When your cat is peeing in the house, it can be extremely frustrating. Although we’ll never fully understand what’s going on in our cat’s minds, you need to have some understanding of why they’re doing it before you can correct the situation.
First, be sure to read: 6 (Most Common) Reasons a Cat is Peeing Outside the Litter Box
And if your cat is also pooping outside the litter box, check out: Why is My Cat Pooping on the Floor (7 Reasons & Quick Fixes)
Once you know the potential reasons your cat is peeing in the house, then use the suggestions in this article to correct their behavior.
WHAT NOT TO DO
It’s really important not to punish your cat by yelling at them, hitting them, or dragging them over to where they peed and putting their face in it.
Cats don’t learn by punishment.
You need to first understand why they’re exhibiting this bad behaviour, because there is a reason behind it, and then take positive steps to correct it. Yelling at them after they’ve peed on the floor is not a positive step and isn’t going to change their actions.
If your cat has been peeing in the house to get your attention, you need to break that cycle. They don’t care if the attention they get from you is positive or negative, they just want your attention.
Giving them lots of attention at times that aren’t related to them peeing in the house, as opposed to giving them attention after they’ve just peed somewhere they shouldn’t, will help reinforce that there’s no need for them to continue peeing outside their litter box.
They’ll get the attention they need when they’re doing something you deem as “good” or positive, and start exhibiting more of that behaviour to get your attention. If peeing in the house doesn’t get a reaction from you, there’s no need for them to continue doing it.
Of course, you should never ignore the symptoms. If your cat has just started peeing outside their litter box, there could be a serious health issue behind the behaviour. The first step should always be to have their health checked by a veterinarian.
1. TALK TO YOUR VET
Although you may think your cat is just being “bad”, when they’re peeing in the house and not in their litter box, it’s very possible there’s a health issue that needs to be addressed. This is especially true if your cat has never peed outside the litter box but has suddenly started, and they don’t seem to be acting out an any other way.
The first step when dealing with any issue with your cat, is to have them checked by a veterinarian. Only they can rule out a health issue and ensure nothing is seriously wrong with your cat. You may think there’s nothing wrong with them, but cats hide their illnesses really well. That’s why regular checkups are so important.
Take your cat to the veterinarian clinic immediately if:
- Your cat is crying when they urinate
- There is blood in their urine
- They’re straining to urinate
- They try to urinate, but nothing comes out
- They seem to be in pain
- They’re exhibiting other out-of-the-ordinary or alarming behaviour (e.g. hiding, not eating, vomiting, etc.)
2. GET THEM SPAYED OR NEUTERED
If your cat isn’t spayed or neutered and you believe they are spraying around the house, rather than peeing, it’s important to get them spayed or neutered as soon as possible.
Spraying is when your cat lifts their tail while standing and sprays pee on vertical surfaces. This is an instinctive behaviour to mark their territory (often done by male cats) or to indicate they’re ready to mate (done by both male and female cats). A cat may also spray when they’re feeling stressed.
The older the cat is when they get spayed or neutered, the more likely they are to continue spraying out of habit, which is why it’s important to fix your cats when they’re kittens. But the procedure can still help reduce spraying.
3. CLEAN OUT OLD SCENTS & BRING IN NEW ONES
It’s really important to get rid of the cat urine smells from the spots your cat is peeing around the house. When your cat is peeing in the same spots, it may be because they smell their scent there and believe it’s a good place to go to the washroom.
If you don’t clean the area properly, you may have resolved the root issue, but they may continue peeing in the same spots because their scent tells them it’s okay.
Cat urine is potent so if you sprayed the area with a regular cleaner, their scent is likely still there and detectable by your cat. Use a good enzyme cleaner to remove all the odors, even ones you can’t smell. 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.
Then, you can take it one step further and add some scents that will help “soothe” them when they’re in the area. You may try a pheromone spray or diffuser in the area. Feliway is a product that mimics “good” pheromones that can help to calm your cat and reduce inappropriate behaviour such as spraying.
4. REPEL THEM
If your cat keeps urinating in the same spot and you’ve cleaned it well with an enzyme cleaner, it may be that they’ve simply built a habit of peeing in that spot. To break that habit, you’ll have to block off the area or deter them from using it.
It’s important you let a product or object do the repelling, as opposed to you removing them when you see them in that spot or spraying them with water.
If you’re trying to monitor the area, you’ll be giving your cat attention every time they go there, and they love to have your attention, so they may feel compelled to visit the spot even more. You’re also harming your bond with your cat because you’re being the big meanie. Let a product deter them.
