The story is always the same, your cat belongs to your family, and he or she is a treasured and loved member. Your cat knows that too because cats are brilliant animals.
And then one day, your cat starts peeing outside the litter box. What should you do?
Table of Contents
Why is your cat peeing outside the litter box?
Remember that your cat’s toilet is vital to him or her as much as your bathroom is to humans.
Ask yourself a fundamental question. Would you pee in that litter box? If you can answer yes, and affirm it is clean and functional, consider other reasons for your cat’s behavior.
Rule Out Any Medical Problems
One of the biggest reasons why cats could start peeing outside their litter box is due to health conditions. Cats are masters at hiding their health issues, but peeing outside the litter box is one way your cat is trying to communicate that there’s a problem.
Here are a few medical problems that could be the case as to why your cat is peeing outside the litter box.
Developing bladder stones is a common condition in cats that can cause irritation and might lead to blockage. If your vet thinks your cat might have developed bladder stones, the vet will take an x-ray. Smaller bladder stones can be dissolved with a special diet, but large stones need surgery. With cats, it is common that with bladder stones, they also have a UTI and need antibiotics.
This is an inflammation of the bladder, and there might be blood in your cat’s urine. The vet will test a urine sample microscopically looking for blood in the urine. If there is blood but no sign of crystals or stones, it is likely idiopathic cystitis. It is treatable with a diet change and environmental enrichment. Sometimes anti-anxiety and pain medications are prescribed.
It can be chronic kidney disease, liver disease, diabetes, or thyroid issues. It can cause inappropriate urination and an increase in the amount of urine your cat gives out. If your cat has been drinking a lot more or you are cleaning the litter box more often, your vet will do some blood work to determine the cause.
Urinary tract infection or UTI
Usually does not occur in young cats but can be the cause of urinary problems in older cats. It can develop by itself or along with other medical conditions. Bacteria can cause inflammation in the urinary tract. Your vet will prescribe antibiotics and follow-up testing until the infection is gone.
Any time you suspect a medical issue with your cat, make sure to get to the vet right away. Cats can decline fast when something is wrong.
Non-Medical Cat Issues
Of course, it is relief for any cat owner to be told by the vet that the cat has no medical problems.
Now, the issue of peeing out of the litter box falls to the owner.
The only thing is that a cat cannot communicate verbally and coherently to you. I always thought it was a shame that my cat could not tell me what was bothering him. Of course, I was glad when the problem was finally solved through trial and error, and my cat was once again happy with his litter box.
The Problem Is Behavioral
Once you know there are no medical issues, but your cat still insists on peeing outside of the litter box, you have to consider other issues.
First of all, take a look at what your home environment is like and if your cat appears to be happy, content, or anxious.
You have to consider his or her litter box type, maintenance, placement, and if any other cats are using the same box, the kind of litter that you are using.
Households With Children
Children are cat-curious, and cats are wary of children. If your cat has recently joined your household and has children of varying ages, it can also cause stress and anxiety in your cat.
In many cases, cats were there before the children were, which of course is a huge change for your cat.
Set down some rules for children as it relates to your cat:
- The cat’s food and water bowls and their litter box are off-limits. Children can be curious, and they should not be allowed access to the cat’s things. Especially cats can get anxious if little feet follow them around and mainly to their litter box to watch what they do.
- To make the cat less anxious older children should be allowed to offer the cat some treats, so the cat associates children with a positive experience.
- Children can provide a loving environment by playing with the cat but not handling him or her too much. To avoid problems, make sure to supervise the children during playtime with the cat, so when the cat has had enough, they leave him or her alone.
- Children always need to have their play spaces completely separate. This allows said cat not to become anxious if the children get too boisterous during playtime.
- GIve your cats somewhere that they can go, where there are no children. (ie. a tall cat tree or window hammock for cats.)
New Cat in the Family
If you have recently brought a new cat into the family, to live with existing cats, this could be the issue.
Introducing cats to each other is a process that takes time and should be done carefully.
And, if your cat is brand new to your family (even if there are no other cats), give your cat a chance to explore his or her new territory and get used to its unique situation.
Give them time to understand who the various family members are and that they are very much loved. Show them where they can have their own space, toys to play with, and so on.
With a new and clean litter box available, they should adjust reasonably well. You can all settle down an everyday routine.
A Household with Other Cats
Peeing outside of the litter box can occur in households where there are many cats or at least one more. It can be that one cat becomes a bully and does not let the newest cat get to the litter box. In this case, the household’s latest member becomes anxious and pees outside of the litter box.
Often owners wonder what is happening, and only if they get a chance to see the bullying, they might think that the newest member is attacking in some way.
