Using the furniture for a litter box

by Lynn
(Porcupine, Ontario, Canada)

I have a male and female cat. The male tends to be my cat and the female is more my husband's cat.

Just recently, in the last 6 months, the female who is fixed, has started peeing on any clothes on the floor, wet towels, on my side of the bed and where I sit on the couch and I don't know why.

She's an indoor cat except in the summer when we take her out with us. There have not been any changes in the house, people, food or litter.

I have been cleaning the litter more regularly and there are three litter boxes, all different in the same bathroom on one floor.

She does want out every time my husband goes out for a smoke and sometimes he does not let her. Is she mad at him and taking it out on me?

I am at a loss why this cat is peeing in many different places especially the beds and the couch.

I need to figure out why this is happening or I am going to have to put the cat down.

Please help.

Very frustrated owner.

My Thoughts: I'm sorry to hear that your kitty is having problems, Lynn.

I'm assuming that she doesn't have a medical condition and that she's recently been checked out by a vet.

If this has been going on for 6 months, then she's either had a vet visit in that time (and you've discussed this problem with your veterinarian so the detective hat was on), or she's due for one soon. She should get one sooner, rather than later to make sure there are no medical problems.

It sounds like you've got the right number of litter boxes, and when you say no changes in litter I'm assuming that not even unscented litter has been replaced with scented.

I'm not sure I'm absolutely keen on all the boxes being in one room, but perhaps it's not an issue.

How do the two cats get along? Have you observed them while they use the box?

Are there any potential box guarding problems? Even a stare can cause a cat to be skittish.

Now, before I go on, many experts will warn that there is a risk of humanizing a cat, which may result in mistaken conclusions.

For example, when people get mad they do things out of spite. If you assign that trait to a cat, you've humanized her and that will prevent you from getting at the real reason for the behavior.

But, if you read The Cat Behavior Answer Book by Arden Moore, and Cat Talk by Carole Wilbourn, you'll understand that cats are very emotionally driven.

So, in that context, she may not be mad at you, but she may be stressed and we can take her inappropriate elimination as a cry for help.

The fact that she seems to be using your areas (bed, couch, etc.) for urination may be coincidental, but let's assume she's trying to tell you something.

Many cats suffer from separation anxiety. I believe I've written two pages on anxiety in cats, and there are many resources available.

Your vet is the best source, and may prescribe anti-anxiety medication if necessary, although I'd prefer less invasive methods first.

The obvious solution here, is to remove the stress. Cats like an open door. They like choices.

Cats like to be in control, which is essential when being a predator. Otherwise, you don't eat.

If it's access to your husband when he goes outside that is upsetting her (or just access to the outside with your husband as an excuse), then your husband needs to make sure that he brings her with him.

This is probably too much information, but it's relevant... years ago, I couldn't go
to the bathroom without a cat wanting in.

If I closed the bathroom door, violent scratching on the door from either Frankie or Priscilla would ensue. Once inside, there was usually a brief investigation of the room along with some purring, some sitting and staring at me, some cheek and body marking, and then it was time to leave.

I was the only one in the house that they seemed to do this with on a regular basis. It was apparently life or death that they get in that room, and so I let them in. Stress-be-gone!

So that's the easy part, just make sure she gets time with him.

Speaking of that, I know you said there have been no changes in the house, but what about your routine?

Think back to 6 months ago, and then go back 3 additional months or so.

Have you and your husband been spending more time together at home, or more time away from the house?

Is she not getting as much attention from him as she used to for some reason?

Have you or your husband been paying more attention to your other cat lately? Perhaps she's reacting to that, and needs more attention from you as well.

Perhaps your husband should try scheduled play sessions with her, morning and evening, and show her more attention throughout the day as well. Get her some new toys or encourage her to play with her favorites.

Who feeds her? Maybe her favorite person should start feeding her if not already. He should also try "treat time" daily and leave some treats around for her as well.

For additional stress reduction, use a Feliway diffuser. It doesn't work in all cases, but some cat owners have reported spontaneous cessation of litter box problems after using Feliway.

You can also get the spray and spray it on your clothes and the areas where she's peeing.

If your cat reacts to it, catnip can soothe the savage beast as well. A great combination is a scratching board or post (some cats like vertical, but some like horizontal scratching surfaces) rubbed with catnip.

Other things to try:

Make the area she's using less attractive or block access to the areas. Block access to the areas being used completely or use contact paper, sticky side up, cardboard with double sided tape, aluminum foil, or a rug/runner with the rough side up to discourage your cat from walking into that area.

Use citrus smells to help keep your cat away from the area. You can also buy products designed to help keep her out.

Use enzyme or bacterial based cleaner to remove all traces of the scent. If the urine scent remains, the attraction will be strong to return to the scene of the crime.

Distilled white vinegar can be used if it's caught immediately. Test your materials for colorfastness.

Litter box retraining can be done using isolation/confinement. Place her in a sunny room with toys, food and water, a cat bed or blankets, and a litter box placed away from the bowls. Visit her often and play with her.

Try this for a few days, then you can let her out for periods, supervised. If she reverts to the old behavior, back in she goes and the process starts again.

It's not punishment, so never scold her or use body language that shows negativity. Praise her profusely whenever she uses the box.

I hope that helps. I also hope that if you can't resolve this that you'll let us do what we can to get her adopted into another home.

I don't believe in putting animals down for behavioral issues, so if that time comes I'll be happy to spread the word so we can save her.

Please keep us updated.

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