8 Reasons Cats Pee Outside of the Litter Box

Owning a cat can be one of the most rewarding experiences in life.  Their cute faces, funny shenanigans, and aloofness are just some of the reasons we’re so enamored by our feline friends.  For the most part, they are independent and low maintenance pets to care for.  But one thing every cat owner dreads is inappropriate urination when your cat pees outside of their litter box.  Did you know that this is the NUMBER ONE reason cats are relinquished to shelters and rescues?

Aggressive Pet Care

There can be a myriad of reasons why cats start to pee outside of the box, but the important thing to remember is to try to figure out WHY a quickly as you can so that it doesn’t become a learned behavior for your cat.

Here are some common reasons for inappropriate urination:

  1. Is it a medical condition?  Just like in humans, cats can develop urinary tract infections and issues.  It is best to take your cat to the veterinarian for an exam and typically, have a urinalysis performed to see if there’s an infection, diabetes, or other medical condition that can be the cause of the inappropriate urination.
  2. Do you have enough litter boxes?  Most veterinarians recommend having one more litter box than you have cats.  This is because cats can be territorial creatures and not want to use a box another cat has used.
  3. Are they clean?  Most cats are very clean animals and prefer to use a clean box.  If you start to notice inappropriate urination, try cleaning the box more frequently to see if that stops the problem.
  4. What’s changed?  Did you recently change to a different litter?  A different baking soda additive?  Is anything different from their box?  Did you change to a covered box?  Did you change the location of the box?  If you’ve changed anything, change it back and see what happens.
  5. New additions?  Sometimes the stress of a new cat, dog, baby or house guests can cause cats to pee outside of their box.  Try giving the cat it’s own, quiet care (maybe a spare bedroom) with its food, water, and litter box to see if removing the stress will help.
  6. Are other cats picking on this cat when they’re trying to use the litter box?  Being tormented when they are trying to pee may make cats chose a different location.
  7. Do you foster kittens/cats in your home or have stray cats outside?  Like #5, this can be causing stress to your cat and may be the cause of the problem.
  8. It is a substrate preference?  What does this mean?  Well, some cats develop a preference for going potty on certain surfaces vs in the litter box.  Think carpeting, towels, clothes, and other items.  If this is the case, make sure you remove and keep away any of the items your kitty has a fancy for and make the litter box it’s the only option.

8 Reasons Cats Pee Outside of the Litter Box

Now that we’ve talked about reasons WHY cats pee outside the box, let’s talk about other suggestions to help the problem:

  • Listen to your veterinarian.  If they say to keep your cat on an antibiotic for 2 weeks and then recheck a urine sample, for Pete’s sake do it.  Your veterinarian is trying to help you and your cat, remember.  They want to make sure the antibiotic is working and that the infection is clearing up.  If it’s not, then they may need to change the antibiotic and there’s no way to know that definitively without doing the proper testing.
  • If it’s possible to isolate your cat to one room or a large dog crate with their food, water, and litter box then that may help you reduce their stress if you need to medicate them and they aren’t very agreeable to it.
  • Make sure you are cleaning pee messes with an enzymatic cleaner like Nature’s Miracle Urine Destroyer.  If it’s not an enzymatic cleaner, then your cat will still be able to smell where the previously urinated on spot is and may continue to use that area as a toilet.
  • Most cats only like about 2 inches of litter in their box.  If you’re using more, try the suggestion and see if it helps.
  • You might think your cat is marking, so answer this question.  Is the pee in a puddle or is it up the wall, up the furniture, etc?  If it is a true marking behavior, the urine will be expressed vertically and they will try to urinate as high up as possible.  If it’s a puddle on the floor, it’s not typically marking.
  • You can try putting the litter box in the specific areas your cat is peeing, to get them used to the box again and then start moving the box back to its original location.
  • Try placing tin foil on the area as most cats don’t like how tinfoil feels or sounds.
  • Try different litters – pellet litters, recycled newspaper litter, a different brand, non-scented…the list goes on and on.  Only try one different type at a time and depending on how many cats you have, only put it in one or two litter boxes and leave the rest with the regular brand.  You don’t want to start an uproar with the cats who ARE using the box.
  • You may want to talk to your veterinarian about trying a certain medication that can help reduce your cat’s stress and help you reintroduce the litter box.

It may take some time to find out the cause of the inappropriate urination and in the meantime, I understand how frustrating the entire situation can be.  Please keep in mind that you want the litter box and the actual act of going to the bathroom to be a positive one, so please avoid these acts:

  • Don’t push your cat’s face in the urine spot.
  • Don’t drag them to the litter box and force them into it.
  • Don’t yell and point to the dirty area.

Good luck in finding the root of the problem and being able to correct it!  We know you want your feline friend to have a long, happy life with you!



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