It seems like it came from nowhere. One day, you woke up only to find that your favorite shirt has become the new litterbox.
It may feel like revenge, but cats really can’t plot such. So what could cause a cat to begin peeing on clothes?
The cause of inappropriate urination is either a behavioral one or a medical issue. The first thing you should do is have your cat examined by the veterinarian to determine if there is a medical issue. Even if you believe the issue to be behavioral, stress can cause medical problems that need to be addressed.
So is My Cat Sick?
A veterinarian can determine if any medical issues are causing your cat to pee on clothes as many different health cases can cause it to stop using its litterbox. A urinalysis will check for most of the common ones.
- Urinary Tract Infection
Luckily, the most common is also one of the easiest to treat.
If your young and otherwise healthy cat suddenly begins peeing on clothes, the cause may be a urinary tract infection. Your veterinarian will determine if there are any bacteria in the urine and will prescribe an antibiotic.
- Urinary Crystals
As a result of an infection or diet, cats can develop crystals in their urine.
Crystals or stones are more serious than a simple infection. Especially in male cats, crystals can block the urethra and prevent your cat from going to the bathroom.
This is an emergency situation as kidney damage will quickly occur. If you ever notice your cat is unable to urinate, call a veterinarian right away.
Most crystals can be cured with a prescription diet and clearing up any urinary tract infections that may have caused them. Although sometimes urinary crystals require surgery.
- Chronic Disease
Many diseases will cause cats to urinate more frequently. Your cat may no longer be able to get to the litter box in time because of how often it needs to go. Most commonly, these are diabetes, hyperthyroid, and kidney failure.
If your cat is on the older side, a type of chronic disease may be the cause of peeing on clothes. A urinalysis with bloodwork can help your veterinarian determine a diagnosis and the best course of action.
- Maybe It’s Behavioral
Keep in mind that even after any medical issues have been resolved, your cat may have established a behavior of peeing on clothes. It may associate the litterbox with pain and may wish to avoid it.
Sometimes, although rarely, the behavior was never related to a medical issue at all. Or the medical cause is long gone before bad litterbox habits occur.
By far the most common behavioral reason for peeing on clothes is stress. Changes such as moving, a new person or a new pet in the household can be extremely stressful to cats(1).
If you went on vacation only to return to your clothes being peed on, you are not alone. As mentioned, your cat is not trying to take revenge because you left. It is simply undergoing separation anxiety and did not understand where you were or if you were ever coming back(1). Very stressful!
- Litterbox Aversion
Cats may also think that there is an issue with their litterbox.
They may not like the location, perhaps because they have to go past the dog to get there. Or perhaps because they have arthritis and don’t like to use the stairs to the litterbox. There are a lot of reasons.
Other cats may have claimed the litterbox for themselves. Your cat may believe that the litterbox is too dirty and prefers clothes.
Sometimes, the litterbox may be too small or uncomfortable. The type of litter itself may hurt your cat’s paws, especially if they have been declawed.
So How Can I Stop It From Happening?
Punishing your cat is unlikely to help at all. The number one reason cats are put in shelters is for not using their litterbox. It may seem like an annoying and impossible problem but there are many solutions.
- Make A Vet Appointment
The very first thing to do is go to a veterinarian and get a clean bill of health for your cat. If any medical issues are discovered, address them immediately. This would include treating any infections or chronic illness.
- Supporting Urinary Health
Even in a healthy cat, supporting urinary health can go a long way with litterbox issues. Cats are notorious for not drinking enough water. Adding wet food to the diet will increase their water consumption and can help better regulate the bladder.
A pet drinking fountain can be a good idea too. But even if your cat drinks a lot, wet food will provide more water overall. This can make a huge difference in urinary health.
- Improve The Litterbox Situation
A litterbox can never be too big or too clean. Work on making sure your litterboxes are large and clean.
You should have one litterbox for each cat and then, an additional litterbox. This ensures that your cats are not getting territorial.
Litterboxes should be available on every floor of the house. Even if your house is one floor, place litterboxes in various locations to ensure your cat has at least one that it likes.
Try different kinds of litters too. There are many options available on the market such as pine or paper that your cat may prefer.
Cats may associate the litter type with the pain of being sick or it may hurt their feet if they are declawed.
Also, consider getting litter additives such as “Cat Attract.”. These products give off a mild smell that signals your cat to use the litterbox.
- Clean Up Thoroughly
Cats have a very good sense of smell. The smell of urine needs to be completely removed so that they no longer think a spot is a place to pee.
Any surfaces under the clothes that may have urine should be cleaned with an enzymatic cleaner designed for pet urine. “Natures Miracle” is a popular brand. This eats away the urine and will destroy any trace smells.
After cleaning, you can use sprays designed to repel cats from urinating in the area.
- Managing Stress
Do your best to identify anything that could be causing stress to your cat and reducing it. Avoid punishing your cat for urinating on your clothes, as this only adds stress. Make sure your cat has a place where it can feel safe in your home.
It is easy to say that any stressors should be identified and removed. However, this can be hard to do if the stressor is a new baby or moving to a new home. If the stress is unavoidable, there are additional options.
Cats communicate through pheromones. It only makes sense for humans to communicate with them this way too.
Pheromone sprays can signal cats that all is well. These products mimic the scent that cats leave behind when they rub their cheeks on you. It signals to a cat that this is its territory.
There are foods specifically formulated to help cats with stress. Many require a prescription and also support urinary health. Talk to your veterinarian about getting a diet for stress management.
Forgive and Forget
Not using the litterbox can be the most frustrating thing a cat will ever do. Know that your cat is not doing it to annoy you. Peeing on clothes is really just a cry for help.
The process of helping your cat can be a difficult one due to the many causes of the issue. Identifying the pain, illness or stress that causes peeing on clothes will help your cat immensely.
Most cats don’t want to do it, but for whatever reason, just think of it as their best option. Work with your kitty to fix the problem and move forward into a happy pee-free life together.