Cat Peeing Outside of the Litter Box

| September 3, 2016 | 22 Comments

Cat Peeing Outside of the Litter Box

Originally posted Jan 11, 2013

One of the most common inquiries I get is why cats pee outside of the litter box.  If you are having this problem with your cat, here are some reasons and possible solutions.  If you have had this problem and have found a solution and the reason or solution isn’t listed below, please share it below.  I am looking to make this page one that many folks can reference to get the help that they need, so please offer any additional insight you might have.

The most important thing is to get your kitty to a vet to make sure s/he doesn’t have a blockage of some sort.  Male cats, for example, can get crystals in their urinary tract and can die from it if not treated immediately.

Cats Not Using Litter Box Anymore: Reasons and Solutions

  • UTI (Urinary Tract Infection) or a blockage – Sometimes if they have a UTI it will make them “go” outside the box, because they associate the box with pain when urinating. If they are peeing on the couch, for example, it probably feels softer. Take your kitty to the vet to get checked out.  Take your kitty to the vet to get checked out.  Once UTI is ruled out (for a REAL rule out, tests needs to be done – urinalysis, x-ray, perhaps ultrasound) A quick trip to the vet and a long lasting antibiotic cured him and he’s back in the box.
  • Bladder Infection – S/he may have a bladder infection. If it’s painful when s/he pees, s/he’ll associate the litter box with pain and pee somewhere else. Take your kitty to the vet just to be sure s/he’s healthy.  The first step is always to take your kitty to the vet to make sure it’s nothing medical.
  • Urinary Crystals – Like a bladder infection – these can cause a lot of pain and the kitty starts associating the pain with the litter box.  Go see a vet just in case!
  • Hormonal – if your kitty isn’t spayed or neutered.    Some females will urinate to “advertise” that they are in heat. And males will spray to mark their territory.  Spraying is quite different than just peeing.
  • Message – The cat is trying to “tell” you something – they need an additional litterbox (rule of thumb, the # of boxes should = the # of cats + one additional; some cats like to pee in one and poop in another), they don’t like where their current boxes are located, they don’t like the kind of litter, they don’t like the kind of box (some cats do NOT like hooded or automatic boxes, for example).  Caymus and Murphy, my parents’ Ragdoll Cats definitely had a message – check out what we discovered – Cats Peeing Everywhere – The Redecorating Efforts of Caymus and Murphy Dean.
  • Territorial – It could be a territorial behavior with another animal in your house or even one that visits just outside of the home.  This could also happen if the kitty is required to share the box with another cat.
  • Dirty Boxes – How often do you scoop your litter box?  It should be once a day and sometimes twice a day.  You should also completely clean and replace litter about once a month.  Try cleaning the box more often too. Sometimes it can look OK but you have to check with the scoop for buried or ‘mystical under the surface’ pee. A bigger, cleaner box can help.
  • Litter Type/Kind ProblemsCould be something as simple as not liking their litter – have you changed it lately? What litter are you using now?  Have you tried Dr. Elsey’s Cat Attract?  Think about it – if you don’t like what you have to stand on to go the bathroom, then you probably aren’t going to stand there to do your business.  Cats prefer fine grained unscented litter.
  • Caymus doing his duty in the NVR Miss Litter Box (two are stacked together here)

    Caymus doing his duty in the NVR Miss Litter Box (two boxes are stacked together here)

    Litter Box – If you have a large breed cat, you might need to get a XL box. Do you have a hooded litter box?  Maybe s/he doesn’t like the idea of a Johnny-on-the-Spot type of atmosphere when peeing.  If you use a hooded litter box, remove the lid. A great litter box for large breed cats and ones that pee standing is the NVR Miss Litterbox.  Make sure you have at least one litter box per cat.  Old plastic litter boxes can absorb odors, if even if you have kept them clean on a regular basis.  So you might try buying new litter boxes to see if that will help.

