Wall o’ Pee

Dear Tabby,

Two months ago we adopted the sweetest little 1 year-old cat named Tom and fell head over heels in love. He’s changed our lives so much – we always say he rescued us instead of the other way around – but we’re having one problem we just can’t figure out how to solve.

Tom is a neutered male kitty in a single-cat household, but for some reason, while he starts out squatting in the litter box, as he pees he gradually stands up, spraying the wall behind him. We tried a covered box, but the urine just dripped down the inside of the lid and then leaked out the space where the top meets the bottom. I found some high-sided litter boxes for sale online, but the sides weren’t nearly deep enough; he’s like an Olympic Champion High-Pee-er. At the moment, I have puppy pads taped to the wall, but it’s expensive and a nuisance, not to mention pretty gross.

Why does he do this and what can we do about it? Can we somehow teach him to pee properly? Or do you have any better ideas on how to work around the problem? (Note: we took him to the vet to make sure he didn’t have a urinary tract infection or some other physical issue, but he checked out fine!)

Signed, Wall o' Pee

Dear Wall o' Pee,

Great question, as this is a lot more common than you might think! My little brother, The Unholy Terror (as I call him), does that same thing, and we tried a bunch of stuff before landing on the solution, so I have some real first-paw knowledge on this one.

The bad news is: I have bad news. But the good news is: I have good news! Hang in there until I get to that second part; it’s coming up quick.

First that bad news: while this could be territorial spraying, it doesn’t really sound like it to me (and it definitely wasn’t that for Unholy T.). Spraying cats usually start in a standing position, not in a full-on squat, and since yours is a one-cat household, it’s not as likely he’s being territorial about his litter box (Tom, buddy, that box is all yours, son).

Instead, I’m betting this is the same problem Unholy T. has, which I would describe as a “woeful lack of potty training” – I’ll just go ahead and blame his mother for that, for no other reason than she’s unlikely ever to read this.

Unfortunately, while you can address actual spraying/territorial behavior, there isn’t anything you can really do about a cat who can’t figure out he’s supposed to squat like Dan Wilson behind the plate when he heads to the dugout, so to speak (sorry, it’s baseball season). Since he checked out physically, this is probably something he does because he doesn’t know any better and it doesn’t bother him the way it bothers you. Cats. I tell you what. (Wait. . .)

The good news, though, is that there’s a pretty easy solution to your wall o’ pee problem, and that solution is . . . drumroll please . . . a big Rubbermaid (or Rubbermaid-type) 25-gallon storage bin. We got two for under $15 at Fred Meyer, and, using a sharp pair of kitchen shears, cut an opening in one side on each box, allowing for easy access both for Unholy T. (young/spry) and me (old, get off my lawn), and completely resolving the issue.

Unholy T. can now stand up as high as he’d like – go for the gold, Unholy T.! – and he still doesn’t end up making contact with the wall behind. The boxes are easy to clean in the bathtub (a hand sprayer or big cup are helpful for rinsing) and are inexpensive too – cheaper, in most cases, in fact, than those fancy-pants lidded boxes, which we cats often dislike, by the way.

Here’s a picture of our set-up. Try it out and see how it works for you! And in the meantime, enjoy your new little buddy, and THANK YOU, on behalf of all us shelter kitties, for letting him rescue you! You guys are tops.

Love and nose boops,
Tabigail van Purrin’

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