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From the Forum – What to do with a cat that consistently pees all over house? At wits end!

by Prince Of Petworth June 9, 2014 at 2:10 pm 52 Comments


What to do with a cat that consistently pees all over house? At wits end!

“We have an 11 year old cat that for the past 2+ years has been consistently peeing all over the house. We have tried everything we can think of to stop it. He has been checked out by two vets and there doesn’t appear to be any underlying medical condition. We’ve tried all the tips and tricks the vet and internet blogs have suggested. We keep a clean litter box in a private place, we’ve used heavy duty cat urine removers to try and remove the smell and applied special sprays that are supposed to stop a cat from peeing. We give him lots of attention. But nothing is helping. I am sick of cleaning up after it and having my house destroyed not to mention the sanitation concerns considering we have 2 small children. But, what can we do? Take him to a shelter? Who wants an 11 year old cat who pees everywhere? Taking him there is basically akin to getting him put to sleep and it makes me sick to my stomach to think about it.

By all other counts he is a great cat and maybe if he was in a home without the stress of young kids he wouldn’t do it anymore. We’ve tried for months to locate a new home or situation for him with no luck. The final straw was this weekend when we paid a professional service to come and clean all of the carpets and furniture in our house in advance of house guests and he proceeded to pee all over the carpet moments after they left. Has anyone been in this situation before and what did you do? We are at our wits end.”

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  • Definitely do not post about it on Craigslist.

  • Meg

    I don’t know that I can help, but I can commiserate. I had a male cat that did this exact thing, he was about 8 years old when we adopted him. He had other problems as well (forcing his way into rooms by just throwing his body against doors, constantly crying, etc.). We ended up giving him to a friend who lived on a farm. It turns out he was much more amenable to a house where he could roam around outside (he became a non-feral barn cat) vs being an exclusively indoor cat. That’s the trouble with adopting cats – sometimes you just don’t know their history.

  • Rob

    Our cat was doing that for a while too. We started letting him outside on some days and he stopped.

    • Anonymous

      I have had two cats who have literally pissed me off. The first was our pet before kids and when he tried to spray our second kid, we gave him up to the SPCA. Like a sucker, I called to make sure he was ok; he was deemed unadaoptable and put down. Living with the second cat now…. starting letting him out at night, with exceptions for severe cold and rain. We are down to about 1 or 2 pee incidents a year. As I ADORE the cat, this is has worked for me. No magic solution, no perfect ending. Hope this helps.

  • anonymous

    Does it make me a bad person because I start laughing when I think of the writer watching the carpet cleaners walk out the door only to turn around to see his or her cat peeing all over the newly cleaned carpets? It is a scene straight out of a comedy.
    Given the way people went after the guy who was trying to find a new home for the cat who attacked 9 out of 10 people it met, I doubt you’ll find what you are looking for here – which is permission to take the cat to a shelter, even if it means knowing that the cat is likely to be euthanized. But if you are satisfied that you’ve done your best, I don’t see any other option – besides sucking it up and living with cat pee all over your house until the cat dies, which could be 10 more years from now. Sorry.

    • textdoc

      I don’t think that what the writer is looking for is “permission to take the cat to a shelter.” Unlike the owner of Gary the 3-year-old Russian Blue mix with a spraying problem (see thread at https://www.popville.com/2014/06/so-ill-be-posting-this-ad-nightly-for-the-next-7-10-days-before-i-have-gary-put-to-sleep/ ), she’s not threatening to have the cat euthanized — she’s trying to figure out a way to stop the spraying.

      • textdoc

        And for anyone who was wondering about Gary’s fate: A Fri. 6/6 update to the Craigslist ad said “Someone has agreed to adopt Gary. I’m doing a home visit Sunday afternoon. Fingers crossed that all goes well…”

        • Florista

          Gary was adopted, fortunately. I was in touch with the OP, attempting to put him together with some potential adopters.

          • Fantastic! Very relieved to hear that.

