If your cat is suddenly starting to pee outside of the litter box, there could be a number of reasons why this is occurring. The reasons can be medical, physical or behaviourally related.
In this blog post, I’ll discuss some of the most common reasons why cats start peeing in places other than their litter box, as well as what you can do to help get your cat back on track.
One of the major reasons that cats end up in shelters is often because they don’t use the litter box.
The very first step is to try and identify the problem. Are you ready for some detective work?
Medical Reasons For Litter Box Problems
Medical issues that cause pain may be the cause of your cat’s inappropriate urination. If the cat associates the litter box with pain, they won’t want to go in there and will go elsewhere. Quite often this will be the case when the cat pees just outside the litter box.
Start by taking your cat to the family veterinarian.
Medical issues can be kidney disease, urinary tract infections, arthritis and anything else that makes urinating painful.
If medical conditions are not an issue then it is time to look behavioral issues. Sometimes a physical issue becomes a behavioral problem so it is important to get this sorted as soon as possible.
I have given a possible solution for all of the issues listed but it is a trial and error approach as the number of variables is huge.
Physical/ Behavioral Reasons For Litter Box Problems
New Litter Box
If you have recently switched your cat to a new litter box, it may take a while for them to get used to it.
The best option for a new litter box is one that is big and open. Put the new box in the place where the cat is peeing. Each day, move the box a little until it is where you want it to be.
Along with this method is the need to thoroughly clean the area where the cat is peeing to get rid of the urine smell. An enzymatic cleaner is a good way to do this. There is more information here about cleaning cat urine and getting rid of the smell.
A black light can also help to identify cat or dog pee locations if needed, as shown in the image below.
Is The Litter Box Covered?
Some cats do not like covered litter boxes. A covered litter box means that the cat can’t see who or what may be nearby.
If the cat exits the box and finds the big scary dog at close quarters, he is going to be reluctant about going inside an enclosed litter box. Even if there are no scary dogs or bully cats nearby, some cats do not like an enclosed litter box.
Try this. It is easy enough to remove the lid from most covered boxes.
Covered litter boxes do look good, particularly if your space is small. Your cat may be okay with the cover. This is a trial and error approach.
Do You Have More Than One Cat?
If there are multiple cats in the house, ideally cat each will have their own litter box. So two cats, two litter boxes, three cats and three litter boxes. At some point if you have more than three cats, they will probably need to share a box unless you live in a cat castle.
There are a few reasons for this. Firstly, cats are territorial animals and they may not want to share their litter box with another cat.
This can lead to conflict and even aggression between the cats.
Secondly, if one cat uses the litter box and then another cat uses it after them, the second cat may be reluctant to use the litter box at all because it smells like the first cat. This can lead to a lot of urine and faeces being deposited around the house, which is obviously not ideal.
Having multiple litter boxes will make it easier for your cats to find a place to go when they need to relieve themselves, which means there will be less of a mess for you to deal with.
Some veterinarians will recommend having one more litter box than you have cats. If this is practical for you, this is a good idea. Place this box in a different room where the other cats in the family cannot get to it
So if you have multiple cats in your home, it is best to provide each one with their own box.
Location Of The Box
Some cats get spooked very easily. If your cat is like this, you need to literally put yourself in your cat’s shoes and consider what makes accessing the cat’s litter box, a scary thing, for your kitty.
Place the litter box in an area where the cat feels safe and secure, without any potential threats lurking nearby.
Cats are naturally clean animals and they don’t like to use the bathroom in places where they eat or sleep so don’t place the litter box near a feeding area or their bed.
By making sure the litter box is in a good location, you can help your cat feel comfortable using it and reduce the likelihood of accidents happening around the house.
What About The Litter?
The problem of cats urinating outside of the box can sometimes be identified by the fact that the cat may go into the box and then walk away. Perhaps the litter is too coarse or rough on paws. Is there enough litter in the box? In this situation, you may find the cat peeing close to the litter box.
Have you changed the litter? You may also want to try a different type of litter or litter box liner.
Pelleted litter, whilst excellent in some situations, can be hard on the feet for cats with sensitive paws. If your cat has sensitive paws, try a fine-grained litter like this one, which is soft on paws.
Some cats are also sensitive to scented litter, so if you are using a scented litter, try an unscented one. If it is odor you are trying to control, there is odor controlling cat litter that does not have a strong smell.
A Bully Cat Or Other Pets
A bully cat or dog can make cats anxious about being in the litter box where they are a sitting target. This is particularly so if the box is enclosed as mentioned earlier. Take the lid off the box.
Also, consider restricting access if possible to stop the dog. Use a baby gate. Situate it in the doorway so that it is off the ground. The cat can still get underneath and jump over the top, but the dog will not be able to do this.
This also applies to young children who are just interested in what is happening and set out to explore.
A Door Buddy may also work well in your situation to allow the cat in but keep dogs and children out of the room where the box is situated.
To combat a bully cat, make sure that each cat has its own litter box.
Clean Litter Box
Cats like cleanliness, and they will object if the litter box is dirty. The litter box needs to be kept clean. It is a chore to keep the box clean, but there are ways to streamline the process and make it easier.
If you’ve recently moved, your cat may be having a hard time adjusting to their new surroundings and may not be using the litter box.
In this instance try and keep everything the same as it was in the old location, use the same box and the same litter.
Stress and Anxiety
Sometimes cats will pee outside the litter box if they’re feeling stressed or anxious about something going on in their environment.
Cats are creatures of habit, and they often use the litter box as a way to mark their territory. When something changes in their environment—such as a new pet or baby in the home—it can be stressful and cause them to feel anxious.
As a result, they may start peeing outside the litter box as a way to mark their territory and make themselves feel more comfortable.
things to consider that may cause stress for Cats
People coming into the house.
Some cats hang around for extra pats when someone visits whereas others will run for the hills.
Moving furniture around.
This can be stressful for some cats as they now have to change their navigation. Other cats will not be bothered.
Your cat may be more stressed as he ages because of diminishing eyesight, pain from arthritis and other medical conditions. Using the litter box may become a problem because it is now painful to enter a litter box with higher sides. The sides of the box are preferable low for older cats. This article explains what to look for in a litter box for older cats.
Self-Cleaning Litter Box
Occasionally a self cleaning box may begin its self cleaning action before the cat has totally left the box. This is noisy and intrusive. Loud noises can certainly give the cat a huge fright.
Cats Marking Their Territory
A cat marking its territory is not the same as a cat peeing outside of the litterbox.
Unneutered male cats mark territory by spraying on walls and in other places.
This is very much a territorial thing as the cat probably uses the litter box quite normally. The best option here is to get the male cat neutered to stop this issue.
A black light comes in handy here if you are trying to locate urine marking locations.
Remember also, that a cat will go back to same spot time and time again to pee, so it is really important to do a thorough clean.
You may have to repeat the clean several times depending on the surface that you are cleaning.
Some More Tips
Cats that pee outside the box always choose a horizontal surface for elimination.
Often the surfaces chosen are soft furnishings such as carpets, rugs, beds and laundry.
Where possible, close the bedroom door, hang up floor mats, towels. Put the lid on the laundry basket. This is not a solution but may save you some hassle by removing some of favorite pee places of your feline friend.
Cover furniture where the cat has peed.
Put the cats bed or their food where they have previously urinated. This will stop them from going back to the same place to urinate.
Once you have thoroughly cleaned the the cats pee try using a cat repellent spray in that area to prevent any more peeing outside of the litter box.
If you can find the root cause of the problem and rule out a medical issue you can solve this problem and eliminate this unwanted behavior of cats peeing outside the litter box.