My Cat Pees Standing Up!

Joan O. has a tortie named Lexi who has a strange habit.  Joan writes:

We have adopted a rescue cat. We were told that she is approximately 1 1/2 yrs. old. She is a very sweet-natured Tortie and although we’ve only had her about 3 months, we love her. However there is one thing very odd about her. She is definitely female (she had been spayed just a few days before we adopted her), but when she uses the litter box she digs in the litter, squats down and as soon as she starts to urinate, she stands up straight. We have somewhat solved this problem by converting a tote into her litter box. We cut a hole in the side and put the cover on securely. Although this works OK I am curious as to why she does this. I have had 3 other females (and 7 males) over the years and have never seen this problem before. She is the only cat (or pet) in the house now. Is this common? Or is there some medical reason for her to do this?

Joan, this is a great question because every time it comes up, the person asking thinks that their cat is the only one with this issue.  Let us assure you that Lexi is not alone.  Many cats, both male and female, exhibit similar behaviors.  Getting to the bottom of "why?" is the difficult part.

There are two schools of thought on this matter.  The most prevalent is that the cat is just odd and it's nothing to worry about once you figure out how to keep the waste off your walls and floor.  While this may very well be the case for many cats, it's worth examining the second possibility: that there's a real-world reason for the behavior.

Wouldn't it be nice if you could just ask Lexi if anything was bothering her and have her answer?  Well, in a way, you can do so by observing her very carefully.  There are several possible causes for this sort of behavior beyond the shrugging shoulders approach.  They are joint pain, urinary tract pain, and territorial conflicts.

Since you say that Lexi squats and then stands, it's possible that she has some joint pain in her hind legs or haunches.  If you handle her there, does she react?  Most cats don't like having their hind quarter touched, but if she hisses at you when you hold her and manipulate her rear legs, she may have arthritis.  While this malady is mostly associated with older cats, there are varieties that are caused by viruses or bacterial infections.  If you suspect that this is the case, you should take Lexi to your veterinarian and express your concerns.

While you're at the vet, you could also have them run a urine test just to rule out a urinary tract issue.  This is especially important if f Lexi's elimination habits have recently changed to this new behavior.  Bladder stones or a lower urinary tract infection can be very painful and this standing behavior could be her reaction to the pain.  An increase in grooming time spent cleaning her lower belly or genitals can also indicate discomfort in this area.  If she isn't on an all-wet food diet, she could develop these problems later on, so now's the time to make sure she's eating nothing but wet food.

Last, but not least, Lexi could be marking her territory.  Even though she's been spayed, her instincts are still intact.  If another cat has been spraying outside your home, Lexi may react and try to establish her own territory in response.  If you think this is the case, see this post for tips on cleaning the interloper's spray.

Joan, please don't be alarmed by this list as it's just a list of possibilities.  It's really up to you to take a closer look at Lexi's behavior and see if there's any indication that points toward any of the above.  Your litter box solution is definitely a workable one, so don't feel like it's an emergency that has to be figured out overnight.