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Cat Urine, Pet Urine, Dog Urine

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Cat Urine Where You Don’t Want It

Cat urine/elimination medical terms: inappropriate elimination, spraying, marking

Cats have 3 ways to eliminate:

  • squat and urinate on a flat surface
  • stand and spray urine on a vertical surface
  • defecate

What is Inappropriate Urination?

Inappropriate elimination is going (urinating) outside the box. The urine lands on a flat surface, such as a floor.

What is Spraying?

Spraying is purposeful urine marking to claim territory. The urine lands on a vertical surface, such as a wall or door.


Who engages in inappropriate urination?

Inappropriate urination occurs in cats that experience:

  • illness
  • pain
  • fear
  • separation anxiety
  • a change in a family routine

Who engages in spraying?

Cats who are defensively marking territory engage in spraying (urinating). Spraying is triggered by:

  • female heat cycle
  • male cat hormones
  • inter-cat rivalry

How common is inappropriate elimination (urination)?

Finding cat urine where you don’t want it is the most common behavior issue cat owners face.

How many times a day does a cat eliminate?

The normal cat squats and urinates twice a day and defecates once a day.

How can I tell if my cat is squat urinating—just outside the box—or is spraying?

With normal cat urination, your cat digs, squats, and urinates. The urine forms a circle.

With cat spraying, your cat stands with its tail high, possibly quivering, and may step back and forth on its hind feet. Some cats assume a spraying posture, but don’t spray. Cat urine is usually sprayed near doors, and where the wall meets the floor. Spraying is for marking territory rather than for eliminating urine.

If a cat squat urinates or defecates outside the litter box, is it just plain mean?

Cats that go outside the litter box can have medical problems. Your veterinarian will check for illness, such as bladder infection, constipation, kidney disease, diabetes, diarrhea, arthritis, or senility. Some cats experience pain when they eliminate and associate the pain with the box. Other cats have been attacked in the vicinity of the box. Some cats are anxious because their families are not home.

Is spraying urine normal, or is it just plain mean?

Spraying is a normal behavior, especially for tom cats, and females in heat. It is also caused by the stress of inter-cat rivalry; for example, your cat sees the neighbor’s cat trespassing in your yard.

Should I punish my cat for spraying or for inappropriate elimination?

Punishment doesn’t work. Punishment is doubly bad if your cat is spraying because it is anxious, fearful, or stressed.

Does spraying increase if I get more cats?

Yes. Cats in multi-cat households are more likely to spray than are cats from single-cat homes. The odds of having your cat spray increase from 25% to 100% as the number of cats increases from 1 to 10. Spraying increases because it is intended to mark territory; with more cats, and a smaller territory for each of them, they are more inclined to mark boundaries with urine.

How can I prevent my cat from eliminating where it shouldn’t?

  • Keep the litter box spotlessly clean
  • Have only one cat
  • Have your cats spayed and neutered when young
  • Prevent your cats from being upset by cats they see through a window “invading” their territory
  • Keep your cat healthy: provide moist canned or homemade food to help prevent irritating bladder crystals
  • Maintain a calm routine, but keep your cat stimulated

What can I use to deter my cat from repeatedly eliminating in the wrong spot?

To make a particular spot undesirable as an elimination site, treat the area with:

What about the cat box?

Most cats prefer litter boxes that are at least 1.5 times the length of their body. Cats prefer clean boxes that don’t smell of detergent. It’s best to clean with scalding hot water, and if using a disinfectant, sun dry the box outside for at least 24 hours. Use one more litter box than you have cats: 2 cats, 3 boxes. Cats want their boxes in convenient, quiet spots. Unclean litter boxes are the single most common reasons cats eliminate outside the box; clean them once or twice a day. Cats that need extra privacy may prefer litter boxes in a closet.

What about the litter?

Most cats prefer fine-grained, unscented litter that clumps. Cats can like a particular type of litter one week, and dislike it the next. Cats can prefer the litter to be at a particular depth, and they can dislike litter box liners. If your cat prefers hard surfaces to litter, begin using a plastic food tray or a litter box without litter, and gradually add litter.

Do kittens adopted from a humane society have problems with inappropriate urination?

Although inappropriate urination occurs in about half the cats adopted from a humane society, most are fine within a month. These cats exhibit stressed behavior, and once they learn how wonderful you are, and how wonderful your house is, their stress resolves, and they use the box appropriately.

What can I do—my cat eliminates outside the box?

  • Keep the litter box immaculate
  • Clean soiled spots with an enzyme cleaner or odor neutralizer, such as Get Serious, so cats no longer smell urine
  • Put your cat’s food dish or bedding in the area used for elimination and keep it there for a month before moving it back toward its ideal location
  • Limit your cat’s roaming to a small area, or one room with a box, and if it begins eliminating appropriately, increase the area it can explore and play in
  • Keep the walls of the box low so your pet can walk in without stepping up
  • Treat painful arthritis that prevents your pet from walking to the box
  • Remove all urine odor from outside the house so that your cat doesn't feel the need to mark its territory
  • Use the Comfort Zone Feliway atomizer to decrease your pet’s stress

Is there pharmaceutical help?

Restore peace with pheromones and herbs. Comfort Zone Feliway a calming pheromone, can be dispersed in an atomizer near the litter box area. Herbal Composure Liquid and Quiet Moments, an herbal beef-flavored tablet can be used to calm stressed cats. If you prefer homeopathic medications, use HomeoPet Anxiety Relief. Prescription medications that help stressed cats include clomipramine (Rx), buspirone (Rx), amitriptyline (Rx), and fluoxetine (Rx).

Is there help for an older, confused cat?

Older, confused cats that eliminate outside the litter box may be helped with Omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acids stimulate brain neurons to form more connections with other neurons; the more connections, the sharper your cat stays. Omega 3 fatty acids found in Missing Link, Lipiderm, 3V Caps, 1-800-PetMeds Brite Coat XS and Derm Caps, are a good choice. Omega 3 fatty acids also improve mood. Cats with confusion may also benefit from Denosyl because it helps the liver regulate the molecules that reach the brain.


The articles here were answered by a variety of pharmacists and veterinarians
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  • Cat urine spraying puts urine on a wall or vertical surface
  • Cat urine spraying marks territory
  • Inappropriate elimination puts urine on the floor or a flat surface
  • Cat urine spraying is a normal behavior, especially for tom cats, and females in heat
    recommended cleaners and calmine medications for the cat that urinates.
    Cleaners for pet, dog, and cat urine:
  • Pet Organics No-Go Housebreaking Aid
  • Get Serious
    Calming medications for the urinating cat:
  • Comfort Zone Feliway
  • Composure Liquid
  • Quiet Moments
  • HomeoPet Anxiety Relief
  • Clomipramine
  • Amitriptyline
  • Fluoxetine
    This information is for educational purposes only and is intended to be a supplement to, and not a substitute for, the expertise and professional judgment of your veterinarian. The information is NOT to be used for diagnosis or treatment of your pet. You should always consult your own veterinarian for specific advice concerning the treatment of your pet.

    The information about medications is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, allergic reactions, drug interactions or adverse effects, nor should it be construed to indicate that use of a particular drug is safe, appropriate or effective for your pet. It is not a substitute for a veterinary exam, and it does not replace the need for services provided by your veterinarian.

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