Inappropriate Urination - Learned? - Cat Forum : Cat Discussion Forums
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post #1 of 21 (permalink) Old 03-14-2011, 07:02 PM Thread Starter
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Inappropriate Urination - Learned?

Hello all,

I'm new to the forum and have an inappropriate urination issue. (Yeah, you've never heard that before, right?)

We have a 5 year old spayed female named Milla. She was a rescue of sorts. I used to work at a vet clinic, and the ex-husband of one of the girls I worked with found her on a golf course, covered in burrs, and brought her to his ex's home since she worked for a vet. She couldn't keep her because she had a dog that wasn't kitty friendly, so she brought her into the clinic. She was about 3 months old. On the day this girl was going to take her to the shelter, I had her tested for FIV and leukemia, and when she was negative for both I brought her home.

I never intended to keep her (bet you've never heard that before either). I had a friend whose mom worked in cat rescue and I thought she had a better chance at a good life through a rescue than the local shelter. But she was so cute, I brought her home on a Saturday and by the end of the weekend we knew we had to keep her.

We already had a cat. Seren was about 14 when Milla came home. Black spayed female that I would say was bipolar, if it's possible for a cat to be bipolar. My sister-in-law explained it best by calling her a "feral housecat." She preferred to be left alone, but once in a while crawled into your lap and purred, begging for affection. So you would pet her and about 30 seconds later she would hiss, bite your hand, give you a dirty look and then run off. And that was her most endearing quality.

My husband had her since she was a kitten. She was 13 years old when I entered the picture. And for all those years she would urinate on the carpet. My husband (then boyfriend) kept all the bedroom doors shut because he said she would get on the bed and pee on the sheets and pillows, etc.

Seren died last year (she was eighteen). In the years we have had Milla it seems that she learned from Seren that it's okay to pee on the floor.

Milla doesn't spray, she just squats on the floor to pee where ever she sees fit. It never mattered how many litter boxes there were or what kind of litter you used. Or where you put the boxes. It seems to me that because she was a stray I have no idea if she had seen a litter box before we brought her home. So where other kittens would learn from their mamas, she had Seren, who went where ever she wanted. Now Milla does the same. We still can't have the bedroom doors open, and she has peed on the carpet in the living room, dining room and the upstairs hall area outside the bedroom doors.

We have been through the health check with the vet. I did this many, many times when Seren was still with us. Urinalysis and bloodwork done multiple times on both cats. I will never know if there was some other underlying issue with Seren (I suspect there was) but Milla's seems to be like she learned it from the other cat, so to her that's just the way it is. When we ran out of ideas with Seren (she did this more frequently than Milla ever has) she was even on kitty valium because the thought was that maybe she was stressed. All the drugs ever did was make her so out of it that she even gave up on finding a spot to go, she just did it where ever she was.

I am going to get some Cat Attract litter, as I only recently heard of this. Two new litter boxes, one in the current location and another in a place yet to be decided. I need to do the black light thing and get the best cleaner I can to try to get what is still in the carpet up out of the carpet. (Advice on a best brand would be great - I was thinking the Nature's Miracle urine destroyer for cats.)

I am also going to switch her diet from the standard dry food to a high quality wet or raw diet. (We have a puppy that is eating a commercially made raw diet so I've recently done a lot of research on that.) I don't know that what she eats has anything to do with this, but while we're making the change we may as well go all the way and try to do anything and everything we can think of to try to remedy this problem.

Would love to get any advice and suggestions. My husband is close to being done with her, which I find kind of ironic when he put up with it for 18 years with the other cat. Seren was a psycho cat and Milla is a sweetheart in every other way, she just doesn't seem to get that she's not supposed to pee on the floor. I feel pretty strongly that had she gone straight into a home without a cat that peed on the floor, she never wouldn't be doing it now. But she did and it's in the carpet and I don't know the best way now to try to make it stop. I feel like we're all kind of victims of Seren's actions.
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post #2 of 21 (permalink) Old 03-14-2011, 07:12 PM
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You'll get a lot of good advice here in a bit, but my first question has to be: Is it the same carpet? If it is, it smells like a litterbox and will be used thus. First thing to do is tear out all the carpet. I know that's expensive but I had to do it at my house, which I inherited from my mother (along with her cats) and put down all hardwood floors throughout the house.