  • Anonymous

    It’s the kids. They’re a source of stress for the cat, despite your best efforts. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to re-socialize a cat that is accustomed to being alone.
    The best thing to do is tell friends who are thinking about getting a cat to wait until after they have children. Seriously. So many cats have behavioral issues once a new member is added to the family. I think it’s best to raise kids and a kitty simultaneously. An old cat who has been your sole source of attention for 9 years isn’t going to adjust easily to a new kid. Dogs are better for that.

    • Anonymous

      Dogs are sooooo much better than cats.

      • MJ

        Completely disagree. I grew up with dogs and used to think like you. Then my girlfriend moved in with me with a cat.
        1- You don’t need to walk a cat outside in the frigid cold, or ever. Just scoop the litter box every other day
        2- I can leave the cat unattended for a whole weekend and the house is spotless when I get back. A dog would bark, poo, poop, eat all it’s food, and die from solitude
        3 – In general, cats are quieter and less annoying
        4- Contrary to popular belief, some cats are total attention whores and extremely friendly. My cat runs to the door to see us
        5- Cats live longer
        6 – Cats clean themselves
        7 – Cats are smarter (sorry, but they are)
        8 – Cats are small, but they can kick ass. Some large dogs are terrified of cats

        Don’t get me wrong. I love dogs too, but cats are seriously misunderstood by those who never had them.

        And regarding items 1-3 and 6-8, cats are better than dogs AND babies.

        My two cents

        • Anon

          +5000000 anyone who generalizes like that about cats obviously doesn’t know very many. Just because they don’t jump and slobber all over every person they encounter doesn’t mean they are all unfriendly. You just need to approach them properly, the same as you would have to do with a dog.

        • Anonymous

          Besides, it’s not like dogs don’t have behavioral issues when a child is introduced into the household. Haven’t you people seen Lady and the Tramp?

        • Anonymous

          Sorry but no. Dogs are better than cats forever, Amen.

          And dogs are way smarter than cats. The average dog can understand dozens or even hundreds of words without even being actively taught. Cats can understand roughly zero.

          And no matter what, cats are gross. Sorry, but I am not going to live with an animal that pees and poops in the house. That is disgusting.

          • MJ

            By all means, honey, take Fido out for a walk and sweat your butt crack. Also if your idea of a perfect pet is it’s ability to understand play dead and roll over, have at it. I prefer not having to rush home at night in case fluffy peed his pants. I forgot one more benefit of cats- you can leave out food for the cat and it will feed itself whenever it wants. Dogs will inhale all their food, eat the cat’s food, and then eat cat poop from the cat box. Yeah sure, dogs are smarter my ass.

  • anonymous

    Did the urinating start after the children came? Are there other animals in the house, and does your family keep a pretty consistent schedule? Is the litter box in a “safe” place (not near a lot of traffic), not covered (which threatens some cats), and cleaned out regularly (i.e., twice a day)? Some cats are very sensitive to change. New children or other animals can threaten their sense of safety and confidence, thus leading to territoriality issues. Do you have plenty of places for him to hide, and most important: do you provide vertical space for him to hide up high? I’m sorry that you’re having such a tough time, but improper elimination is indeed one of the leading reasons cats end up in shelters. It is frustrating, and people spend tons of time and money trying to figure out what the trigger is for their specific cat. It is hard to say what your cat’s problem is. Have you considered meeting with a cat behaviorist (a la Jackson Galaxy)? If not, perhaps a vet could recommend one. I’m asking a lot of questions, but I hope these get you on the right track… Best of luck.