  • Litter Box Numbers – More than one box is a great idea.  Sometimes kitties are very particular and like to go #1 in one box and #2 in the other box.
  • Litter Box Placement – The location of the box might be an issue.  Is it somewhere in a high traffic area?  Is it near a washing machine or dryer?  Some cats stop using their litter box because they were scared out of their minds once when they were in the litter box.  They stop using the litter box because it is not in a safe quiet place.  Think about it – would you want to take a dump with tons of people walking by?  Try putting boxes in different areas of your house and of course, on different floors.  Likewise, if you have an old kitty or a young one, then it might take them too long to get to the one litter box you have in the home.  Like a child or an elderly adult sometimes can’t feel the urge to pee until too late and your kitty can’t make it to the litterbox in time?
  • Litter Lifter

    Litter Lifter

    Scooping –  At the minimum scoop the litter box once a day.  Have multiple cats? Scoop twice a day. Would you want to step on your old pee or poop to go the bathroom?  Most certainly not – neither does your cat.  I love the Litter Lifter for easy and quick scooping.

  • Cleaning – In addition to clean litter boxes, you also need to have a clean environment and that includes removing all old urine stains and spots from the places s/he has peed.  If your kitty can smell the old urine, then that place will still seem like a good place to pee. Use a Black Light to find old spots and treat them with an enzymatic cleanser.

Other Solutions

  • Animal Communicators – There might be something weird going on like a ghost that is haunting the house and making them want to mark their territory.  Animal communicators can help you figure this out.  Read more about why my parents’ cats were peeing all over: Cats Peeing Everywhere – The Redecorating Efforts of Caymus and Murphy Dean
  • Orange Peel/Potpourri/Tea bag – If none of the above, put orange peel or potpourri or a tea bag that is dry on the spot where the kitty is peeing!
  • Plastic Carpet Runner – You  know those plastic runners you put over carpet or the ones you use under your desk chair with the pointy ends on the other side – try putting that upside down where they pee.  They don’t like the feeling of that on their feet!
  • Black Light for cat urineBlack Light –  Invest in a good black light- this will show you all the urine that you have probably missed.  Jackson Galaxy from Animal Planet’s My Cat From Hell uses a black light frequently with clients that are having peeing issues with their cats – he uses it to show the cat owners that the urine goes Fizzion Pet Stain and Odor Removereverywhere and needs to be cleaned up to discourage the kitty from marking/using that area again.
  • Feliway – Feliway is a product that imitates the friendly marking that cats do when they rub their faces on things.  The smell of this friendly scent, deters them from wanting to mark the area.  The Feliway box contains detailed instructions on how to use it.
  • Fizzion – a Cat Stain and Odor Remover has been reported to remove urine smells.  Sharon in AZ said, “We used Fizzion when Selene first got here, and she was sneaky-peeing in anything that crinkled (shopping bags, crinkle tunnel, etc). It is AMAZING…!!! She had hit 1 spot multiple times over 2 days before we found it – no trace of smell and neither of them went back to that spot! We used it on tile/grout and it was awesome!”
  • Planet Urine – a Floppycats’ reader swears by this product for urine odor removal.
  • Simple Solution Extreme Stain and Odor Remover -get this bottle by itself or with a black light to help you find the urine stains.
  • Eco88 – Another stain and odor remover readers swear by.
  • Puppy Pads – Some cats just like to pee on something soft, so some readers have found that placing puppy pads in the litter box works just like putting litter in the litterbox – and the kitty pees on the puppy pads rather than in litter.

Looking for Cat Poops Outside of the Litter Box solutions?  Check out this post: Cat Pooping Outside of the Litter Box

You can learn even more on CatInfo.org – The Litter Box From Your Cat’s Point of View

And this is a nice handout about House Soiling.

Have you had a successful experience of getting your cat to properly eliminate again?  If so, please share your tips and tricks in the comments below!

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Category: Health Care, Litter Box, Poo

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About the Author ()

Hi, I’m Jenny Dean, creator of Floppycats! Ever since my Aunt got the first Ragdoll cat in our family, I have loved the breed. Inspired by my childhood Ragdoll cat, Rags, I created Floppycats to connect, share and inspire other Ragdoll cat lovers around the world,

Comments (22)

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  1. Makayla says:

    Noodles used to pee outside the litterbox. First few times it was UTI, then later he started doing it again because the box was too small. Now he’s perfectly healthy (except now he’s all itchy and balding but I can’t find any fleas, ear mites, or anything. Maybe allergy? Hopefully the vet knows) with a larger box and a storage tub with a horse-shoe cut that he alternates with. One day he pees in the storage tub box, poops in the other, then the next he does the opposite.

