When your cat is peeing outside the litter box, it’s a frustrating situation to deal with. There is a reason behind your cat’s behaviour and it’s important to try and understand that reason instead of labelling them a bad cat.
This article will outline the most common reasons a cat may be peeing outside the litter box to help you get to the root of the issue so you can better solve it.
6 REASONS CATS PEE OUTSIDE THE LITTER BOX
Before you can get your cat to stop peeing outside of the litter box, you must first determine why they’re doing it. These are the common reasons cats pee outside the litter box, see if one or more might make sense for your cat.
Once you determine the cause, use one of these 7 methods to stop the behaviour.
1. MEDICAL ISSUES
There are a variety of medical issues that can lead to problems in and around the litter box. Your cat may have crystals in their urine or a UTI that makes it difficult and painful for them to urinate, or they may be dealing with kidney or liver issues. Your cat may be crying when they try to use the litter box or cleaning their private parts excessively, which indicates a medical issue that requires a veterinarian immediately.
You cat may be dealing with a mental issue. Cats can get stressed, depressed, anxious, etc. just like us. They may even have a chemical imbalance that leads to behaviour you just can’t figure out. There are mood medications for cats, which you can speak to your veterinarian about. Here’s an interesting article on the subject.
Cats mark their territory with scent, and unfortunately, urinating often falls under the same category as your cat rubbing their face on objects to distribute their scent, it’s just less desirable for us.
If your cat is scratching the wall after using the litter box, or scratching the floor outside their litter box, in addition to urinating outside the litter box, it may be that they’re marking their territory.
Cats will also urinate on other objects to let other cats in the house know “this is mine”. Even if you don’t have another cat or pet in the house, your cat may still be marking their territory because it’s instinctual or because they smell the scents of animals that once lived in the house.
Spraying is a little different than urinating. If you’ve seen your cat pee on something, are they lifting their tail and spraying urine on a vertical surface? If so, they are spraying and are doing so because they’re marking their territory or letting other cats know they’re ready to mate (if they aren’t spayed or neutered). Even if your cat is spayed or neutered, if they weren’t done so when they were kittens, they may still spray out of habit. Cats will also spray when they’re stressed due to some sort of change.
Cats will urinate or spray on objects when they’re stressed. The stress may be coming from something that’s a little more obvious to you, such as, you’ve brought a new pet, baby, or person into the home. However, things that may not seem like stressful situations to you, may be stressful for your cat. Something as simple as you going out more, updating your furniture, or a new neighbourhood cat wandering around your backyard can cause your cat stress.
4. THEY’RE UNHAPPY
Your cat may be peeing outside the litter box to send you a message that they’re unhappy with something. This type of peeing outside the box may be a little more purposeful and spiteful. Sometimes you can get the feeling from your cat when they’re trying to send you a message versus when they’re just being a cat.
A) THEY’R UNHAPPY ABOUT THE LITTER BOX SITUATION
To us, a litter box may be a simple object, but to our cats, there are a lot of variables that can throw their experience off.
The size of litter box may be too small or the high sides may make it hard for them to get into. They may not like the covered litter box you purchased because it makes them feel trapped and they’re unable to see their surroundings when using it.
LITTER BOX LOCATION
Your cat may not appreciate where you’ve placed their litter box and prefers the location they’re peeing in the house better.
It may be that they don’t like that their litter box is in a dark, cold location of the house, or that it’s right next to their food and water. Cats don’t like to urinate and defecate where they eat, for obvious reasons, but also due to their instincts. In the wild, cats don’t eliminate where they eat and nest, because they don’t want the scent of their waste to attract predators.
Your cat may have had a bad experience at their litter box and now they associate that location with that experience and avoid it. They may have been startled by a loud noise (e.g. their litter box is in the same room as the central vacuum motor and it turned on when they were using the litter box) or by someone suddenly coming into the room (e.g. if you have the litter box at the back entrance and you startled them when you came home).
If your cat is dealing with a health issue, or was, they may have experienced pain when using the litter box, and now they associate that pain with the box. They could be avoiding the litter box in its current location because they think something painful will happen to them again.
Humans love clumping clay litters because they’re cheap, convenient, and easier to clean. However, it may not be your cat’s favorite. Clay litters are often dusty, and perhaps even scented, and if your cat has a covered litter box, that dust and scent may be irritating them when they’re digging around in there.
The clumping agents may also lead to litter getting stuck to, and in between, your cat’s paws. Which would be uncomfortable for them and not the best taste when using their tongue to clean themselves.
Most cat owners don’t scoop and/or change the litter as often as they should. You can find a complete guide here on maintaining a litter box, but in general, the litter box should be scooped at least once a day, maybe more depending on how much use it gets. And litter should be completely changed every 2 – 4 weeks.
B) THEY’RE UNHAPPY ABOUT LACK OF ATTENTION
You likely got upset when you found your cat had urinated outside of the litter box and you may have even picked them up and brought them to that spot to scold them (they won’t understand this form of “disciplining”). If your cat is peeing outside the litter box to get your attention, they now know, that act does the trick.
Although you may wonder why your cat would want your attention when you’re mad, to them, it doesn’t matter what kind of attention it is, as long as they have it.
If you put yourself in their shoes and you wanted to let someone know something was wrong but you couldn’t speak to them, you might resort to actions that aren’t exactly ideal.