Hang on, more advice to come...
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post #3 of 21 (permalink) Old 03-14-2011, 08:14 PM
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What have you used to clean up the cat urine? I don't see anything mentioned about that at all in your post. If you carpet is beyond hope, then you will have to tear it up. Once you get new carpet, clean the urine spots with an enzymatic cleaner (Nature's Miracle is an example). If a cat can still smell the urine, the cat will continue to pee in that spot. An enzymatic cleaner will break down the urine so that the cat won't smell it anymore.

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post #4 of 21 (permalink) Old 03-15-2011, 12:55 AM
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I have no first-hand experience with inappropriate urination (and I'm touching wood as I type that)...so, I can only tell you what I've read or learned from others. Nature's Miracle would be the best brand for the carpet, although I agree with the other posters. Unless your financial circumstances won't allow it, I'd seriously consider replacing the carpet preferably with something other than carpet, for two reasons.

First, this appears to have been going on for at least 5 years, or potentially 18 years, if Seren also lived in the same house. It's not clear from your post whether Milla uses the carpet primarily, or uses the litterbox primarily with an occasional accident on the carpet (although it seems to be the former). It's doubtful any product would be successful in treating a 5-to-18-year problem, particularly if Milla uses primarily the carpet.

Second, you ask if inappropriate urination can be learned, and the answer is "yes". When cats become accustomed to peeing on surfaces other than their litter box, they sometimes develop what is referred to as a "substrate preference" for the new surface (in Milla's case, the carpet) and will continue to urinate on said surface rather than in their box. So, you might need to remove the substrate (carpet) in order to eliminate her preference/habit.

If you do remove the carpet (or even if you don't/can't and you just treat it the best you can with Nature's Miracle), you will also need to re-train Milla to use the litter box. This re-training typically involves separating the cat in a room with only her litter box and other essentials until she's consistently using the litter box, which shouldn't take more than a week. You could use a bathroom for this purpose, or any other available room (but, preferably one that doesn't contain carpet). If you do remove the carpet, you might also keep a few old soiled carpet patches (2 or 3 small patches) and put these in her litterbox, along with litter, when re-training her...and then remove the carpet one piece at a time, putting in more litter each time, until you're down to just litter. Obviously, if you don't remove the carpet, putting carpet in the box wouldn't be such a good idea!

Perhaps others here will have other suggestions. In the meantime, I wish you the best of luck.
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post #5 of 21 (permalink) Old 03-15-2011, 12:06 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you to all for your replies. I will do my best to address the questions to give a better view of the situation.

My husband has been in this house since 2000. So Seren spent the last 10 years of her life here. It is the same carpet.

The carpets have been routinely cleaned by a professional who recently went out of business. I have no idea what he actually used to clean the carpets with, but he had a special treatment for pet stuff that he always used on all our spots. For spot cleaning in between professional cleanings we used white vinegar, because I remember my mom used to do that when I was a kid and the carpet cleaner told us not to use any actual chemicals on the carpet because his stuff wouldn't be able to get stains out if we had used other chemicals. And we were always so impressed with what he had been able to do that we had him back every few months and it was livable that way. His prices were also great, so it kind of sucks that is over now.

As for replacing the carpet, that is a long term goal, but it's not really an option at the moment, and my husband has placed down a rule about new carpet - either Milla has to go, or she has to stop urinating on the carpet. One of the two. He refuses to invest in new carpet if she is still showing the behavior that she will just continue to pee on it. While I get that idea, I realize in practice it may be a catch 22. So I need to try whatever may possibly work in the meantime.

Is it worth it to even try to use Nature's Miracle on every spot of carpet that has been peed on? Or are we at a loss for even that to be effective?