  • Meg

    I had a similar problem with my now four year old male cat when I moved to DC this past summer. I thought it was the new apartment, adjustment to living just with me in a studio, new furniture, and frustrations at the frequent presence of a new boyfriend. I took him to the vet multiple times – they did urine tests, found nothing, and told me it was behavioral. It was so frustrating, as his preferred place to pee all over was my bed. Until one day it seemed like he was struggling to pee in his box – I called the vet and they told me to take him in immediately to Friendship Hospital. It turned out he had a (very very small, thinks the vet) urinary blockage that had made it super painful for him to pee. He had started to associate his box with the pain and that’s why preferred to pee elsewhere, mostly on soft surfaces. After a the world’s most expensive vet visit, I took him home with a prescription for new food – royal canin urinary so. You need a prescription to get it at the store, but can get it on amazon prime without one. The food changed EVERYTHING. He now pees only in his box (and all the time, too). The food causes them to drink a ton of water, which keeps them from having pain when they pee. It might be worth a shot? I think sometimes the very small blockages can be missed (I am NOT a vet, just my thoughts from my personal experience). I guess this can be SUPER common with male cats.

    • Anonymous

      Be super careful changing a cat’s food if they are accustomed to a single brand. We unthinkingly did this to our cat a couple of years ago, and she literally stopped eating. At first we thought “how great she is losing weight” but by the time we took her to the vet she was suffering liver damage and refused to eat even her old food because she felt so sick. Several thousand dollars later, she came home with a feeding tube in her neck, and we had to force-feed her high-protein food every six hours for two months before she started eating again. Happy to report she is fine now, but I’ve learned my lesson. If you need to switch food, you should start by leaving the old food and the new food out, and start mixing in the new food gradually with the old food. If the cat has both options, she will probably try the new food and end up being ok with it. She has to feel like it was her choice to switch, though, as cats do not like being forced to change something they are used to.

  • Jules

    Feliway if you haven’t tried it. It is a feromone powered plug in that apparently exhudes a scent that tells cats they are in a safe place. We tried it with our cat who would pee outside the box and it helped her stress go down and after a while we started to unplug it for longer stretches of time to wean her off it and no more problems since!

  • Anonymous

    Same thing you do with a Metro customer who pees all over the subway cars — promote them to station manager.

  • wdc4peace

    Sorry about this. I can relate. Another thing to try is kitty prozac or similar. Ask a vet. Feliway didn’t work for me but may work for you. I don’t recommend letting him out but a cat door should be an option before euthanasia. Good luck. Buy stock in Nature’s Miracle.

    • Anon

      +1 for this – we had a female cat that sprayed everywhere (weird, right?) and our vet actually put her on an itty bitty does of Paxil. Turned out she was super anxious and the paxil changed her whole world view. She wasn’t on it very long (6months or so?) but it completely worked!

      Good luck!

      • L2

        I can commiserate and also think it’s a stress problem which may be helped by prozac, and perhaps if you have room, having a cat only room where she/he can feel safe, no kids allowed. I had a female cat growing up that was the runt of the litter and was very subordinate in behavior towards our other animals (2 other cats and 1 dog). She was stressed by the presence of the other animals, even if they weren’t doing anything to her. Once everyone moved out and other animals passed away or moved with my siblings, she loved being the only animal; she still peed on the carpet but not as frequently . I don’t think my parents were willing to try prozac for her, but it’s the only thing I can imagine helping.

        I also wonder if you’ve tried changing to a different kind of cat litter? Another cat I had refused to pee on the recycled litter that the vets recommend when they’ve had surgery (newspaper wrapped in little plastic pellets) and literally held his pee for a full day until I realized he was wobbling and weird; when i put out the regular litter, he peed immediately. It stresses cats out to not pee where they are supposed to, so there has to be a good reason he/she is choosing elsewhere.

  • Anonymous

    Having the same problem with our dogs (they also poop all over the place). We can either keep them in their crates all the time or clean up accidents a few times a week. Doesn’t seem like any amount of walking prevents this from happening. We just got our oriental rugs cleaned but have them rolled up currently because we’re afraid they’ll get peed on immediately.

