When your senior cat (or a cat of any age, for that matter) that is usually fastidious about using their litter box suddenly starts urinating all over the home, it can be worrying, to say the least. Cat pee is particularly pungent, and your entire home can begin reeking of the smell of cat urine in no time.
Besides the frustration of constantly cleaning a smelly mess, this behavior is also highly concerning for cat owners, and you may begin to worry about what has suddenly gotten into your cat. Fortunately, the underlying causes and solutions to this problem are fairly easy to determine, although there is occasionally something more serious at hand.
In general, there are usually only two reasons that your cat is suddenly peeing everywhere: a medical issue or a behavioral issue. In this article, we look at the possible causes of these issues, as well as steps that you can take to help your feline. Let’s get started!
You may assume that since your cat has been well-behaved about using a litter box their whole life, they are now immune to behavioral issues, but this is simply not true. Several triggers can potentially cause your cat to step out of their usual routine and develop new behavioral problems.
The most common reasons include:
Dirty litter box. This may seem obvious, but the first thing to check is that your cat’s litter box is clean. Cats are notoriously fussy animals, particularly about their toilets and as they get older, and even a slightly messy litter box may cause them to do their business elsewhere. Make sure their litter box is as clean as possible at all times, and this may solve the issue.
Change in litter box. If you have purchased a new type of litter box or litter, this can cause your cat to urinate all over the home. They may not enjoy the new design of the box or the smell of the litter, or their aging body may find it too difficult to get into the box. Be sure to give your cat more than one option of litter box, as they enjoy choices. If you notice them predominantly using the old box or old litter, it may be the new purchase that has put them off.
Cats enjoy routine and doing things their own way, especially senior cats. A sudden change or interruption in their routine may be the cause of their peeing all over the home. Moving to a new house, bringing home a new pet, a sudden surge of visitors, or even abnormally loud noises can all cause your cat stress. Something may have specifically caused them stress while they were using their litter box, and they are now too afraid to use it again. Try to identify the potential cause of stress in your cat’s life, and take the necessary steps to reverse it, halt it, or get them accustomed to it.
Lastly, cat owners know the lingering, potent smell of cat urine, and it can be exceedingly difficult to remove the stench, depending on where it is. If your cat has begun avoiding their litter box due to any of the previously mentioned reasons, chances are high that their super sense of smell can pick up the lingering urine odor on the carpet or sofa, and they now consider this area a great litter box replacement! If this is the case, you may need to get your carpet deep cleaned to completely remove the odor, and restrict your cat’s access to the area for as long as possible until the smell is completely eradicated.
Your cat’s aversion to their litter box may be caused by medical issues that you may not have noticed yet — cats are experts at hiding illness. If all is well with their litter box and they are not noticeably stressed, there may be an underlying medical issue, and you’ll need to take your feline for a checkup with the vet. Common medical issues that could be causing them to urinate everywhere include:
Degenerative joint disease. Arthritis or some other form of painful degenerative joint disease may make it difficult for your aging cat to access their litterbox, and they’ll simply begin to go wherever is easiest. Make sure that their litterbox has low sides that are easy to access, that their box is not at the bottom or top of long sets of stairs, and that they have multiple litterbox options around the home. Your vet will also be able to prescribe appropriate medication to help alleviate some of the symptoms and pain of certain conditions.
Bladder stones. Bladder stones or bladder crystals, the precursor to bladder stones, can cause tremendous pain for your feline, and this may be the cause of their inappropriate urination. You’ll need to ask your vet about treatment, as it can differ according to the size of the stone. Smaller stones can be dissolved with medication and diet, whereas larger stones may need to be removed surgically.
Urinary tract infections (UTI). A UTI is a fairly common occurrence in older felines, and the disorder is caused by bacteria in the urine that can cause an inflammatory response, resulting in a painful infection. Your cat may associate this pain with their litterbox and consequently, will find somewhere else to do their business. You’ll need to take your cat to the vet, and they’ll usually put your cat on a course of antibiotics.
Urinary problems can quickly lead to more serious issues, especially in older cats, so if you notice any symptoms of pain or discomfort while your cat is urinating, you should make sure to visit your vet as soon as possible.
While it’s fairly normal for aging cats to have bodily or behavioral issues that affect their bathroom habits, there are definitely things that you can do to stop or even prevent them from peeing all over your home. By making sure that their litter box is clean and located in a private, calm space, keeping their lives as stress-free as possible, and making sure to visit the vet as soon as any issues crop up, you can easily avoid the situation altogether or nip it in the bud as fast as possible.
An American expat living in Metro Manila, Philippines for over a decade, Christian is a lifelong cat lover and the proud papa of two rescue cats, Trixie and Chloe. Both girls were formerly among the droves of strays that roam the cities and countryside. Three-year-old Trixie was pulled from a litter found under the porch of a neighbor’s house, while two-year-old Chloe was brought home by Christian’s young son, Henry, who found the kitten crying in the parking lot. As Editor in Chief of ExcitedCats.com, Christian is thrilled to be a part of the pro-feline movement.