You may try:
A SCENT THEY DON’T LIKE
Don’t use orange peels or citrus essential oils. Many people suggest using citrus to repel cats but citrus fruits are toxic to cats. (source)
You may try spraying the area with a vinegar and water solution if it won’t damage the floors or any household objects. Cats don’t like the smell of vinegar so it can work as a safe, natural deterrent. Start with a mild mixture (e.g. 1 part vinegar to 3 or 4 parts water) and increase the vinegar if needed.
Try a motion-activated spray that will go off when your cat gets close to it and lightly spray them to deter them from the area.
A MAT THAT DETERS
You may create your own mat by using double sided sticky tape on a large piece of cardboard or placing strips of tin foil down. Cat’s don’t like their paws getting sticky and they typically don’t like to walk on tin foil, perhaps due to the sound it makes and its slippery surface. There are foil-like mats on the market that serve a similar purpose as tin foil.
As well as rubber mats that will keep your cat off a surface and away from an area of the house they’re peeing in.
Cats don’t like to eliminate where they eat, so it may help to move their food dish to the area where they keep peeing outside their litter box. This will obviously only work if your cat is consistent with where they pee outside the litter box.
If they pee in several spots around the house, but it’s consistent (i.e. the same 3 or 4 spots), you may try placing a few treats in those spots. That may be enough for them to associate the spot as a place where they find food and decide it’s not a good spot to pee.
5. GIVE THEM MORE ATTENTION
Cats often exhibit “bad” behaviour to get your attention or because they’re stressed. Giving them more attention, affection, and playtime can be helpful in correcting any undesirable behaviour because it helps lower their stress levels.
It is important not to give them that attention when they’re exhibiting the “bad” behaviour, or they may start to associate that behaviour with a reward and do it more.
Once a veterinarian has cleared your cat of any medical issues, work on ignoring bad behaviour and rewarding good behaviour. If you discover your cat has peed outside the litter box, don’t react. However, when you notice your cat using their litter box, give them positive attention.
If your cat is peeing in the house to get your attention, give them plenty of attention outside of those moments to feed their craving for your attention. They’ll also begin to associate the “good” behaviour (e.g. playing, using the litter box, being in the living room with you, etc.) with getting your attention, and do more of it.
Even if you think your cat already gets plenty of attention, there’s always room for more. You’re likely your cat’s entire world. Imagine if you only had one person to speak to and hang out with, you’d want to do so as much as possible. Love can solve a lot of issues.
6. ASSESS THE LITTER BOX SITUATION
Cats often pee outside the litter box when they’re unhappy with their litter box situation. The most common things to assess first are the cleanliness of their litter box and if you’ve changed anything about their litter box recently.
Even if you haven’t changed anything, it could be that your cat has decided their litter box situation is no longer working for them. If your cat is deemed healthy by a veterinarian, it may help to play around with the litter box variables, there are several suggestions below.
*It’s important not to change too many things at once, as it may confuse or stress your cat and make the situation worse. Try changing one aspect of their litter box at a time to see if it helps and be sure to introduce new elements slowly (e.g. slowly move the litter box to a new location a few feet at a time).
A) REVERT BACK
If you’ve recently changed something such as their litter box, litter, or litter box location, consider switching thigs back if possible. Any changes made to their litter box should be done slowly. A sudden change of litter or location can upset your cat and encourage them to find other places around the house to pee.
B) CLEAN MORE
I’ll admit, I didn’t used to clean my cat’s litter box frequently enough. It wasn’t until we discovered he had been pooping in the crawl space next to his litter box that we researched and realized, we should be scooping and changing his litter more.
Most cat owners don’t realize they’re not scooping and changing litter enough. We think of them as animals and figure they probably don’t care about a litter box that’s a little dirty, but they do.
It’s instinctual for them to want a clean litter box. In the wild, strong smells, such as urine, can attract predators. So when urine and feces are piling up in your cat’s litter box, they look for another place to go so they don’t keep adding to the odors.
Scoop the litter at least once a day, maybe more if you have a cat with diabetes or kidney problems and they use the litter box a lot.
Litter should also be completely changed at least once a month. It depends on the type of litter you use. A paper pellet litter may need to be changed every week or so. Clay litters can typically last a little longer but still need to be changed every 3 – 4 weeks.
When you do change the litter, be sure to wash the litter box and dry it before adding more litter. Bacteria and odors can cling to those boxes and find their way into scratches on the surface.
Use a mild detergent with water to scrub the litter box and rinse it well with water before drying it. Don’t use any strong smelling cleaners such as bleach or ammonia or citrus-scented cleaners, as they may be the culprit for driving your cat away from the litter box.
