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Outside of the Box: A Holistic Approach to Managing Your Cat

Posted on 7/9/2012 by Jenny Key in urinating cats medical causes behavioral causes litter
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Your fickle felines have many ways of letting you know when something isn’t right in their world. They claw at your drapes, meow–make that howl–in the middle of the night, and run from room to room with a possessed look in their eye. Perhaps the most disruptive is when they urinate outside the litter box.

Because you know your cats, you know that they don’t readily reason the way humans, or even your trusted canines do. They seek attention when they want, leave when they want, and skip all of the normal pleasantries. So when they are urinating outside the litter box, it can be difficult to understand why and to find a workable solution. 

 Medical Causes: 

Most clients call believing that their cat is committing this act out of spite or unhappiness. While the cat’s mood may be part of the reason, often the underlying cause is that he or she is in uncomfortable. A few common diagnoses that could be the culprit are: Lower Urinary Tract Inflammation, Kidney Disease, Thyroid Disease, Diabetes, and Hip Arthritis. It is important to get your cat thoroughly checked by a veterinarian to rule out any of these causes. 

Even if your cat has a previous history of spraying or urinating due to behavioral causes, this time could be different. When stressed, cats tend to hold their urine causing inflammation that can be treated with medication. For example, a client’s cat, Sadie, gets upset when her person works long hours. She lets her know by refusing to use the litter box. Most of Sadie’s trips to the vet proved inconclusive, except on two occasions when she actually had a urinary tract infection. The vet speculated that Sadie worked herself up to the point of causing an infection. It’s expensive to go the vet, but if your cat is in pain, the problem will become exacerbated. A low-grade infection or inflammation could lead to a urinary blockage. Sadly, if left untreated by a vet, a blockage could lead to death within twenty-four hours. 

Behavioral Causes: 

Because cats are sensitive creatures, they notice even the slightest changes in their person, their routine, or their household. Like other pets, cats read the energy in their environment. Their senses have been somewhat dulled due to domestication, but their survival instincts are still present. Even the most happy, stable cats will intuitively tune in to their surroundings as a way of assessing their safety from day to day. If something changes, cats will feel a different energy that may cause a stress reaction. Some examples of energy shifts are:

  • Moving
  • Addition to the family, human or animal 
  • Change in litter
  • Change in person’s routine or cat’s routine
  • Change in food
  • Person going through stressful time at home, work, or in relationships
  • Person going through medical illness
  • Person going on vacation or working long hours
  • Cat not receiving enough exercise or outside time
  • Cat is under-stimulated or bored 

The above causes can also contribute to a more serious behavior of spraying or marking. Instead of simply squatting down to urinate, cats will lift their leg to spray on furniture, personal belongings, walls, or even counter tops. Spraying is one way they express their upset and try to secure their environment. In essence, they are laying claim and making their home feel more safe. 

Solutions: 

Sometimes the energy shift your cat experiences is subtle to humans. Everything in the cat’s world may seem copacetic, but he or she is still urinating. With the help of a veterinarian and an animal communicator or whisperer, you can begin to put the pieces together. Often the reason your cat is going outside of the box is multi-layered. You may clear up the infection or treat the diabetes, but the behavior continues. Try these suggestions:

  1. Change your cat’s litter to a soft, unscented clay litter. Many of my clients like the enviro-friendly litters. I agree that we should all do our part… and some cats just don’t like certain brands. If your cat is sensitive, try going back to a litter they’ve had success with before, or switching to the simple clay litter. It feels good on their paws and feels more inviting to them.
  2. Change litter every day. Make your cat’s litter box as inviting as possible. Wash out the pan with unscented soap and provide fresh litter often. Also, be sure each cat has their own box, plus one, and that the boxes are placed in quiet parts of the home.
  3. Clean spots they've urinated on with special pet neutralizer. Even though you can no longer smell the smell, their sensitive noses can. Also, do not use a cleaner that contains ammonia; your cat will think it’s urine and spray over it.
  4. Block off spots where they have gone. Throw away things that you cannot get clean and cover the things that you can’t remove with tinfoil. Cats don’t like the feel of tinfoil on their paws, so it keeps them off of that area. If they like to go on your bed, block off your bedroom when you cannot supervise them.
  5. Monitor your own energy. When your cat urinates inappropriately, it can feel understandably frustrating. Unfortunately, the more upset you get, the more your cat reacts. This is especially true in cases where cats feel scolded or punished. Rubbing their noses in it, yelling, or hitting cats results in an increase in the behavior 100% of the time. Try to treat the occurrence as if you understand and it’s part of living with a cat. An animal communicator can offer support, as well as teach you different ways to modulate your energy and mood. You’re only human, so don’t be hard on yourself if you lose your temper.
  6. Stabilize their environment. If you experience stress, your cat will feel it. Make time for them at home to sit with you reading or to hang outside on a leash (if your cat is indoor). Fresh air and down time will serve you both well, and will balance the stress energy. If you cannot be home more, think of them throughout the day in a calm way. There have been many empirical studies that show that dogs know when their owners are coming home–not due to routine, but because they can feel it. Cats are no different. If you think of them with worry or guilt, they will react poorly. You are their person and they look to you for safety, so let them know it’s going to be okay. I often give the homework assignment of talking out loud to your cat. Telling them about routine changes or about how you’re feeling releases pent up energy. If your cat feels the energy release from you, they will relax, also.
  7. Know when to say when. Sometimes our time with our animals is not forever. After giving birth to her first child, my client, Becky, could not stop her cat from peeing in the house. We tried multiple solutions. In the end, Becky realized that her cat was asking her to go to a home where she could be the one and only. Her cat had previously been the center of attention before her daughter was born. Some cats need that. Or they need a more quiet environment than a house with a newborn. Although it was hard for Becky, she let her cat go live with a friend and now both families are happy. When your cat is going outside of the box, try thinking outside the box. When you explore different reasons for this disruptive behavior, it gives you an opportunity to reflect. It may not be the most welcomed method–most of us would opt for meditation or even a cocktail–but it is a learning opportunity, and your feline friends are worth it.
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