Ask the vets at Hawthorne Hills Veterinary Hospital in Seattle, WA how to solve your urine marking cat problem.
Behavioral problems can be a common issue when more than one pet shares a household. Just like roommates in a house, each pet has their own needs, and understanding the dynamics and approaching the problems in a systematic way is important to finding a happy, peaceful solution.
The veterinarians at Hawthorne Hills Veterinary Hospital have chosen Alecksiel and Near as our Seattle Pets of the Month for July 2014. Alecksiel, is a 4 year old DLH, who shares his house with two cats just a few years older named Near and Mello. Last fall Alecksiel started spraying urine in several locations in the house and started picking fights with Near. Understandably the cat fighting and Alecksiel’s inappropriate urination created a lot of stress and anxiety for everyone in the household.
As a starting point, we discussed the importance of giving the kitties ‘gold star’ bathroom facilities by providing plenty of litter boxes and ensuring that the boxes were kept clean on a daily basis. We also checked urine samples to be certain there wasn’t a urinary tract infection or other medical issue causing the inappropriate urination. We also gave tips on how to help the cats get along peacefully.
Alecksiel’s family made a number of adjustments, yet this spring when his family added an energetic puppy, Alecksiel’s behavior got worse. Finding a lasting solution was important for everyone. During the behavioral consultation with Dr. Robin Riedinger we evaluated the interactions between the cats, and also what was happening outside. We identified:
- The urine marking was continuing to occur in only a couple of specific locations
- The owners indicated that all of the cats enjoyed playing together at times which we wanted to encourage
- Alecksiel spent time watching and ‘chirping’ at the neighbor’s cat through the window; this behavior may have been contributing to Alecksiel feeling a need to mark his territory
- While Alecksiel had been a bit of a bully to Near in the past, this behavior had subsided somewhat with the addition of the puppy
Our initial plan included increasing the positive interactions between the cats by engaging them in active play with their favorite toys and rewarding each with food treats. We also had the owners give food treats when they observed Alecksiel using his litter box. We started both Alecksiel and Near on Anxitane® and the owners started the use of Feliway® in the house to decrease the stress between the cats. In addition, we tried giving each cat their own sanctuary by separating them when the owners were away and unable to reward positive interactions. Alecksiel however became more agitated when being confined so we had to change our approach.
The owners found that these positive changes were helping but Alecksiel was still urine marking occasionally, so we elected to try behavioral medication. Within three days the owners noted a dramatic improvement and at the end of one month there had been only one episode of inappropriate urination. Alecksiel will continue his medication for some time; our goal is for him to have consistently normal litter box habits and develop less stressful relationships with the other pets in the house. The owners are thrilled with Alecksiel’s response and are able to enjoy a happy pet household once again.
Here are links with additional information for addressing inappropriate urination in your cat: Feline House Soiling: http://www.veterinarypartner.com/Content.plx?P=A&S=0&C=0&A=633
Creating the Perfect Litter Box – see page 6 of the WSU Veterinary Clinic newsletter: http://www.vetmed.wsu.edu/depts-vth/newsletters/FALL2005.pdf
Fighting cats and how to help them get along: http://drsophiayin.com/blog/entry/feuding_felines