  • StatingTheObvious

    I had an older (14+) cat that did the same thing, and, like you, the two vets we took him to said it wasn’t a physiological issue. The vets, sadly, were completely mistaken. It turned out to be the early onset of a kidney condition that by the time they discovered it was fatal. To which vet have you taken him? The one in Dupont Circle is essentially worthless.

  • wdc

    In this exact situation (including the belly ache that comes from thinking I’ll have to euthanize my otherwise healthy and wonderful pet), we made three changes:
    1. Gave him a second litter box with 2-3 cheap washcloths in it (and no litter). He prefers to pee on fabric when he’s stressed, and this gave him an acceptable way to do that. (I put the peed-on washcloths in an airtight container, and when it’s full, wash them by themselves, on hot, with bleach. But be careful– cat pee is high in ammonia, and ammonia + bleach = chlorine gas. Or is it chloramine? You don’t want it, whatever it is, so fill the washer before putting in the bleach.)
    2. Used a thing called SssCat in the places he returned to most often for illicit peeing. (In our case, a futon in the basement.) It’s a can of compressed air with a motion sensor, so it hisses whenever the cat goes somewhere he doesn’t belong.
    3. Let him go outside. I know, I know. Last resort. But it makes a HUGE difference. In fact, we thought our peeing problems were over– two years clean. And then he was so opposed to all the snow this winter that he stayed inside for several days, and it caused a relapse. He’s older and neutered (like yours, I assume). He doesn’t go far, doesn’t pick fights, and is too lazy and well-fed to hunt.
    Good luck. I hope you get to keep your cat, but if you try everything and it doesn’t work out, you’ll have my sympathy, and my encouragement to ignore all the assholes who haven’t been in our shoes.

  • Anon

    I went through something similar. After months, it turns out the cat had an infection in one of his nail beds and the litter bothered him. Fixed that and the problem was gone. However, I have had a cat that would pee outside his box until we got a second box. He liked one box for #1 and the other box for #2 and getting the second box (even though we didn’t have space for it) changed everything

    Other options are anti-depressants. Also, is he/she peeing on one thing specifically? Is it only carpets? Is it always plastic or synthetic fibers? Maybe replacing that would fix the problem.

    Sorry you are going through this. It is a VERY stressful situation, but likely, there is something bothering the cat (the kids, an infected paw, the lack of a second box, depression, the house is chaotic for other reasons, who knows). Maybe someone would be willing to keep him in a tiled (i.e. cleanable) basement somewhere to see if a quieter, carpet-less environment makes him pee outside the box.

  • Kathryn-DC

    I’m leaning towards the children being a source of stress as well. I adopted an older cat who just could not handle the stress of living with kids.

    One suggestion would be to spend a day observing how they play with kitty, and spend some time showing them how to approach kitty in a calm way, not grabbing, yelling, throwing toys, or anything like that. It may take a while to reduce kitty’s anxiety about that. So, in the meantime, some sort of calming product, like Bach’s Rescue Remedy or Feliway spray, or a calming collar.

  • anonymouse_dianne

    Was he checked for diabetes? It’s very common in older cats. My diabetic 15 yo peed in and out of his box. I have also had good luck with Feliway, and I know Dr. Gary recommends kitty prozac.

  • sharon

    I’d also recommend kitty prozac. I also use feliway and a special collar that carries that soothing scent everywhere. For my guy, it is definitely anxiety related and other cats. It’s not perfect (he doesn’t like the taste of the prozac liquid I add to his food), but I can definitely detect when he has missed a dosage.

  • Anon

    The stock picture is hilarious to me, because my spraying cat was a Persian who looked a lot like that. In my case, it ended up being an underlying medical problem, but it took a while to narrow down. There were a lot of other potential causes going on: his sister had died recently, which he was really upset about, we had moved to a new place, and I had started dating someone new and wasn’t home as much as I had been. After his first “accident” (on a chair in the living room) I confined him to my room to avoid alienating my new roommate, which he didn’t like, either. And I had the same experience with the vet telling me they had no idea what to do.

