Being a cat owner, you must have wondered at some point, “Why is my cat peeing outside the litter box?”
As much as cleaning a litter box is not one of my favorite chores, I would much rather do it than deal with a cat peeing outside the litter box. Who’s with me? I grew up with quite a few different cats, and cat pee has a very distinct, very terrible odor to it.
It’s a frustrating issue to have to clean up cat pee over and over again. It can be hard to get rid of the smell entirely. And it is concerning because it can point to a health problem that your sweet cat is having.
So let’s look at the potential reasons your feline friend is peeing outside its litter box. It’s always easiest to solve the problem if you can pinpoint why it’s happening.
An Unclean Litter Box
Honestly, this is one of the most common reasons a cat might have litter box problems. If your cat is acting completely normal otherwise, this is the first step before you worry too much about other reasons.
A cat prefers to be extremely clean. They spend parts of each day cleaning themselves. They don’t want to use a dirty litter box.
Cats can have different limits for what they consider to be too dirty. Some cats will only use their litter box once before they want it to be cleaned.
If a litter box has a strong smell even though it is clean, this can also deter your cat from using it. Urine odors can build up over time in the box itself, so the box may require cleaning or changing.
OK, now that we have the obvious out of the way, let’s move on to medical issues that could cause your cat to pee in other areas.
If you suspect that your cat is experiencing one of these medical conditions, get in to see your veterinarian as soon as possible. Most of them can be tested with inexpensive urine or blood tests.
Bladder stones happen in humans as well as cats. They are a buildup of minerals or other organic materials in the bladder. Depending on how big they are, they can make it difficult or even impossible for your cat to pee.
Cats of any age can get bladder stones. Depending on the size of the stones, your vet may recommend anything from changing to a special diet to surgery.
Since it can become life-threatening for your cat if they are unable to pee, it is essential that you get your cat to the vet quickly for diagnosis.
Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
A urinary tract infection in cats is caused by bacteria in their urine that causes inflammation.
If it seems like it hurts for your cat to pee, if they are peeing in small amounts often throughout the day, or if there is even a bit of blood in your cat’s urine, it could be because of a urinary tract infection.
Just like with humans, the way to fix this is with a round of antibiotics prescribed by your vet.
This can be the precursor to potential urinary tract infections or bladder stones.
Crystals can form in your cat’s urine if it isn’t getting enough water or its diet isn’t quite right. The crystals cause inflammation in the wall of the cat’s bladder and can lead to an overgrowth of bacteria.
Your vet can prescribe a special diet that can help with this condition and prevent a more serious illness later on. Sometimes drinking more water can cause the crystals to dissolve.
If your cat seems to be losing weight in addition to peeing outside the litter box, it’s possible that they have developed an overactive thyroid. This is most common in cats over ten years old. Cats have two thyroids in their necks, just like humans.
If one or both of their thyroid starts over-producing, this will increase their metabolism. This is usually because of an enlarged thyroid or growths on the thyroid. It’s very rare that the enlarged thyroid is cancerous.
This medical problem can be diagnosed with a simple blood test. Determining the best method of treatment may take more tests. Treatment might include daily medication or a diet change.
Kidney disease is a medical issue that can cause urination outside of the litter box. It is a progressing disease, so the earlier you can catch it, the better.
If your cat seems to be drinking a lot of water and peeing often, these are common signs of kidney disease. Depending on how severe the kidney disease is, fluid therapy, supplements, or special cat food can help slow down its progression and help your cat live a longer life.
A Hard-to-reach Litter Box
If they don’t have easy access or can’t easily get to their litter box, it will lead to most cats peeing outside of the litter box. That makes sense, right?
One big way this pops up for a lot of cat owners is if they keep the litter box in the basement and an aging cat is struggling to go up and down the stairs that often.
If your older cat develops arthritis or doesn’t move around as well as it used to, make sure that a litter box is on the main level of your home.
If they need to jump to get up to the litter box, you may need to build a ramp to make it easier on their aging joints.
Another thing to consider is if your cat may feel scared or trapped by the area you placed the litter box in. If the litter box is in a dark, creepy attic room that no one ever goes in, your cat might not feel comfortable going to the bathroom there.
Stress and Anxiety
Cats are very sensitive to changes in the home. Loud noises, a new cat or dog, a new baby, or just moving furniture around can cause your cat stress and anxiety.
