Why a Cat Is Urinating on People & Things

By Cheryl-Anne Jenkinson

It is a common complaint that some cats start to urinate on people and things in their home; most times this starts quite suddenly and well into the adulthood of the cat. Veterinarians, animal behaviorists and owners all give a lot of time to trying to address this issue. There are a number of causes for pet owners to be aware of and those living with cats can also follow some easy tips for avoiding this problem.

First Signs

Stress is the usual cause of urination in the home.

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The first sign of a cat that may start urinating on people or things is often that the cat is distressed or anxious. Owners should look out for cats becoming nervous around other people or pets,and showing tell-tale behaviors like staying outside longer, avoiding being petted, crying in the night or not eating their food. Cats may also start hiding away or may become clingy and unusually needy for the family's affection.

Causes

Uncastrated cats mark their territory by urinating.

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Changes at home most often cause feline stress behaviors and they commonly lead to cats urinating on people and things. Typical changes that cause stress urination include the presence of a new guest in the home, the arrival of a baby or small child, changes in the owner's usual working patterns and time spent away from home and the presence of new pets in the home or immediate neighborhood. It can also happen that cats are distressed when furniture in the house is rearranged or there are renovations taking place. Male uncastrated cats will also spray around the home and on their owners' belongings; this is natural territorial behavior, quite different from the stress behaviors described.

Treatments

Make your home cat-friendly.

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Any cat that changes its urination pattern should be checked by a vet. If a health problem is ruled out, the issue's likely behavioral. He isn't "naughty," so don't scold; it will add to his anxiety and worsen the problem. Uncastrated cats need to be castrated immediately, at which point the problem usually resolves. Otherwise make the home as stress-free as possible; identify what's changed and remove that stress if possible. Give the cat spaces to relax at home free of visitors, children and other pets. Introduce cat-trees and make toys available. Give him as much human attention as he'd like. Plug-in veterinary diffusers help too; these distribute "happy cat" scents; ask your vet about these.

Cleaning Tips

Aggressive cleaning can make cat urination worse.

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Cat urine odor is notoriously difficult to remove. Sofa cushions, dye-fast rugs and other small soft furnishings can be showered. Check the washing label on items, but usually washing soda and fabric conditioners do remove cat urine as long as plenty of water is used, as in a normal wash or showering process. It is possible to obtain a urine spotter lamp that shows remaining traces you've missed; ask at good pet care retailers. Steam cleaning at high temperatures is a safe, chemical-free way to quickly neutralize urine odors; this is effective on surfaces including hard floors, soft furnishings and carpets.

Warnings

Using aggressive cleaning materials to eradicate odors isn't helpful; these often contain bleaching agents that smell like cat urine and encourage the cat to urinate again; avoid such products. Similarly, spraying the air with scented sprays or using floral scented plug-ins can create irritation to cats' eyes and sinuses, and can make a cat more anxious all over again. Make sure all the changes you make in the home as a result of this problem are especially feline-friendly.