I have two Ragdoll cats and the female is urinating on my cushions on the couch.I have two litter boxes located on two floors. She is healthy and their isn't anyurinary tract infection. She has been neutered. How do I stop this bad behavior?
Type of Animal: 5 mth old Ragdoll Cat
Age: 5 months
Name of Cat: Abby
To squirt here with water and tell her she
is bad. She doesn't have urinary problems
and she does piddle and deficate in two cushions. We've tried to separate her and confine her and that doesn't work either.
There is a male Ragdoll as well and she shares the litter box. Please help.
Aloha! You're speaking with Dr. Michael SalkinAbby's inappropriate urination/defecation is a behavior that has send many customers to me on this site. I answer many of the behavior questions and this behavior is second only to aggression when it comes to pets being rehomed. It's a difficult and time consuming behavior to manage and there's no quick fix. Now that I've discouraged you please continue reading and respond with further questions or concerns if you wish.Abby is clearly exhibiting marking behavior. She is not likely to be eliminating inappropriately due to litterbox aversion or a medical disorder. Marking on a horizontal surface (the cushions) is marking behavior (a communicative function) caused by the same stimuli that causes spraying. The most common cause is increased cat density - in the home or nearby. Emotional problems, such as a stressful relationship with a family member, separation anxiety, anxiety over her status in the existing hierarchy, fear, owner absence, moving, new furniture, inappropriate punishment, teasing, household changes and remodeling in the home are examples of stimuli that can induce anxiety in our cats. The etiology can be difficult to diagnose, especially if the behavior is only manifested intermittently and because the stimuli for her inappropriate eliminative behavior may be imperceptible to you but readily so to her - another cat roaming outside, e.g. If emotional factors are influencing the housesoiling you might notice other changes such as avoidance, aggression or an alteration in her general temperament.Treatment involves two major considerations: 1) remove the cause - easier said than done. You might have to be quite the detective to discern the stimuli for her inappropriate eliminative behavior 2) prevent Abby from returning to previously soiled areas. To re-establish a consistent habit of using the litterbox, Abby should be temporarily contained to a small area with the box and only allowed out when she can be supervised 100% of the time. When confined to a relatively small area, most cats seem to prefer to eliminate in the box rather than soiling the floor. It is then a matter of confining her long enough for a consistent habit to become established. As a rule of thumb, one week of confinement is usually recommended for every month of soiling. Abby should be removed from the confinement area as much as possible for socialization and play, but never allowed out of sight. Food rewards may help when given immediately after she finishes eliminating in the box. If Abby refuses to use the litterbox when confined to a small area, the confinement area should be changed to a large cage. The floor should be covered with litter, forcing her to use it for elimination. The litter is gradually removed and replaced with a litterbox. Once she has used the litterbox in a confined area for an appropriate amount of time, she can be allowed to have more freedom in the home. Previously soiled areas (the cushions) can be safeguarded by changing the behavioral function of the area by placing food bowls, cat bedding or toys in the area. The area can also be made unacceptable for her by placing a motion-activated alarm or lemon-scented room deodorant in the area. Plastic carpet runners can be placed upside down with the "feet" facing up. Plastic, foil, or double-stick carpet tape can be used to protect specific areas. Removing urine and stool odor is important. Products such as Nature's Miracle which are specifically formulated to work on these types of odors are recommended.Some cats are extremely sensitive to changes in their environment. They may mark in response to the most minor of alterations. You must strive to keep the home environment as constant as possible. When situations occur that are likely to upset Abby, you might want to consider confinement, closer supervision and the use of anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) medication such as paroxetine (Paxil) and fluoxetine (Prozac). In fact, most behaviorists feel that without the use of psychotherapeutic drugs our chance of correcting inappropriate marking behavior is near nil. Please respond with further questions or concerns if you wish. (Personal note: My two cats began marking as kittens. After 6 months of fruitless treatment they became outdoor cats - for 12 years.)
UC Davis graduate veterinarian with 41 years of experience
Thank you. I'll check back with you in two weeks for an update.