A surprisingly common question from kitty owners is, ‘Why is my cat peeing outside the litter box?’. It can be frustrating and concerning and never pleasant to deal with.
This guide looks at the potential causes and solutions for cats peeing outside the litterbox. Have you had problems with your cat peeing where it shouldn’t? What worked for you?
Please leave a comment if you’ve had success with your own tip or trick.
If your cat starts urinating outside the litter box, the most important thing is to get them to a vet to make sure s/he doesn’t have a blockage.
Male cats, for example, can get crystals in their urinary tract and die if not treated immediately.
Once you’ve ruled out anything life-threatening, you can start to work through the reasons and solutions in this guide.
Cats Not Using Litter Box Anymore: Reasons and Solutions
To help, here are the potential problems into different categories.
- 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. For example, if they are peeing on your favorite sectional, it probably feels softer. Once UTI is ruled out, for a REAL rule out, tests need to be done – urinalysis, x-ray, perhaps ultrasound. Take your kitty to the vet to get checked out. A quick trip to the vet and a long-lasting antibiotic should cure him, and he will be back in the box.
- Bladder Infection – S/he may have a bladder infection. Take your kitty to the vet to be sure they are healthy. The first step is always to take your kitty to the vet to ensure it’s nothing medical. If it’s painful when s/he pees, s/he’ll associate the litter box with pain and pee somewhere else.
- Diabetes – while diabetes can affect any cat, it tends to strike in middle age, especially if your kitty is overweight. High glucose levels can lead to excessive thirst and urination, including outside the litter box. You may need to ask your vet for some blood work to rule this out.
- 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!
- DECLAWED? – Has this kitten been declawed? Declawed cats often have litter box issues as various litters hurt their paws now, so something to consider IF he has been declawed. Solutions will revolve around making the litter box as comfortable as possible.
- 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, so you should be able to determine this. Speak to your veterinarian, but you may need to look into spaying or neutering your cat to solve this issue.
- Message – The cat is trying to “tell” you something. It might be that they’re not happy with their litter box or that there’s another issue they’re trying to communicate. 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 territorial behavior with another animal in your house or even one that visits outside the home. This could also happen if the kitty is required to share the box with another cat. If you suspect it could be a problem with your cat being territorial, you have my sympathy – this can be tough to solve. If possible, try to separate the animals and carefully introduce your cat to the other animal until they are more relaxed. If that doesn’t work, see if giving your territorial cat their own space in your home is possible. It might not be if your house or apartment is small. Still, separation might be the only way to stop your territorial cat from marking the area with urine. Unfortunately, if you can’t resolve it, it may mean that the cat just isn’t compatible with your home, and rehoming may be the final resort.
- Territorial Outside – Even if you have an indoor only cat, your cat could be stressed because another cat is marking the outside of your home, claiming territory they know is theirs. This stress makes them act out by marking everything inside the house to drive away the intruder, and cats feel safer in their environment when they have their smells around. My mom experienced this when her two Ragdolls who had lived with a German Shepherd their whole life, started marking, especially near windows and doorways (where smells seep through the windows and and doors). My mom’s dog had died and she wasn’t getting a new one for several months, consequently, neighborhood cats started to visit the yard, since there was no more threat of a dog.
- FORGETFUL / START OVER – Weird trick, but supposedly suitable for kittens learning where their box is. You generally want to keep litter boxes very clean, but kittens can forget where their box is / that that is what the box is for. One cat behaviorist recommends scooping the pee, but if the cat poos outside the litter box, scoop the poo into the box and leave it there for a bit. The cat can use their sense of smell to learn, “Oh, this is a good place for poo to go.”
Litter Box Issues
- Litter Box – If you have a large breed cat, you may need an 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 high-sided litter box is a great litter box for large breed cats and ones that pee standing. Make sure you have at least one litter box per cat. Old plastic litter boxes can absorb odors, even if you have kept them clean regularly. You may want to buy new litter boxes to see if that will help.
- 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 Problems – This could be 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 to the bathroom, then you probably aren’t going to stand there to do your business. Cats prefer fine-grained unscented litter.
- 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.
- 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 a 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 other 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. Also, consider the offers litterbox placement in multi-cat households. “Some cat owners find innovative solutions to litter box problems. One owner with several kitties found the younger animals would gang up on the elderly arthritic cat when she needed to use the litter box in the living room, de Jong recalls. The owners resolved the problem with a sensor cat door collar, which gave the senior animal exclusive access to a room with a separate litter box.” SureFlap makes a Microchip Pet Door that opens and closes for specific kitties or pups.