As for her litter box use, she does use it, it's evident when I clean it out and replace the litter that she uses it. She doesn't go on the carpet with the kind of regularity that Seren always did, but she is obviously still doing it. And I work from home, I have a toddler, a cat and a new puppy. So I can't keep an eye on her 24/7 to try to catch her in the act. We used to crate the cats at night (they hated that) thinking if they were mostly doing it at night at least we knew they weren't doing it then. At one point we set up huge crates and they actually lived in the crates. But we also realize that's no life for them. So what to do?

My husband is the cat person and he isn't beyond putting a cat down for this. If she was gone tomorrow he would be sad but I don't think he would really think about it for very long. I feel bad for Milla because I just have this feeling that it's really not her fault, it's just what she learned. (I think as a bachelor he didn't care so much, but now that we have a family he realizes he doesn't want to live in a giant litter box. And it was those years with Seren that unfortunately has set the pace.) My sister in law helped me last summer when we tried to find a rescue who would take them, but I'm sure as you all know, no one will take a cat that does this. And they would have had next to no chance at the shelter.

But we are pretty much at our wits end. I have a human child I had to think of first and I don't want her running around in carpet soaked in cat urine. We have a 10 week old puppy who has an accident once in a while in her potty training, but she is doing really well so I don't think she's going to be an issue in the long run. We want another baby and I don't want him/her crawling around on this carpet either. When we have it professionally cleaned I'm always amazed at how much life it seems to still have in it - but obviously the smell isn't being completely removed because she continues to pee on it.
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post #6 of 21 (permalink) Old 03-15-2011, 12:25 PM
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It's entirely possible that whatever your professional carpet cleaner used to "clean" the carpets may have actually contributed to the problem. It could be that while the carpets were cleaned, the smell of what he used is what's making poor Milla think that's it's okay to pee on the carpet.

I wish I knew what to tell you.

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post #7 of 21 (permalink) Old 03-15-2011, 12:42 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you. I am still going to get some of the cat attract litter and give that a try. And I'll get some of the Nature's Miracle Urine Destroyer for cats and start with just a small section upstairs and see how effective it seems to be on what's up there. It doesn't hurt to try, right?

I have been trying to figure out a room she can live in but I'm not seeing how that would work. The only rooms without carpet are the bathrooms. We have a half bath downstairs that we use all the time, as well as anyone who comes to visit. Upstairs we have 2 more bathrooms. The one in the hall is basically my daughter's, and it has the only bathtub in the house. The master bath contains our closet, which is also carpeted. So it doesn't seem like we have a room she can really be contained in.
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post #8 of 21 (permalink) Old 03-15-2011, 12:53 PM
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When was the last time Milla was at the vet? Maybe there's something going on that wasn't caught at her last visit? Just throwing ideas out...

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post #9 of 21 (permalink) Old 03-15-2011, 01:29 PM Thread Starter
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She's coming up due for her regular annual stuff. But there is nothing about her behavior that has changed, so while it's possible there is a medical cause that has been overlooked for years, I kind of doubt it. When I worked at the vet clinic both cats were in repeatedly to be tested for anything we thought may cause them to do this and we always came back empty handed. She will be going back to the vet soon though so we'll do some more checking then to be sure it's still not a medical reason.
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post #10 of 21 (permalink) Old 03-15-2011, 06:10 PM
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I would still use the Nature's Miracle on as many spots as you can identify and perhaps have the carpets professionally cleaned again. There are many companies that deal with pet stains/odors in carpets, so try to find one with experience in that.

Most cats have a bit of a routine for their bathroom habits. For example, mine tend to use the box when they get up in the morning, shortly after meals and when they get up from their afternoon nap. If you're not familiar with Milla's routine, you might also try to keep an eye on her to get a handle on that. Then try putting her in one of the upstairs bathrooms with a litter box at her relevant "regular times" for about a half hour each time to see if she uses the box. That, combined with the Cat Attract litter, might help to eliminate, or at least reduce, her use of the carpet. I wish you luck.
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