So the cat has been urinating inappropriately in your house and you have dutifully brought her to the veterinarian to make sure that there are no physical problem that are causing this behavior. She has gotten a clean bill of health. Now what? When there is not a physical reason that means we have a behavioral issue instead, and who can see into the inscrutable mind of the feline and figure out what is going on in there?

Inappropriate urination, especially for behavioral reasons, is one of the most common reasons cats are given up or euthanized. Often the decision is very difficult to make, but cat urine on every surface of your house is a difficult thing to live with. I am sorry to say that I don’t yet have the magic good behavior pill that you give your cat once daily and all problems are solved, but there are a few specific motivations for cats to do this, and knowing that gives us a foot in the door for changing it.

One of the most important things to understand about cat psychology is that they are essentially unaware that you may have thoughts or opinions of your own and therefore spend absolutely no time whatsoever wanting to affect your feelings for the good or for the bad. This is the reason why there are zillions of people and outfits that want to help you train your dog, but not a single one that I know of that talks about training a cat. Changing a cat’s behavior involves arranging the world around the cat in such a way that its idea of a good thing to do happens to be the same as yours.

Behavioral reasons for inappropriate urination usually come from one of two general categories: surface preference problems, and stress related urine marking.

Surface preference issues are usually easier to solve Most cats want to use the litterbox, but there may be some roadblocks in the way for them, so they go to plan B, which is the carpet in your daughter‘s room. Possible issues include: the litterbox is not clean enough, the cat won’t use the litterbox if another cat has used it, the cat doesn’t like the perfume, dust, or texture of the litter, or it is just something different from the usual. The answers are obvious here. Providing enough litter boxes (at least one per cat) and a litter that is satisfactory to the cat usually makes everyone happy. The litter box may be too tall, too small, too open, too enclosed, next to the heater which periodically makes a scary clunk and now is so terrifying that the cat won’t go near it, or in a place where the dog or other cat harasses the problem cat when it tries to use the box. Like litter preference issues you may be able to figure out what parameter surrounding the litterbox is causing the problem and adjust it so that the cat will go back to using it.

Stress related marking can be a little more difficult do deal with. These are the cats that urinate on your bed when you go out of town for the weekend. People, being essentially self-absorbed creatures, usually assume that the cat is angry with them and trying to punish them. When we make that assumption we underestimate a cat’s ability to be even more self-absorbed than we are. Cats think cat urine is perfectly pleasant and would have no understanding of why anyone would object to it. Just watch that stray out in your yard backing up to all your bushes and squirting away. He clearly thinks of himself as a self-portable, furry, four-legged perfume dispenser. It wouldn’t enter the mind of a cat that urine would make you upset, so they are not trying to affect you in any way when they pee on your bed. Usually these episodes are a cat’s way of re-establishing its territory and therefore reassuring itself that everything is OK even though the comfy routine has been disrupted. Cats will often do this sort of thing when they feel thwarted from doing something they wanted to do, when they get in a fight with another cat in the household, they feel harassed by the children or the dog, or maybe even if they look out the window and see another cat walking through THEIR territory. Yelling at or punishing a cat for stress related urination only exacerbates the problem, no matter how right it feels or how much satisfaction you think you will get from doing it. Once again the key is to find the trigger for the behavior and eliminate it. Sometimes that is easier said than done due to that inscrutable feline mind thing.

I wish I could say that all cats with behavioral urination problems are easily fixed. There are some that do not resolve even when everything is done correctly. There are anti-anxiety medications, homeopathic remedies, and pheremone, treatments that have been reported to be helpful. I would never complain if they work, but I haven’t had much success with most of them. The main key to solving this problem is understanding it from the cat’s perspective and then bending over backwards to make the cat happy so that everyone else can be happy to. If that offends your sense of self-importance on the social scale in your house then you will either need to swallow your pride or live in a house that smells of cat pee.