Dear Dennis,

When we moved into our first house, we had the luxury of space that wasn’t present in our student apartments. We were able to put the litter boxes in the basement, away from our living areas.

At the time, we had two cats (you and Max), so there were three litter boxes in different areas of the basement, for optimal cat potty conditions.You were both pretty clean boys, but then one day there was a smell. That smell that cat owners dread.

Someone had peed outside the box. Actually, all over the side of the box and on the concrete floor behind it. We took quick action to clean up the smell and start looking for a cause. The AAFP has a great resource here if your cat is peeing outside the box.

In short order, we became litter box hygiene masters. I tested different types of clumping litter, moved the boxes, changed them out for new ones, following the advice of the pros like Dr. Tony Buffington.

And then you each got to take a little car trip to work with me. We didn’t know how to tell which one of you was the culprit (Dr. DeMille at our clinic has some great new ways to pinpoint a suspect). We had to make sure there was not a health problem by checking you out and doing some urine and blood testing. Thankfully, you both had a clean bill of health.

And then one day, completely by chance, I saw the problem happening right before my eyes. I watched you visit the litter box. You entered slowly, sniffing, pawing at the sand. You dug a little indent and turned your back to it. You began to urinate, all four feet planted firmly in the sand. Your urine stream went straight out behind you, over the side of the box and onto the floor. Because you didn’t squat. You just let it fly standing straight up.

I did some research to make sure you weren’t spraying urine. But the posture, the amount of urine, and the fact that you carefully filled your little hole afterward, led me to conclude you were just a messy urinator.

How did we solve this problem? Well, we changed out our litter boxes for containers with higher sides. At that time, litter pans with lids usually had a seam no more than 15 cm high, and we quickly discovered that urine would still collect in and leak through that area. We switched to plastic storage tubs with an entry port cut out of one side.

And then there was peace (and no smell) in the basement again.