Inside the Box (Part 1)
Now that the Holidays are upon us, and we have brought out the Christmas cat-costumes (AKA kitty torture implements), some of us have been horrified to find that Fluffy has suddenly gone outside of the box. For instance, you’ve laid down in your wonderfully cushy king-sized bed and found that your pillow has a new and unwanted addition. We quickly run down the list of usual culprits: litter scooped?—Check! New litter?—Nope! New stressor?-Nope! After one time, the most typical response is, OK, what was that about? After it happens again, most of us get that sinking feeling that something ominous this-way-comes.
While there can many mental causes (our wonderfully-neurotic feline companions would be proof-of-point), your kitty’s physical condition should be the first place we look for answers. While nothing can replace the exam and medical expertise of your local feline veterinarian, here are a number of physical causes that might be the culprit:
It hurts when I pee!
All joking aside, the first place we need to look is at the condition of your kitty’s urine. Due to the unique genetic makeup, physiology and diet of our kitties, over time, your kitty may develop a pH and/or mineral imbalance that causes the formation of crystals. These crystals can cause havoc and severe discomfort in the bladder of your kitty. Unfortunately, urinary discomfort often manifests with inappropriate urination as our feline friends associate their current litter boxes with the source of the discomfort. Diagnosing and treating our felines with an appropriate high quality and/or prescription diet can be extremely important. Just remember, that with many kitties, these dietary measures and testing may be a life-long reality. The good news is that for many felines, the treatment is simple and efficient.
It hurts (and bleeds) when I pee!
Felines are susceptible to a complicated disease called Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD). This can lead to urinary discomfort, inflammation, bloody urine, etc. Similar to crystals, this constant irritation (often exacerbated by stress) can cause your furry friend to associate their loo with discomfort. Often, they find the next best place to eliminate, a nice cushy and comfy pillow, hamper, blanket, etc. While nothing can cure FLUTD, simple things like giving adequate fluids and canned foods can help dilute urine and potentially ease inflammation. In addition, some medications can be given to help manage FLUTD.
A matter of urgency
We have all had a day when we almost didn’t make it (usually on that never-ending car ride where we blew off the last rest stop just to realize the next rest stop is in a hundred miles!). Our feline companions can sometimes experience the same and the underlying causes can be plentiful. Urinary urgency is usually caused by increased fluid intake and processing by the kidneys. When excessive urination occurs with excessive drinking, we call it polyuria/polydypsia (PUPD). PUPD kitties can be diabetic (excess sugars in the blood cause thirst), be thirsty from various medications or have trouble concentrating their urine due to kidney disease. Doing your best to try and control diabetes or slow the progression of kidney disease is great plan. Also, take note if there are not enough litter boxes or the litter box is too far away, as your kitty might not make it. Additionally, those kitties that are senior/geriatric often move slower or are arthritic and sometimes can’t quite make it when the urgency calls. As the faithful owner, you can make litter boxes as accessible and plentiful to your kitty as possible. The more the merrier and keep them at floor-level with entrances that don’t require jumping or climbing to get into the box.
Fastidiously fickle favoritism
Felines are notoriously choosey about their potty. There are so many factors that go into choosing the right box, the right substrate (litter), the right location(s) and the number of boxes that things can get complicated, quick. Throw in a healthy dose of notoriously feline pickiness, and it can seem daunting tto choose the right loo for your furry friend. Generally, there are rules-of-thumb that can be used when choosing boxes and locations: Quiet and calm locations are a sure bet. Litters that are not strongly scented and that do not irritate or cling unnecessarily to your felines feet are also not a bad idea to start with. Covered, uncovered, automated or manual, there are a plethora of box choices. Start simple and try out more than one style and see what your fur-baby prefers. In all cases, keep your feline’s loo scooped and litter freshened (as much as possible) and you can prevent preference problems prior to peeing. (Alliteration now exhausted!)
A note from the doctor:
When you first realize that your cat has urinated outside the box, it’s easy to jump to the conclusion that your cat is ‘mad’ at you or being vindictive. This can often lead to spending weeks, months, or even years trying to make changes to your cat’s behavior, only to possibly fail each time. It is very important to have your cat examined and at least perform a basic urine test (or possibly additional tests if recommended for your kitty) as soon as possible after he/she starts to inappropriately eliminate. These tests can differentiate between medical and behavioral causes to get you on the right track as early as possible, which will have the best chance of success long term.