Spraying - The Good, the Bad and the Downright Frustrating, Part One
One of the most common calls I get is about cats (and occasionally dogs) peeing in the house. Generally, there are 3 main reasons it happens: a urinary infection, a behavioral reason (“acting out”, for whatever cause), or progressive kidney disease. Kidney disease is quite common in older cats — any time past the age of around 12 — and if the cat is senile too, random peeing can be even more frequent. (I’ve personally had to deal with this situation in my own house.) Often, my client is perplexed because the cat has always been good in the past about using their litter box. An animal with an infection can feel “urgency” to pee and will do it anywhere they get the urge. Cats also do it outside of the box so that they can get their human’s attention that something is wrong; nothing like pee on your hardwood floors or carpet to make you sit up and take notice! (Dogs will occasionally pee out of nervousness as well, especially if a new alpha is around.) When there is pain involved, a cat can start to associate the litter box with the pain, so no matter how clean that box is, they’ll avoid it, and you’ll be left wondering why.
When I scan an animal’s body, I know immediately if it is a bacterial infection — and I direct my clients to bring it to their vet asap for treatment. The problem usually resolves very quickly and easily with antibiotics, and happily for us, the cats can go back to their prior box habits.
Often I am called after the vet has found no medical cause, and then my detective work starts; some animals can definitely be reluctant to admit to peeing if they’re afraid of “getting in trouble”, but I’ve developed techniques over the years to get over this hurdle with them.
If you have more than one animal in your house, the complications multiply exponentially (like if they’re literally “pissed off” at the dog), or as one cat triggers the other to do it till they’re all in on the act. I have had good success getting solo cats to stop peeing with just one session, and have also come up against more difficult cases where five or six cats make a territorial game out of this one-upmanship! As you can imagine, that kind of behavior can take a lot more time and patience to unwind. (BTW, multiple litter boxes on every level of a house are a MUST when dealing with several cats. You generally need one box per animal and do have to be vigilant every day about keeping them scooped.)
Regarding older cats, kidney disease is pervasive and unfortunately not curable; you may have to make some adjustments in order to keep your household the way you want, such as adding boxes, changing diet, blocking off the soil of potted plants, and using enzymatic cleaners to eradicate the smell from floors or furniture. Keeping in mind that the animals I’ve worked with have told me they don’t mean to be “bad” can help you feel calmer about this situation as we take steps to counteract it…
Stay tuned for Part Two on this subject, which will have specific information — including some cleaning products that will make your life easier — as well as medical info on chronic kidney disease.