Q: I have a 10 year-old cat that I have had since a kitten. I have two dogs that have also been with me for 10 years. My cat started peeing on my wool area rugs and carpet last year. I tried moving the litter from the laundry room upstairs so that the dogs would not bother it. She always used the litter before. Now I have her locked in a bedroom upstairs with her litter and she has no accidents. I hate to leave her up there because she is such a people cat but she will ruin my house. The vet gave me an antidepressant to give her because sometimes that works. Do you have any ideas or thoughts on what I should do?
— J.M., Akron
A: When working with cats who are “out of the box” it’s always important to first rule out medical causes for the urination in the wrong location.
Cats can have inflammation, infection and irritation of their bladders causing discomfort and inappropriate urination. Your veterinarian can run a urinalysis that tests for changes in pH, signs of inflammation, concentration, bacteria and blood in addition to other chemical and cellular parameters. Performing a good physical exam is also important to identify any other medical abnormalities.
The second step is to check litter box hygiene: Scoop daily, dump all litter weekly, scrub monthly with soap and water.
Changing location is helpful, but we still need to have access. In multi-floor houses litter boxes should be offered on different floors. This is really important for older cats who may have arthritis or other medical issues that decrease motion as well as cats who have urgency. If your bathroom is on the second floor and you’re in the basement when a potty emergency strikes you may not make it.
Anytime we are talking about using a medication for treatment of a behavior problem it’s important to have a diagnosis. There are many different treatment options for urination out of the box. Identifying why the cat is choosing a different location is a very important part of creating a treatment plan to get them back in. Your local veterinarian may be comfortable making this diagnosis or they may refer you to Ohio State or the Behavior Clinic for care by a veterinary behaviorist.
— Amanda Eick-Miller, veterinary behavior
technician, the Behavior Clinic, Olmsted Falls