    I absolutely sympathize with how frustrating and upsetting it is to constantly have yet one more mess to clean up and to not know how to stop it. I agree that being displaced as the family baby and the noise and commotion of the kids might be the issue. Is there a quieter part of the house that you can keep the cat in for a few days to test if a calmer environment might help? Try getting a second vet opinion, try the Feliway and maybe a kitty antidepressant. And definitely stock up on Nature’s Miracle or Oxiclean to tide you over until the problem is fixed. Best of luck to you.

    • Lion kitty foster

      Aw, I took this picture two weeks ago when I found this kitty on my porch. She’s super sweet and went potty in a box no problem. :)

      • Did you find the kitty’s human?

        • Lion kitty foster

          Yup! Kitticus is home.

          • jumpingjack

            Yay! So happy your found her family!

  • Anon

    This is the worst – sorry you have to deal with it! My recently-adopted cat had some issues with this in the beginning and Feliway, etc didn’t help; however, a combination of re-introducing the cat to the environment (meaning that she spend a couple of weeks in the bathroom during the day and was not offered free run of the house) and Cat Attract cat litter (which is supposed to help with litter box problems) worked like a charm. Not sure if it was one, both, or the combination, but I’ve kept up with the Cat Attract litter and she’s now doing just fine in the house – no accidents at all. Good luck!

    • Anon

      +1 for Cat Attract. My friend who does cat rescues, including a significant number of stray (not feral) cats, uses this for housebreaking. Just sprinkle it on top of the regular litter as needed.
      Also recommend the Sentry Calming Collar (3 for about $17 on Amazon and smells really nice!). I bought it for one of my cats when I brought my baby home to hopefully make the adjustment period easier for him. My cat rescue friend uses it when one of her foster kitties starts beating up on the others, and she noticed an IMMEDIATE difference.

      Of course, this is all assuming it is not a urinary tract issue. Good luck!

  • Anonymous

    I concur that trying to get him adopted to a locale where he can go outdoors might be the best option.

  • moweezy

    I second that it might be a physical problem that the general vets havn’t caught.

    My cat had diabetes that they didn’t catch (drink and drink and drink water, you’re not going to be able to make it to the litter box) which meant that he was peeing ALL. THE. TIME. If he’s meowing and squatting and peeing (not just putting his butt up to things and spray peeing) it means there’s a serious physical problem. I would take him to a urinary specialist (after signing up for cat health insurance, since there are no pre-existing conditions “yet” it would save you thousands of dollars) and see if they catch something.

    Also, kitty prozac MAY be a good option, but I would take him to the urinary specialist first since they’re definitely the most experienced with excessive peeing.

    • Anonymous

      Also, google FLUTD. Feline lower urinary tract disorder. It’s exacerbated by stress, and makes peeing very painful. So cat will seek a comfortable/ comforting space and avoid the litterbox, which he associates with pain. My cat has actually peed bright red, his gets so severe. Pay attention to the cat while he’s peeing. Is he crying? Or peeing a little then stopping then going straight back to try again? Steroids help manage flare ups.

      • Anonymous

        I agree that you should ask about FLUTD. It is very common in older male cats and can be very dangerous if left untreated. It can be brought on by stress. SouthPaws animal hospital was great to work with-I definitely recommend them. Since FLUTD is very serious we were always taken back very quickly.

  • Bdale1986

    I had this problem years ago when I had 2 cats. It was torture trying figure out what to do, and I also didn’t want to go the shelter route, but came really close. I solved my problem by keeping the cats confined to an area with a hard floor, where they couldn’t scratch. It took a little longer with the female, but the solution finally worked and didn’t cost anything.

  • Anon

    My old cat started peeing on my bed after she had been left in a stressful situation with my mother for a few months while I was away. On the suggestion of my vet, I started confining her in the kitchen while I was at work; she had a window to sit in, food, water, freshly scooped box and toys. The idea was to give her nowhere that wasn’t her box to pee and “rewire” whatever bad behavior was caused by the stress. After a few months of kitchen time, she had been successfully retrained that her box was a safe and enjoyable place to do her business. Other tips from the vet; unscented litter only, remove the litter box hood and scoop at least twice a day. There are these big, high-walled boxes out there that give the cat lots of space to dig around but are still open so they don’t have a fear of confinement.

