Our human temptation is to label this behavior with human traits, and say the cat is either angry at us, or frustrated, or vengeful, or just mean. Cats love peeing on bathroom rugs. It’s like, their favorite thing. Humans have been trained by our physicians to think that if something is bothering one’s bladder, it must be infection. NO infection, NO crystals, NO cancer, NOTHING. Rational expectations are the key to success, when it comes to illness of the cat urinary tract.
And why, when the cat urinary tract and bladder is irritated, does that irritation force the cat to pee outside of the litterbox? When a cat feels bladder pain, they like to share their suffering with others. Cats are funny like that. But when you do, keep an open mind. Vets are not just antibiotic-dispensing machines, we have other tricks up our collective veterinarian sleeves, and the problem may not be infection. The cat urinary tract is a mysterious beast and deserves our respect and patience to treat.
Your veterinarian will likely rule out medical causes of bladder irritation with a series of routine tests. Please let your vet do these things before reading further. Cats are incapable of anger, jealousy, or any of those other myriad emotions we swear they feel. To get to the source of the anxiety, one must think like a cat. See the world through the cat’s eyes. Why do cats pee when they’re anxious?
Well heck, I don’t know. I’m not a cat psychologist, I’m just a vet. But alas, that’s what they do. Sometimes that means give him a cleaner, bigger litterbox, sometimes it means more love and attention, sometimes it means Prozac. In multiple cat households, each cat will often choose a preferred box, mark it with their urine, and refuse to use each other’s boxes. Sometimes cats will ambush another cat when they step into or out of the litter box. Put another way: If Cat A is standing in the one and only doorway to the litterbox room, it makes sense that Cat B might sometimes pee on your bathroom rug rather than risk a fight with Cat A.
Does your box have a cover? Perhaps having that cover makes your cat feel trapped. Put those litterboxes in quiet, stress free places. Sometimes that means your bathroom, sometimes it’s in a closet. Rarely is it beside the washing machine or furnace or other loud appliance. OK, so that’s all you need to know about inter-cat communication.
Your cat spends most of her waking hours cleaning herself, do you think she wants to walk through last week’s pee residue on the bottom of her litterbox? Or worse yet, a housemate’s pee residue? Too few litter boxes can get soiled very quickly and a fastidious cat may not want to step inside. Thoroughly empty and scrub out the boxes and refill with clean litter at least weekly. Cleaning a litterbox is a pain, but it’s a sure sight easier than cleaning cat pee off your stuff. Change your cat’s brand or type of litter at your own peril.
Some cats will refuse to use heavily perfumed cat litter. Feliway pheromone to the mix. Feliway is a concoction of the pheromones cats rub on you with their face, which they do to mark familiar and safe territory. Feliway can convince some cats that new things are as safe as old things. Cats that back their butt up to a vertical surface and wiggle their tails and pee sideways, like this picture, are marking the object. Neutering often helps, if done early enough in life, though sometimes cats will get in the habit of urine marking and you’ll have a harder time breaking them of this habit. Spraying is not the same as inappropriate urination. Spraying is a marking behavior, inappropriate urination is an anxiety behavior. Believe me, we talk to people with inappropriately urinating cats all day long. After some basic testing, your veterinarian is the best resource in the world for helping your kitty live a happy, stress-free life.