    • Jenny says:

      Thanks for sharing – that’s interesting about the box being too small – how did you figure it out that it was too small?

      Sorry to hear about his itchiness and balding – sounds like he needs to be at the vet immediately – sounds horribly uncomfortable! Let us know what the vet says, please.

  2. Sandra Hesketh Howerton says:

    Wiley was peeing outside the box because of UTI when I adopted him, but he was fine after treatment. However, when he started peeing outside the box again later, the vet’s tests showed no UTI, but he did have blood in his urine. The vet said that means he has an inflamed bladder, and she put him on Metacam for three days and Dasuquin indefinitely. That has helped, but he still pees outside the box occasionally when it is too dirty for him or does not contain his preferred litter. I have to check and, if necessary, scoop the boxes every few hours.

  3. Sandra Hesketh Howerton says:

    He eats dry food. The vet thought stress could be contributing to his problem because it started when my nephew’s dog was staying here temporarily, so she suggested I try Royal Canin Calm, which is fairly new. Now I have him on a mixture of that and Royal Canin Indoor 27. I don’t really think the Calm has helped, and it’s very expensive. I may soon have to change him to some kind of diet food because he has gained too much weight recently too, and I think that may put more pressure on his bladder. The vet said that the Dasuquin, which is usually used for arthritis, is often used off label for inflamed bladder because of its inflamation-fighting properties. She has a cat with the same condition and has him on Dasuquin too to try to control the inflamation because the condition cannot be cured. It can only be treated.

    • Jenny says:

      Have you ever tried taking him off of dry food to see if some of these issues go away? UTIs are usually associated with dry food. You might check out http://www.catinfo.org where a vet explains the dangers of dry food. I hate to think that he’s on Dasquin for the rest of his life – maybe the inflammation would go away with the discontinuing of dry food? My cats are wet food only – after I read all the medical issues caused by dry food because it is the furthest thing from what their natural diet would be.

  4. Sandra Hesketh Howerton says:

    In case stress is a cause of flareups in Wiley’s condition, the vet also suggested using Feliway products, but I was already doing that because I have four cats who don’t always get along very well. By the way, I also have a female FIV-positive cat that is on Dasuquin for the same inflamed bladder condition, but she has wet outside the box only once when I think she was stressed out by being confined in my bedroom while a workman was in the house. She seems perfectly healthy otherwise.

  5. Sandra Hesketh Howerton says:

    I’ll ask my vet about the wet food, but so far she and the vets at the NCSU Vet School have recommended dry food because of a tooth/gum problem he has. It’s some kind of autoimmune condition that makes his own immune system attack and destroy his teeth. It can’t be cured, but its progress can be slowed by keeping his teeth as clean as possible. The vet says that his bladder problem is not a UTI because he has no infection–just inflammation. Does Dasuquin have any troubling side effects that you know of?

  6. Sandra Hesketh Howerton says:

    By the way, the vets did recommend wet food for another of my cats who used to have UTIs, and that apparently helped; however, I have her back on dry now because neither she nor any of the other cats, strangely enough, like wet food, and she was getting too thin. The vets told me that once she was now over the age of five she would probably not have the UTI problem anymore, so it was okay to put her back on dry food to try to get her to a normal weight. She is doing fine now on Royal Canin Indoor dry food and hasn’t had the UTI problem since around 2007.

  7. Sandra Hesketh Howerton says:

    I agree with you about minimizing drug use. Dasuquin for Cats is probably more of a supplement than a drug. Its active ingredients are glucosamine, chondroitin, avocado, and soybeans. It’s OTC, not prescription. I get it from Amazon because it’s less expensive than buying it from the vet.

  8. Thomas J. Hill says:

    We have had this issue with our grumpy neutered male cat. Every time we introduce someone new to the house, he feels the need to mark all over my books, the wall, the carpet, everywhere but the box. Then, new kitty feels SHE needs to over-mark, and we have pee everywhere. I found the Feliway to be very helpful to calm him down. I use Nature’s Miracle in heavy doses where ever there has been an incident. Between the two, and having plenty of litter boxes, the problem has pretty much resolved itself. The Nature’s Miracle gets rid of the stink people smell as well as the cats-only stink, which seems to prevent more peeing. I also picked up some cheap automobile carpet scraps with rubber backing, and have put them around the house in the likely incident-spots.