  • DC_Chica

    My coworker has this issue with one of her cats. The (female) cat had a legitimate medical condition diagnosed at one point – maybe kidney stones? However the cat continued to pee on things even after the surgery, and my friend tried everything imaginable — for awhile the cat did her business in the shower (which was better than doing it on my coworkers bed, all things considered) and the current winning solution is puppy pads! As wdc mentioned about placing rags in a box, it might be more comfortable, or therapeutic for whatever reason, for your cat to pee on a clean soft surface, so it’s probably worth trying to give your kitty an alternative to their usual litter box. I would also recommend creating a calm, quiet “happy place” where the kitty can go – I’m a big fan of tall poles and perches, and if you can create some kind safe outdoor access like a fenced off yard, that might work too – maybe they’ll decide that they like to pee out there instead. Good luck!

  • mastodfow

    Our cat had the same issue when we first moved into our current apartment. We explored various options and decided to give Feliway a try. It’s a plug-in diffuser that releases scents that are calming to cats (humans can’t smell it). It worked wonders! Not only did she stop peeing on EVERYTHING, she was much calmer in the new environment. It’s a bit on the pricey side, but totally worth it. Amazon has a starting diffuser with several refills. Best of luck!

  • Anonymous

    My brother’s cat did this. He finally tried a litter called Cat Attract. They sell it at the large pet retailers. It has a very strong smell, but that ended up solving the problem with his cat (a female).

  • dcgrl07

    The OP could be our family. Our male cat is 10 and he’s always seemed to have a spraying issue but we’re at our wits end. What we currently do: cat attract litter, two litter boxes with no covers), cleaned every day. We have two kids and he has a private spot for both going to the bathroom (the laundry room) and a private place to sleep (bedroom closet). For a while we had a really good streak with no peeing but that has ended. It’s to the point where I will have just cleaned out his litter box and he’ll pee on the carpet on the hallway. If we leave the kids room open, he’ll pee in there. Interestingly, he doesn’t pee in our room. I don’t think it’s medical because he will go in the box AND pee in the hallway, it seem to be mostly behavioral. Which is why it is super frustrating. I’m thinking of trying the trick another poster mentioned which is have one litter box with old towels and the other with litter (he uses one for pee and one for poop). I’ve also got an appointment with the vet and hoping for some kitty prozac. We have a two week vacation in August coming up and while we’ll have someone check in on him and change litter/feed I don’t feel like coming home to a hallway full of cat pee. Sigh. Thanks for the tips everyone!

  • Ally

    This may or may not apply to your cat’s situation, but a lot of times this happens it’s territorial marking due to your cat being aware of another cat in your yard or near the house. If you frequently have strays coming into your yard (I know I do, despite having a tall fence, and it drives my cats nuts), consider getting a motion-activated sprinkler or something similar to keep strays away from the house. Couldn’t hurt. Best of luck!

  • Janie4

    I have a former stray who has this problem. He’s on prozac, and will be for the rest of his life. He also has urinary crystals, and therefore he has to be on a special diet (royal canin or prescription diet offer options). A blacklight detector is useful for finding and eliminating old stains, but you should also take a look with it outside the house, and see if there’s another animal spraying there. Finally, while he may have been a totally fine indoor cat, if he’s not declawed, I’d try letting him outdoors. He may need to get away from two small children for at least some period of time each day.

  • Hi, I work at the Humane Society of the United States, and would encourage you to check out our Cat Answer Tool, specifically our page on what to do if your cat isn’t using the litterbox: http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/cats/cat_problem_solver/litter_box.html?credit=web_id415816939 – I hope that helps!


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