Top 4 Myths About Why Cats Urinate in the House

Like with any other aspect of pet care, there are a lot of myths surrounding the problem of cats urinating in the house, whether on floors, furniture, clothing, beds or elsewhere. Part of the problem comes from false assumptions that cats think and behave like dogs or people. Since cats don’t come with an owner’s manual (or telepathic abilities), it’s an easy mistake to make.

Another part comes from the sheer frustration of people dealing with creatively piddling kitties. When it feels like you’ve tried everything to solve the problem, it’s tempting to grasp at semi-logical straws to explain why your cat’s peeing in the house. But those desperate explanations don’t solve the problem.

If you’re having trouble figuring out why your cat’s going everywhere but where she should, you may have fallen victim to one of these common myths:

Myth #1. My Cat is Angry at Me

Sure, cats get angry, but that doesn’t mean they always respond the way a human would. Some people think if they “punish” the cat for something, the cat resents it and pees on the floor or furniture out of spite. You may have notice your cat wets somewhere unusual after she gets in trouble. In reality, what’s happening is the cat is stressed by your actions and her behavior becomes screwy due to the stress.

Cats aren’t like dogs–they don’t mentally connect punishment with their actions. All the cat knows is that you shouted at her or swatted her and she has no idea why. Now she thinks she’s living with someone who’s randomly aggressive. You’d be stressed, too!

Cats are more focused on getting things they want rather than pleasing their pet human. What they understand best is reward. They understand “what’s in it for me.” (That’s why when you’re retraining a cat to use the litter box, you’ll want to use praise, petting and treats to help build good associations with the box.)

What’s more, it doesn’t really occur to cats that we might find the odor of their urine unpleasant. After all, they don’t mind it in small quantities, so they don’t think to use it as a “weapon” against us.

Myth #2. My Cat Only Wants Attention

Cats don’t necessarily want you watching them pee, so urinating isn’t something they do for attention. The only time peeing and a desire for attention are connected is when the cat becomes stressed because he isn’t getting enough attention and/or playtime. Give your cat at least two 15-minute play sessions a day and the problem may disappear.

That said, there is a slight chance a cat might act like he’s about to wet in order to get you to do something, such as open the door for him. I had a cat who scratched the sofa only after he’d tried to get my attention by meowing and I didn’t respond. He only did this when I was ignoring him. He’d noticed that when I heard him scratching, I’d immediately jump up and run into the room to stop him.

And it took me months to figure this out–the cat had me trained! When I stopped responding to the scratching, he started opening a particular squeaky cabinet door because he knew that, too, made me jump up and come after him. So if your cat squats after he’s been trying to get your attention to no avail, that could theoretically be an attention-getter, especially if he doesn’t actually wet.

Myth #3. My Cat Enjoys Peeing on the Floor. It’s Fun For Her!

Your cat isn’t urinating on the carpet, linoleum, tile or elsewhere because she has a grand old time doing it. But it’s relative. She may be doing it because the floor is better than wherever you want her to go. In other words, she dislikes something about the litter box. It may be the type of box, the litter, the location or something else. Luckily, this is a fairly easy problem to solve, although it often takes some time and experimentation to find out what kind of litter box arrangements your cat prefers. (I include some easy ways to find out in Cat Urine Problems Eliminated.)

Myth #4. My Cat Sprays Because He (or She!) Has a Territorial Personality

Most cats are a little territorial, but even adult intact tom cats don’t usually spray unless they feel threatened somehow. Before my Macho was neutered and while he was having litter box issues, he peed everywhere, but he never sprayed. In the house, he felt mostly secure and had no need to mark territory. Although he was an indoor cat, he got out once…and then–watch out!–he started spraying everywhere out there. Why? Because there were other tom cats outside whom he felt threatened by.

The problem is that we don’t always notice things that feel threatening to a cat. These things can be as ordinary as spring cleaning, a recent storm, nearby construction, new neighbors or a new cat in the area that you don’t even know about (you cat might smell him even from indoors). If you suspect your cat is spraying or peeing to mark territory, make sure he has a little hide-away spot somewhere in the house (a safe place with bed, food, water, and toys) and try a feline pheromone product like Feliway. These products release “scents” (odorless to humans) that help cats feel more secure and relaxed.

So if these are the myths, what does cause litter box problems? Lots of things: health issues, improper diet, stress (a very common problem), and and unsuitable litter box, among others. I go over these problems and their solutions in Cat Urine Problems Eliminated and give you proven-effective ways to get rid of nasty cat pee smells for good.

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2 thoughts on “Top 4 Myths About Why Cats Urinate in the House

  1. Thank you. I learned reading this. I have two Tom’s not neutered. They used to be friends but now the slightly older one wants to fight the younger one all the time. During a heavy rain storm the younger one started crying and peeing everywhere.

    • Oh dear. 🙁 Yes, it sounds like the younger one is stressed out. Make sure he has some place he can get away from the older one. Maybe keep them in separate rooms at night, if possible. Or if it’s just storms that seem to stress him, make sure he has a secure-feeling hiding place for when storms come, such as a cat tower with an hideaway spot. Even a box on a table can work. Someplace enclosed and raised off the ground.

      Also, sometimes older cats behave aggressively due to health issues. Hyperthyroidism, common in older cats, is one possible cause. So, it would be a good idea to have the older one checked by a vet.

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