Ask the Trainer with Jane Ehrlich

QuestionMy wife Carol passed away last year. About a month after she died, our cat, Murray started peeing outside of the litterbox occasionally. I tried moving the litterbox, giving him treats and the behavior continues. I am guessing Murray is still grieving (I know I am). I’ve been giving him extra attention, but still, occasionally, he pees where he shouldn’t. What should I do?

AnswerCats are hugely sensitive creatures.

Changes in the household can make a cat feel unsettled and insecure; his routine’s been disrupted. If your wife was the main person in Murray’s life, her death was stressful for him, and stress targets the bladder.

First, make sure your cat gets the medical all-clear before investigating a behavior problem. Why? It can seem like there’s one reason for a problem, when it coincides with another reason. I’ve had situations where a cat’s symptom of “tinkling outside the box” was blamed initially on one issue, when a vet trip was needed because he had developed a urinary infection around the same time.

Calm his stress. Murray needs lots of reassurance and comfort from you, and from other family member(s), so that he can learn to love another who feeds and cuddles him. Has he been listless and perhaps crying since your wife died? He needs more love than ever.

In general, it’s useful to examine any other possible changes: Are you using another litter? Changing it less often? Has there been a feeding schedule change? New or moved furniture? Any of these factors could be a culprit.

Keep the box in the same place; moving it around is also disrupting.

Clean all the areas Murray used with cat urine-erasers, like Get Serious or Odorz Out. Make other areas where he might be urinating less attractive (put pointy-side up carpet runners in urinated areas, for example) while making his box more attractive (clean, private, quiet).

Using Feliway plug-in diffusers, a calming pheromone-mimic in areas where Murray urinates may also help. Good luck!

About the Trainer:

Jane EhrlichJane Ehrlich is a feline behavior counselor with over 23 years’ experience, including clinical assistant/behavior advisor with her local RSPCA in London. Back home in Phoenix, she developed her counseling business. Ehrlich’s been featured on Arizona’s Fox TV, and regularly contributes to the Arizona Republic’s weekly “Ask the Pet Expert” column.

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