To help keep the peace in your home, make sure there are enough litter boxes. Simply add another litter box in a different place that they can easily access.
The general rule is the number of cats = number of litter boxes, #1. If you have 2 cats, it’s likely best to have 3 litter boxes.
Is Your Cat Stressed?
Just like their humans, cats can get stressed. It can be that something in your household has changed, and cats don’t like change. It might be that he or she is unhappy about another pet who might get more attention.
As in the previous example, perhaps one cat seems to rule over the other, which brings on stress. When this occurs, the best way to help your cat is to give him or her a quiet place to get away from everyone.
Stress can come from many different things. Change in food, change in schedule, moving furniture, renovations inside or outside your home, loud noises, music, fear of other animals…and the list could go on.
Once you find what’s stressing your cat out, you should try to minimize that stress.
A Word About Cat Litter
For example, scented litter should be avoided as cats don’t like strong smells. We recommend using a good quality, flushable litter like World’s Best Cat litter.
Buying litter solely on price might not be a good idea. Your cat may not like the smell or texture of the litter that you’re using so you may have to be flexible.
Old Urine Smells
If there have been accidents and other cats have urinated in other areas of the house, it could be that the old urine smells still linger. In this case, your cat, with his or her keen sense of smell, is picking up these old odors. The aromas make him or her want to urinate in the same spots. Then you need to do a thorough cleaning of the floors, shampooing the rugs, and other areas to get rid of these lingering urine smells.
Once they are entirely gone, your cat will return to the litter box. In this case, it is simple to know your cat’s train of thought – if other cats have been allowed to urinate in these spots, why can’t I do the same? Perhaps it is better to urinate here and pick up these scents than merely going to my litter box.
Not Happy With the Litter Box (Shape, Size)
It could simply be that your cat is not satisfied with your choice of a litter box or the type of litter. Sometimes a litter box can be too small for a cat. The best option is a litter box that is 1.5 times the length of your cat. This does not include the tail. Often the tail is kept outside of the box.
However, once the cat gets into the litter box, they need room to turn about and find a comfortable position to squat. If they cannot turn about quickly, that also causes a problem. Once they have urinated, they need the room to scratch up the litter and cover their tracks. In a too-small litter box, your cat shows that he or she is not pleased by quickly doing their business and just as quickly bolting from the litter box. Most cats enjoy doing a bit of digging in their litter.
Dirty Litter Box
Remember how you feel when you go places, and you need to use a toilet only to find a messy and smelly port-a-potty. Your cat has the same reaction – no way, not me. If the litter box is not clean enough, your cat will look for other places to urinate. Therefore, it is essential to keep his or her litter box clean at all times.
You don’t have to clean out the litter box every day, but you need to refresh it by scooping out as much as you can and adding some more litter, so the box does not smell. The idea is not to leave the litter box as “clean enough” because your cat with his or her keen smell will know the difference. The litter box should be refreshed each day. Deep cleaning should be done every couple of weeks, depending on how many cats you have.
Litter Box is Hard to Reach
It is also important to note the position of the litter box. Is it in an area that is always easily accessible by your cat? If it is in a substantial traffic area, this can upset your cat because he or she wants their privacy while on the litter box. It is best to place the litter box away from areas with heavy household traffic and with noise. If the litter box is in a quiet place where your cat can quickly get to it, he or she won’t find it a problem to go in the litter box.
Unwanted Change (Tip: Cats Don’t Like Change)
Cats desperately hate change, especially when they get used to one kind of routine. The same goes for their cat litter. If your cat has been happily using his or her litter box and suddenly stops doing this, you have to ask yourself if there has been any change.
The simple rule here is that if you have been using one kind of litter all the time and your cat has been happily accessing their litter box, then keep using that same litter.
Perhaps you found a way to save money on cat litter and changed the brand. It does not sit well with cats. If they like the cat litter, they were first introduced to then keep using that litter. Many cats don’t like litter that has strong deodorizers or heavy perfume.
Some cats don’t like litter that clumps because once they use the litter box, the clumps make it hard for them to dig up the litter to cover their tracks, and often clumping litter clings to their paws.
Once you find a litter you both can agree on, always keep using the same one. It will make both you and your cat happy. He or she will continue using their litter box, and you won’t have to worry about them urinating outside of the box.
Litter Box Placement for Older Cats
Previously we discussed the problems of having more than one cat in the family. There might be other reasons for adding another litter box. If you have an older cat and have to access a litter box that requires them to walk down a flight of stairs with age, they might have problems doing this.
