Dear Tabby,

We recently adopted a new kitty named Jack (age 2). He and our older cat, Phoebe (age 8), get along pretty well. Both are fixed and healthy. We adore Jack, but have one big problem: he pees all over the place! It’s not spraying – he’s picking flat, soft surfaces like throw rugs and piles of laundry and then squatting on them and letting loose. Weirdly, he also does sometimes pee in the litter box. Help us figure out what’s up?

Signed, PEEtastrophe!

Dear PEEtastrophe!,

Inappropriate peeing is one of those cat behaviors virtually guaranteed to drive our humans over to the Dark Side, so I’m impressed by your cool!

It’s important to remember, though, that cats are naturally meticulous about our bathroom habits. If we aren’t using the litter box, it’s usually because there’s something medically wrong with us or fundamentally wrong with the box.

In that case, the first step is to take Jack to the vet for an exam. Conditions like urinary tract infections can be a cause of inappropriate peeing. Gotta rule that out first.

If he checks out fine, then the source of his behavior is probably a beef with cleanliness, type of litter, or location.

1. Cleanliness: We cats have sensitive sniffers, and if our boxes smell like the Port-a-Potties at the local state fair, we ain’t goin’ anywhere near them (I’m sure you can relate). Scoop litter at least once a day, and completely clean out the boxes at least once a month. If you’re already scooping once a day, try twice (sorry). Don’t use boxes with lids – they hold in odors and can also make us feel trapped. And make sure you have at least 2 boxes; 3 is better (rule of thumb: 1 for each cat plus 1).

2. Type of litter: Most of us like litter similar in texture to dirt or sand – what we’d use if left to our own devices outside. But some of us like it coarser or finer, some like a lot, others a little, etc. (Almost none of us like it scented, by the way.) Experimentation is key. Try adding a few extra boxes around the house temporarily, testing different kinds of litter – see if Jack has a clear preference.

3. Location, Location, Location: As with you 2-legged creatures, we kitties like privacy and a sense of security when we’re “powdering our noses.” Make sure our boxes are in easy-to-get-to but quiet areas. Situate them so we can see a clear exit route and know that predators (toddlers, other pets, the ghost in the attic, etc.) can’t sneak up on us. Put some of those new litter-testing boxes from step 2 near/on the spots where Jack has been peeing inappropriately the most. See if maybe he simply likes those locations better?

Inappropriate peeing is a tough nut to crack, but it is almost always solvable with persistence and patience. Don’t give up! If none of these things seems to help, talk to your vet and/or try a web search for more advice!

Love and nose boops,
Tabigail van Purrin’

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