- Litter box placement next to walls –Alicia shared this discovery about her cat that solved his improper elimination behavior: “For his inappropriate toileting, I discovered by accident that he wants the box to be away from walls and not in a corner. With a 360-degree exit strategy, he uses a box 100%. It was a complete accident that I discovered it. I’d tried many types of litter, covered and uncovered boxes, cat attract powder, you name it. Then one day, when I was scrubbing the bathroom floor, I moved the box out from the wall to clean behind it, and he went right in it and peed. I left it away from the wall after seeing that, and sure enough, he continued using it. This was after a decade and thousands of dollars in ruined furniture and rugs. In hindsight, it makes sense because he acts aggressively whenever he feels cornered or confined. He won’t even take food or treats if he feels cornered. I’m sure it’s collateral damage from having him declawed and feeling defenseless.”
- Cleaning – In addition to cleaning litter boxes, you also need a clean environment, including removing all old urine stains and spots from the places s/he has peed. If your kitty can smell the old urine, 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 Potential Solutions
If you’ve worked through all the potential causes above and still can’t work it out, keep trying. It can be disheartening but don’t give up! In the meantime, here are some other things you may want to look into to manage the issue.
- Animal Communicators – Something weird might be going on, like a ghost 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
- Regularity – if your cat has peed outside the litter box once, it may repeat the behavior due to the smell left behind. Use a good black light to find the spot and clean it thoroughly, and consider adding orange peel, potpourri, or a tea bag to the area to make it less appealing to your cat.
- Plastic Carpet Runner – Try placing a plastic runner, which you would put over the carpet under your desk chair with the pointy ends on the other side, upside down where they pee. They don’t like the feeling of that on their feet!
- Puppy Pads – Some cats 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 the litter.
- Automatic Litter Box – Some readers report that their cat stopped peeing outside the litter box when they switched to the Litter Robot because the cat always had a clean litter box.
- Cat Diapers – If you can manage to convince your cat to wear a diaper, you can at least stop them peeing around the home
- Feliway – Feliway is a synthetic copy of feline facial pheromones that can help calm and comfort cats during stressful situations. Diffusers and sprays are available to help cats feel secure and reduce unwanted behaviors like scratching and spraying.
Why Is My Cat Peeing Outside the Litter Box but Pooping in It?
It can be even more confusing when your cat is peeing outside the litter box but continues to use it for pooping. However, it can help you narrow down some potential causes.
After all, you know the litter box isn’t an issue, so you can rule out things like arthritis making it hard for your cat to climb into the box or anxiety due to its location. You also know they’re comfortable with the cat litter you’ve chosen. Generally, there aren’t going to be symptoms of litter box aversion if they’re happy using it for some toilet trips and not others.
So instead, it could be:
- A UTI, also known as idiopathic cystitis.
- Diabetes, especially if your cat is older or overweight.
- Hormonal spraying.
As a general rule of thumb, if your cat shows signs of inappropriate urination but keeps their cat poop in the litter box, it is more likely to be related to medical conditions. So this is definitely the time to get your cat checked by your vet for any health issues.
You should also make sure that your cat is actually pooping in their litter box. Don’t assume everything is normal just because you only find pee around your home. Check – if you have clean litter boxes, your cat may also suffer from constipation.
How to Combat the Smell of Cat Urine
Air purifiers are a great way to combat the smell of cat urine. You can place them near the source of the scent, and they capture the particles in the air that cause the odor, trapping them.
Outside, the sun and wind give the air a natural charge – helping to break down odors and more. But indoors, you need a little help.
There are some other options that Floppycatters have recommended:
- Fizzion – 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 – you can buy it on Amazon.
- 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.
Suppose you own an elderly cat who just started to pee outside the litter box. In that case, you can also read this veterinarian write-up from SeniorTailWaggers.com: Why is my elderly cat urinating in the house? Looking for Cat Poops Outside of the Litter Box solutions? Also, check out this post: Cat Pooping Outside of the Litter Box.
Learn more on CatInfo.org – The Litter Box From Your Cat’s Point of View. There are some excellent guidelines about house soiling.
We have also had discussions on Facebook that you might be interested in:
Have you had a successful experience getting your cat properly eliminated again? If so, please share your tips and tricks in the comments below!
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,