Please help! Cat urination behavior

My cat has lived outside for the last 5 years because she peed on the couch 3 too many times. I knew it was because I went on vacation and she was mad at me for leaving her alone, but I didn't know what to do about it and I had to get rid of 2 couches because the smell would not come out. I just recently allowed her to move back in (she comes and goes as she pleases through the dog door) because it is very cold/snowy outside and she is getting old. Things were fine for a few weeks and then, right after I moved her food inside, she started peeing on the floor. On 2 occasions in the last couple days I found wet spots in the middle of the living room rug, and then tonight I caught her peeing in the corner of the living room and instantly scooped her up and put her outside. I haven't allowed her back in. It seems to be different than the couch incidents because I haven't been away for any length of time, she didn't chose something personal (couch, bed, etc.) and she did it in front of me. I think she has just assumed that because she is sleeping and eating inside now that she can pee inside too. I understand that she probably just doesn't want to go outside in the cold to pee, but she is long haired and has been fine out there for 5 winters. She is pushing 14 or 15 years old. I have researched extensively. All the information I have found is for people with strictly indoor or outdoor cats, not ones that can go in and out at will, or it has to do with litter box training. A litter box is not an option for my house, she is free to go in and out whenever she pleases. I feel terrible about making her stay outside in the cold but I will not deal with this continuing. She doesn't understand the connection between her peeing in the house and being kicked out. Is there anything that can be done?

Have medical causes for your cat’s behavior been ruled out?
If not, she should be seen by a veterinarian for an examination and urinalysis. Your kitty could have a urinary tract infection, inflammation, a blockage, or stones. Or, as an older cat, she could be suffering from hyperthyroidism, diabetes, or kidney disease, to name a few. All of these should be ruled out before assuming that your kitty's urination problem is behavioral.

I am a firm believer that cats do not think about doing things such as urinating outside the box out of "spite" or to "get even." She very likely could have started this behavior out of stress, but she wasn’t trying to get back at you for going away. Unless she was seen by a veterinarian after the first incident 5 years ago, there is a good chance that there was a medical cause for her behavior then as well.

Once your kitty has been seen by a vet and has had a urinalysis, if all results come back normal, you can then begin to address the problem as a behavioral issue. There are pages and pages of information for addressing the behavioral aspect of urination issues throughout this site. However, all of that information is for use with a litter box. A cat allowed indoors should have a litter box, or other acceptable place to relieve herself, while indoors.

You are correct that your cat likely doesn't like having to go outdoors during the cold and snow. My best recommendation would be to find a discreet, quite location for a litter box for your kitty. You can experiment with different litters, as well, from clumping to clay to even paper- or corn-based.

If, however, you really cannot find a place in your home to put a litter box for your kitty, it may be time to consider finding a new home for her where she can live inside. Since she is so much older now, your kitty really needs a home where she can be safe and warm, especially during the winters.

Best wishes,
Dr. Neely