Here are a few examples of situations that may lead to your cat becoming stressed and peeing outside of their litter box:
- The litter box is in a spot where loud noises occur.
- You’ve moved the litter box to a different place in the house.
- The litter box is in a busy area of the home.
- A remodeling project is going on.
- You’re packing for a move.
- Addition of new pets
Consider any changes that have recently happened to your cat’s environment to determine if stress may be causing litter box problems.
Old Urine Smells
Cats can smell things that we can’t. If you’re having behavioral issues with your cat peeing outside of the litter box, it’s possible that your cat is peeing over old urine smells.
This is especially possible if you’ve recently moved to a house with carpet. Carpet traps scents really well. The previous owners could have had dogs or cats that peed in the places where your cat is peeing now.
Cat pee develops a distinct ammonia-like smell the longer it sits and starts to break down. The sooner you can clean up cat pee that has happened in an unwanted area, the easier it will be to fully get rid of the smell.
Multiple Pets in the Home
Litter box issues often pop up when you add a new pet to the family. This change to your cat’s environment can be stressful.
It is best to introduce your cat to any new furry family members slowly. Make sure your cat has their own space that feels safe to hang out if they want some time apart from the new addition.
Peeing outside the box may happen if your cat is trying to mark their territory and send a message to other pets in the home. This is usually a marking behavior if your cat is peeing on a vertical space like a door or pillar.
Adding another cat to your family can reveal that you don’t have enough litter boxes.
It is recommended that you always have one more litter box than you do cats. So if you have two cats, you should have three litter boxes available. If you only have one cat, you should have two litter boxes.
If you only have one litter box and problems are occurring, adding another litter box is something you can try.
An older cat may try to keep a new kitten from using a litter box as a way to claim dominance. This behavioral issue can be remedied by adding new litter boxes in different locations. If you can find a spot that the new kitten can easily get to but the older cat can’t, this can help.
Be sure to train your kitten to use a litter box to keep them from peeing outside of it.
How Do I Stop My Cat From Peeing Outside The Litter Box?
Now that we’ve looked at the many reasons cats pee outside the litter box let’s look at ways to stop it.
- Go to the vet to check for medical problems. If a medical condition is causing this unwanted behavior, you won’t be able to change it without getting your cat treated by the vet. The vet will be able to rule out a lot of potential health problems with some simple testing, and you’ll be able to breathe a sigh of relief if all is well.
- Scoop the poo daily. Such a simple solution, right? Cleaning out litter boxes on a daily basis may be all that it takes to stop your cat from peeing outside of the litter box.
- Clean the litter box itself. Cat pee smells can gradually seep into your cat’s litter box itself, keeping them from wanting to use it. You can wash litter boxes with soap and water. Make sure that the soap you use is unscented or mildly scented. If that doesn’t seem to get the smell out, you can soak the box in diluted vinegar, which will break down the smell.
- Add more litter boxes. How many litter boxes do you need? One more box than you have cats. If your cat is being territorial and not letting other cats pee in the litter box, add another. And be sure to use a kind of kitty litter for multiple cats.
- Move it to a more convenient location. While many cats like a quiet, private place to handle their business, it still needs to be convenient. Elderly cats may have a hard time going up and down the stairs or jumping to get to the litter box.
- Get a bigger litter box. If your cat doesn’t have enough room to go to the bathroom comfortably, you may want to get them a larger litter box. I have a family member who uses an under-bed Rubbermaid container for her cats.
- Change to a different litter slowly. If your cat pees outside of the litter box and you’ve recently changed to a new litter, they might not like the change. Yes, cats can be a bit picky. Try changing back to the previous kitty litter your cat likes or gradually changing over to a new odor-controlling cat litter.
- Clean with vinegar. Vinegar has the ability to break down cat pee smells. If your cat is peeing over top of old urine smells or you’ve moved to a new house and aren’t sure what smells your cat may be smelling, use vinegar to clean.
There are different reasons behind your cat’s inappropriate urination. The key to changing your cat’s behavior is understanding its underlying reason, and then you can decide the best solution.
Once you’ve been to the vet to rule out a medical cause or health issues, you can shift to looking at other behavioral reasons. It can be as simple as scooping poo more frequently or using an enzymatic cleaner to remove urine smells.
I hope this article gives you ideas of what you can do to stop your cat from peeing outside of the cat litter box.