  9. Justine K says:

    My 9 month old male cat has been peeing outside the litter box for a few months now. I have noticed that he only does it when I am not home or when I leave him alone too long (i.e. taking a shower). I have tried adding more litter boxes, trying different litter, getting his health checked, adding more play time, using those stress relief collars, giving him different food, and cleaning the box more often. He still does it but what I’ve noticed is that after cleaning it with the Nature’s Miracle Urine Out a couple of times he doesn’t pee on it. However, he keeps urinating on anything that hasn’t been cleaned with the Urine Out. I am thinking he may have some sort of separation anxiety so I am going to try interactive feeders and get some new toys for him to play with when I am not home.

  10. Lori Kemp Lewis says:

    Hi–I’m new to this site but not new to Ragdolls (my Diesel is 6 years old) and unfortunately not new to cat-inappropriate peeing–our problem was happening on the beds. Peeing on the bed requires loads and loads of laundry and the only thing worse than peeing on the bed was peeing on the couch and the wingback chairs. Can’t just toss that in the washer.
    What is working for me: First, Diesel went to the vet. Everything was fine except he needed teeth cleaned. Turns out one of his big teeth (fang? tusk? one of those big ones) was in bad shape. It was extracted along with 2 other tiny teeth next to it. It must have been hurting for a long time.
    Second, I changed the way we do litter boxes. I’m now using Dr. Elsey’s clumping litter and cleaning the boxes as seen in cat info.org video. I have 3 boxes, clean them as described in video 2 times a day. I use Feliway pheromone diffusers and Tattletale alarms on couch. Yes, that’s a lot. But…no incidents in 3 months!

  11. knowltons4 says:

    Well my 15 month old male has decided the bathtub is the perfect place to pee. He has now decided to poop in there too. Nothing is wrong with this guy. The litter box is super clean as I scoop several times a day. I totally believe that because he sees us use the toilet which is right next to the tub he thinks this is his toilet! The vet cannot find anything wrong. He eats only wet food and has completely normal poops. He is one weird cat. He is also obsessed with watching my husband take a shower. Paws up on the doors and meowing the entire time. He just has a thing for the bathroom I guess. I am afraid if I try and block the tub he might go somewhere else. It may be gross but really I have the cleanest tub in town as I scrub the heck out of it after he uses it!

  12. Patti Johnson says:

    Hi, Jenny:

    Nothing to add. Just wanted to say thanks for a great post with lots of helpful info (as always)!

    The only time we had a problem with Miss Pink Sugardoodles peeing outside of the litterbox was when she had that UTI earlier in the year, which we solved with diet and the Uromaxx supplement (as suggested by our vet) we got from Amazon.com.

    Big hugs!

    Patti & Pink Sugar 🙂 <3

  13. Dexter the Ragdoll Cat says:

    another thing to note: where exactly is the furball going? in my case, Dex and Jake just cant seem to NOT pee on rugs that have rubber padding underneath. rugs that you would put in the bathroom for example.

    i have to get rid of 2 rugs im using because of this. i have 5 rugs throughout my apt. 1 in the living room, one in the hallway going to the bedrooms and one in the master bedroom. the rugs in the livingroom, hallway and bedroom do NOT have rubber padding and they never get peed on. cats have 24 hour access to all 5 rugs but only urinate on rubber padded ones.

    Both dex and jake have been to the vet to make sure they didnt have a UTI. both came back negative. i expected jake might come back positive since he had a recent issue and a very bad UTI that clogged him up, but nope. its something about the rubber and how it smells that gets them to go pee/poop on it.

  14. Kitsune says:

    Cats who have had an untreated or very painful UTI will associate that pain with a litter box, so they will poo in it but pee outside of it because in their mind, the litter “hurts”. I have found that they will very often use puppy wee wee pads (cheap at Walgreens $20 for 100 or on amazon).

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