There are few things more frustrating than when a cat that was previously using the litter box quite happily suddenly stops using it and urinates around the house instead. Sometimes older cats can stop using the box after a lifetime of being house trained. However, there is generally a good reason, and with a little patience and understanding the problem can usually be resolved.
One of the most common reasons for an older cat refusing to use the litter box is a Urinary Tract infection (UTI). This makes it difficult for your cat to urinate and causes him pain and discomfort. Often the cat will associate the pain with the litter box and will try to find somewhere else to go, in the hope that it won’t hurt. A cat with a UTI will also need to urinate much more frequently as a matter of urgency, so may not always be within easy reach of the box.
Signs of a UTI are obvious pain and discomfort on urinating, trying to urinate frequently, circling and scratching for a long time before actually squatting and only producing a small amount of urine at a time. As the infection progresses, the urine may have a pink tinge or be very concentrated. If you suspect that your cat may have a UTI, take him to the vet as soon as possible. Your vet will prescribe antibiotics to clear the infection, and your cat should then be fully house trained once more.
An older cat may also become reluctant to use the litter box if he develops arthritis. If his limbs are affected, he may find it difficult or painful to jump in and out of the litter box and so will find somewhere more accessible instead. Signs that your cat has arthritis include stiffness and signs of pain when walking, reluctance to jump onto higher surfaces and reluctance to be picked up. Your vet will be able to prescribe medication to alleviate the symptoms of arthritis and control the discomfort. You could also provide your cat with a lower sided box which is easier for him to get in and out of.
A change in your cat’s routine may also be the cause. This can be a major change such as a house move or a new baby or a much smaller change such as a rearrangement of furniture. Cats are very much creatures of habit and any changes to his routine can cause him a great deal of stress. You will need to give him plenty of reassurance and help him to establish a new routine. Make sure he knows where the litter box is and praise him when he goes to use it. If you have a new addition to the household such as a new cat or dog, make sure your older cat’s litter box is sited somewhere private. Cats will generally require a box each, preferably in their own private space.
Older cats can suffer from dementia, so it is possible that he may simply forget where his litter box is or how to use it. Signs of feline dementia include excessive meowing for no reason, especially during the night, and a lack of awareness of where he is. He may also display behaviors such as walking round in a circle or a reluctance to be left alone. Sadly there is no cure for feline dementia, although there is medication that can slow the process. You may simply have to learn to live with it. Try placing the litter box in the spots where your cat tends to urinate; it may be useful to purchase an extra box or two for this purpose.
Hopefully this article will help you to solve the problem of your older cat peeing around the house and rebuild your relationship with him.