint supplements, and prescription diets are viable options for soothing your cat’s pain.
Kidney disease or diabetes — These diseases cause a cat to drink excessively, which leads to increased urinary output and more frequent urinary accidents, as some cats cannot keep up with increased urine production. While diabetes can be managed successfully so that cats go into remission, kidney disease is a chronic condition with no cure. Careful management through fluid support, medication, diet, and organ support is necessary to ensure a good quality of life. Kidney disease and diabetes also predispose cats to developing UTIs, compounding the inappropriate elimination problem.