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Behaviour Articles
By Donna Brander, Animal Behaviourist

<Back to behaviour articles

This information is to be used as guidelines only. Decisions made about the future of any pet should be based on a professional assessment and a course of treatment that is personalised for the pet's individual situation.

Inappropriate urination in the household cat

Although Paddy’s owners had lived in the same house for several years, Paddy had become anxious and nervous over the past few weeks. The latest sign of this nervousness was small puddles of urine left hidden discretely around threshold areas of the house. This may have been because of a new cat moving into the neighbourhood, (and into Paddy’s territory). Although neutered, Paddy had always been anxious about his “territory” and the behaviour probably related to this anxiety. Insecure cats often have a tendency to mark in the house in order to feel reassured by familiar scents. That is why anything new coming into the house will be focused upon as a target. Also, any changes within the household may trigger the behaviour. The urine distribution can be in the form of puddles or, if the cat is un-neutered or capable, sprayed vertical up the wall.

One of the main things to address with this problem is to make the cat feel more secure in the environment in which he now feels threatened. With this in mind, try creating high places in which the cat can climb or jump. Put blankets and a little food in these areas. Place paper sacks or cardboard boxes in these areas for him to hide. Make sure there are several of these out of reach places so the cat will have several choices of areas to feel secure while still enjoying your company. Place some of his food in the areas in which he sprays or puddles.

Try to find stimulating toys (perhaps mechanical) or hanging/swinging objects which will entice your cat to attack and play with them. Look for a toy, or something you create, which you can stuff with cat food and he will be required to work at reaching it. Interact with Paddy on a regular daily basis with the special stuffed toy and chase and catch toys such as a tennis ball or a feather attached to a string. Use the stuffed toy to teach Paddy that there are appropriate was of relieving tension by rough play with the toy. Encourage him in predatory behaviour with the toy. Put all the toys away when you are finished with the scheduled play. Catnip and catnip toys should only be for the play time. Put them in plastic bags to keep them fresh.

Of equal importance is cleaning up the areas which he has sprayed. This must be done thoroughly with a non-biological cleaner odour eliminator. If your cat sprays, do not say anything to him, just clean the area again and place some of his food in that area. When possible, anything that he has sprayed in the past that cannot be removed should be made off bounds. Perhaps you could temporarily cover it with plastic sheeting (shower curtain) or place partially sprung mouse traps upside down and underneath the rug or whatever. Something which would make a scary noise if he stepped on it. Plastic bubble wrap is another substrate that most cats do not like and can be used in this context.

On the other hand, make his litter boxes a place of solace and security. Use newspaper (as we discussed) as a substrate since he likes that so well. Always leave a tiny bit of his urine in his box so he knows it is his. Make sure he is never disturbed while toileting and leave a box in your bedroom since that is one of his preferred areas of urination. You might experiment with a covered box and see if he likes the security of the cover. Just place a litter box in an appropriate sized cardboard box which is on it’s side with the litter box inside. No need to get an expensive covered box. Give him both the covered and open choices in his chosen place in your bedroom and see which one he prefers to use. As you become more confident of his using one area and type of box, begin to remove the other boxes that he is not using.

Visit the Petplanet.co.uk online store to see our full range of products to help with inappropriate cat urination problems. Including litter trays, household cleaning products, training aids.

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