C) NEW LITTER
We had been using clay litter for most of our one cat’s life. When he got diabetes, his water intake increased and he peed a lot. His larger pees often meant he got his paws dirty and would leave the litter box with clumps of soiled litter stuck between his paws.
Once we did some research, we realized clay litter is convenient for cat owners, but not the best option for our cats’ health. Although it was the same litter he had always used, it was time for a change.
Consider trying a different type of litter, perhaps a more natural one such as paper pellet litter. Be sure to introduce a new cat litter slowly. Use a ratio of one part new litter to 3 parts old litter and gradually increase how much of the new litter you mix in over several weeks. By the end of a month, you should be able to fill the litter box completely with the new litter.
D) NEW LITTER BOX
If the litter box has been used by several cats over the years, or hasn’t been cleaned monthly to scrub away harmful bacterial and strong smells, the buildup of odors may be driving your cat away.
Or, it may be that your cat is no longer a kitten and requires a bigger litter box, or is older and has trouble getting in and out of the existing box and needs one with lower sides.
When introducing a new litter box, keep their old litter box full of litter until they’ve used the new litter box and have shown you, they’re okay with it. Suddenly swapping in a new litter box may upset your cat because it no longer has their scent on it.
E) MORE LITTER BOXES
The general rule is, one litter box for each cat in a household, plus one extra. So even if you only have one cat, 2 litter boxes will be beneficial. The second litter box may be placed in the area your cat likes to urinate outside of the litter box.
If your cat is peeing next to the litter box, it may be because they’re not happy with the cleanliness of their litter box. A second litter box in the same room may be beneficial if you don’t stay on top of scooping every day.
Don’t place the second litter box right next to the first one. If your cat doesn’t like the smells coming from one litter box, it won’t be much better if the second litter box is only an inch away.
F) NEW LITTER BOX LOCATION
If your cat had a negative experience, such as being startled by a loud noise or experiencing pain when using the litter box, they may associate that experience with the location of the litter box (just like if a small child touches a hot stove and then is scared to go near a stove because they associate pain with that object).
If this is the case, moving the litter box to a new location may help to stop your cat from peeing around the house.
Again, it’s important to do this slowly. Ideally, place another litter box in a new location and wait until they’ve used it several times before removing their old litter box (or keep both litter boxes if they continue using both). If you don’t have a second litter box, move their current one a few feet at a time, so that even if they go to the old location, they’re still able to figure out where the litter box is.
It may help to place the litter box in the location of the house your cat is peeing outside the litter box. But if that location is on your bed or couch, that’s obviously not ideal.
G) REMOVE LITTER BOX LINERS
Litter box liners may be a convenient way for humans to keep the litter box clean and to change the litter each month. However, your cat may not like the liner in the box as their claws may be getting caught on it when they dig. Check out the five reasons you shouldn’t use litter box liners.
7. MAKE IT EASY FOR OLDER CATS
If you have a senior cat and believe they may be peeing outside of the litter box because of cognitive dysfunction (i.e. they’re confused or disorientated), keep things as familiar as possible for them. Don’t change the location of the litter box or the type of litter you use, and try to create a routine for them.
Depending on the severity, it may help to make their living space a little smaller. I wouldn’t suggest putting them in a small bedroom by themselves all day, but perhaps, keep the door to the basement closed so they stay on the main level. Or close some of the doors in your house so there are fewer rooms for them to wander into and potentially get confused by.
When they’re dealing with mobility issues, rather than memory issues, be sure to keep the litter box location and type of litter box in mind. If your cat must go up and down stairs to use the litter box, jump onto or step over taller objects, it can deter them from using the litter box. That taller object may even be the litter box. Look for one with low sides and an even lower entry. Yes, you may deal with more litter outside the litter box, but that’s better than dealing with urine or feces outside the litter box.
If your cat has both mobility and memory issues and you need to move the litter box, consider getting a second litter box and trying to get them familiar with that, instead of moving their existing litter box. If they get all the way downstairs to use the litter box and it’s no longer there, they’re likely to go to the washroom, even if there isn’t a litter box to use.
I hope this article has helped you solve how to stop your cat from peeing in the house 🙂
You may also be interested in reading:
- WHY IS MY CAT POOPING ON THE FLOOR (7 REASONS & QUICK FIXES)
- WHY DOGS EAT CAT POOP & 3 STEPS TO STOP THEM
- HOW OFTEN TO CHANGE CAT LITTER
- WHY YOU SHOULD STOP USING LITTER BOX LINERS