And when it comes to getting your attention, even if it evokes and angry reaction from you, think about the last time you were having a fight with someone you love and they were ignoring you. You might have said some things you didn’t mean, just to get their attention and get them to talk to you.
Of course, we can’t know for sure what’s going on in a cat’s head, but if we think about how we don’t always act appropriately for each situation, we can start to sympathize with our cats.
C) THEY’RE UNHAPPY ABOUT OTHER CATS
If you have other cats in the home, your cat may not appreciate the attention they get from you, or the other cat might be bullying them.
The other cat may not even be in your home. It could be that they’re seeing a neighbourhood cat outside and since they can’t get out and tell them who’s boss of this town, they’re expressing their frustration inside your home.
As you probably know, cat urine is potent. Although you may have wiped up after a peeing accident, your cat can likely still smell their urine there (you likely can too if it was on a carpet). That scent is familiar to them and tells them it’s a good place to go to the washroom.
Your cat may have also started urinating in one spot outside their litter box because of one issue (that you have since corrected), but not they’ve built a habit of peeing there.
As your cat ages, their health naturally starts to decline. It could be that it’s harder for them to get to the litter box, especially if they must go up or down stairs, or they’re unable to make it to the litter box on time. They may also have cognitive dysfunction and be confused as to where the litter box is or forget their litter box training.
PEEING OUTSIDE LITTER BOX SCENARIOS
How your cat pees outside the litter box can also give some indication into why they’re doing it. Take a look at the common scenarios and what they’re likely to mean.
CAT PEEING EVERYWHERE
When your cat is peeing everywhere outside their litter box, not just in one spot or next to the litter box, it’s likely a medical issue that should be addressed by a veterinarian. It may be a physical, behavioural, or mental issue they’re dealing with.
If your cat has been checked by a veterinarian and there’s nothing wrong with their health, they may be peeing everywhere to mark their territory. If your cat isn’t spayed or neutered, they may be doing so because they’re ready to mate.
CAT PEEING IN FRONT OF LITTER BOX
If your cat is peeing next to or in front of the litter box, it’s likely because they’re dealing with a medical issue, are having a hard time getting into the litter box, or are unhappy with the state of their litter box.
A trip to the veterinarian is always recommended when a cat starts peeing outside the litter box so you can rule out any health issues. If your cat is getting older and has mobility issues, consider trying a new litter box with lower sides that will make it easier for your cat to step in and out of (once a vet has ruled out a health issue).
If you haven’t been staying on top of your litter scooping and changing (scooping should be at least once a day and changing every 2 – 4 weeks depending on the type of litter), a litter change, litter box clean, and more regular scooping should help the issue. If you’ve recently changed something about their litter box (the box, the litter, the location), try switching back to see if it helps.
When there is more than one cat in the house, one cat may be peeing around the litter box to mark their territory and keep other cats away from the area. Scratching outside of the litter box is also a way for them to mark their territory by leaving their scent, as well as visual marks. If the peeing is accompanied by scratching, marking is more likely to be the reason for the behaviour. Adding an additional litter box to the house should help solve the issue.
CAT KEEPS PEEING IN SAME SPOT
When your cat is peeing in the same spot, or couple of spots, they’re likely doing so because they smell their scent and think it’s okay to keep peeing there, or because they’ve being peeing there for a while and have built a habit.
Try cleaning the area with an enzyme cleaner to remove the smell of their urine. This is a popular one among pet owners, and also comes in a smaller scent-free option, but there are also popular natural enzyme cleaners if you like to keep a toxin-free home.
Those are the top options, but there are several to choose from here.
If your cat tends to pee in the same spot and it’s often done in front of you, they’re probably trying to get your attention. That may be because they don’t feel they’re getting enough attention from you, which can be easily remedied with more cuddle and play time. Or they may be trying to tell you to go clean their litter box.
CAT PEEING ON THINGS
When your cat is intentionally peeing on objects around the house, they’re most likely trying to mark their territory. Pay attention to the type of stuff your cat is peeing on. If the objects tend to be more vertical, your cat is spraying on them, which is their way of marking their territory, communicating that they’re ready to mate, or indicating they’re stressed.
Getting your cat spayed or neutered can help with spraying, although it’s best to do so as soon as possible. The longer your cat sprays the more likely they are to build up a habit of doing it. When it comes to stress, consider if there have been any changes in and around the home, even something small like moving furniture can trigger stress in your cat. Revert back, if you can, and if not, try giving your cat some extra love and attention; that’s always helpful in reducing stress levels.
CAT POOPS IN LITTER BOX BUT WON’T PEE IN IT
When your cat poops in the litter box but won’t pee in it, it’s likely due to a urinary tract infection, kidney stones, or some other health issue that makes it difficult or painful for your cat to urinate. If their kidneys are failing or they’re dealing with another health issue that causes them to drink more water, they may not be able to get to the litter box on time, which would be why they poop, but don’t pee, in the litter box. Take your cat to the vet so they can check their health and rule out an issue with it.
If your cat has a clean bill of health, adding another litter box to the house may help. One litter box for each cat, plus one extra litter box is recommended. This not only helps ensure there’s (hopefully) always a clean litter box for them to use and that territory issues don’t arise between two cats, but it’s also a remedy for cats that like to poop and pee in different spots.
Now that you have a better understanding of why your cat is peeing outside the litter box, use one or more of these methods to stop them.