If you have a mix of young and older cats, consider adding a new litter box for your senior cat. Place this box in a place that is easy for them to access in their declining years. The younger cats can continue with the other litter box. Your older cat member will be appreciative; you can be sure of that.
Rescue Cats Avoidance of Plastic Litter Boxes
This is a little-known fact that many owners of “rescue” cats do not realize. Shelters for the most part will use disposable aluminum pans in place of plastic or other types of litter boxes.
This is simply a convenience feature on the part of rescues and shelters as there are many litter boxes to clean each day. The disposable aluminum baking pans are used instead as they can be purchased in bulk and just thrown away every day or so.
If your cat was litter trained in a rescue or shelter, then they will be used to the aluminum baking pans, and plastic has a different smell and feel. You might be able to transition your cat to another type placed next to the aluminum pan but if not, then you are probably “stuck” with an aluminum pan litter box addicted cat, and that is not such a bad thing at all.
These aluminum disposable pans are cheap and very easy to use as you throw away the whole mess each day. Most stores sell them in bulk so the price is right too. When these are used by a shelter or rescue a cat becomes not only used to the smell and feel of these but is used to a new spotless box each day! That can be a hard habit to break and it can be easier just to give in.
Cat Peeing on Sofas, Beds, & Places They Should Not Be Peeing
If you suddenly find that your cat is peeing on clothing or sofas or beds, it could be that they have an issue with the relationship between them and the human who spends time in these spots.
They need reassurance that their relationship with this human is not threatened in any way, and they can be secure in the fact that they are loved.
The cat wants to be sure that his or her bond with this person is tight and that he or she won’t be overlooked. Once the cat realizes that they have bonded and there is no reason to feel insecure, he or she will calm down and return to their usual routine, which is to use the litter box.
Cats also become angry and/or anxious when left alone. They will locate something that you value such as a pair of shoes you use all the time and pee directly into them.
If you find that this happens every time you leave them it is anger/anxious peeing, which some cat owners refer to as “spite peeing,” The only solution for this is to put away your belongings before you leave them alone by themselves as “spite peeing” is their outlet for anger and anxiety.
The Difference Between Cat Spraying and Cat Peeing Outside of the Litter Box
First of all, both cat spraying and peeing outside of the litter box is related to stress. When a male cat that is not neutered sprays, he is marking his territory. He wants everyone to know that this is his place and no one else’s. When a cat sprays, there is less urine coming out than when a cat is peeing outside of the litter box.
Spraying can occur because of:
- Insecurity about territory
- In response to outside cats roaming about
- Issues with another cat in the household
- In response to smells coming from the outside
Tackling the Territory Issues
Male cats who have not been neutered are the ones who most often spray. It is best to have male cats neutered before puberty. If your neutered cat is spraying, you should help to make him feel more secure about his territory.
If there are many cats in the household, it might provide them with separate living spaces of their own. There are also over-the-counter anxiety-relieving products that can be used to help cats that are spraying.
Stopping Inappropriate Litter Box Behavior
Clean litter boxes
Always make sure that the cat’s litter box is clean and remember that their keen sense of smell will pick up any lingering odors. Once you have cleaned their litter box, you can also sprinkle some refreshing baking soda on top.
Be sure to place the litter box away from dense traffic areas. Put the box in a place that gives easy access to your cat and where he or she can find quiet and privacy. If you have a house with different levels, place a litter box on each level.
If you have a senior cat member, make sure they can access the litter box without climbing stairs. It is best to help them by getting a shallow litter box, so they don’t have problems jumping into it.
One Litter Box Per Cat +1
Vets recommend having one litter box per cat to avoid problems at a minimum. Others suggest 1 litter box per cat, plus one extra.
This makes it easier for each cat to access the litter box without any issues or stress. It also helps to prevent bullying and territorial issues.
To make sure your cat is a happy camper at home, be sure to provide plenty of cat-friendly spaces. Give them places to call their own where they can have cat beds, cat trees, and cat toys. A happy cat is a cat that will use the litter box.
Cats Are Not Playthings
If you have children in the household, remind them that they can play with the cat, but it is not a plaything. Often children think that if they enjoy doing different things with the cat, he or she enjoys this as well.
While the cat might like to interact with the children, they are many individuals in their own right, and when they tire of playing, they want to retire to their own private space.
Be aware of your cat’s body language and learn to be a responsible cat owner by providing a nurturing, loving, and stress-free environment. When cats are happy and healthy, they don’t pee outside of the litter box.
Jonathon Hyjek is an entrepreneur and cat-lover. He is married to Joy and they share their home with their 2 feline-friends, Franklin & Ollie. Jonathon is a self-admitted “Crazy Cat Guy”. He started this website because of his love for his own cats and their well-being.