Why A Cat Pees Outside The Litter Box – Causes & Solutions

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Although urinary problems are quite common in cats, it can be very frustrating when your cat pees outside the litter box.

Have you been cleaning it up and hoping the habit passes to no avail? Are you just at a loss at how to deal with it?

There is cause for hope. In this article, we will discuss likely causes and some solutions that you may be able to employ to stop the behaviour.


Causes

There are several possible reasons as to why your cat is urinating outside of their litter box. Before you work to curb this behavior, it is important to have an understanding of why your cat is doing it.

Note that we’ve also gone over many of these causes in our article titled “Why Your Cat Is Peeing Everywhere“.

1. Medical Issues

Cats may pee outside of their litter box due to a medical condition.

If the behaviour started suddenly and without warning, the first step is to contact your veterinarian. The vet will perform a physical exam on your cat and take a urine sample.

Vet inspecting a small cat

This is important in order to make sure that there are no underlying problems causing the behavior. There are a handful of health conditions that your veterinarian will likely look for, including:

1. Bladder Stones

A cat may develop bladder stones that can cause irritation and even a blockage. Bladder crystals may also be present or be a precursor to the stones.

In order to diagnose this, your veterinarian will likely give your cat an x-ray to see the size and amount of stones present.

Small stones can sometimes be dissolved with a specialized diet, but larger stones may require surgery to remove.

2. Idiopathic Cystitis

This condition involves inflammation of the bladder for no apparent reason. If you notice that there is blood in your cat’s urine, this may be the reason why.

Feline idiopathic cystitis (FIC) is usually treated with a diet change. Your veterinarian may also prescribe a medication for pain or anxiety for your cat as well.

3. Metabolic Disease

Blood cells and plasma

Increased urination is a red flag for this condition. Some examples of a metabolic disease include chronic kidney disease, chronic liver disease, chronic thyroid disease, or diabetes.

Your veterinarian may want to do some blood work if they feel that this may be the cause of your cat peeing outside of the litter box.

4. Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

UTIs are fairly common in older cats, but younger cats can develop them as well.

These infections are caused by bacteria in the urine, and antibiotics are normally used to treat it.

If there is a chronic issue that is causing your cat to pee outside of its litter box time and time again, there is a possibility that it’s caused by a condition called feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD).

If this is the case, your veterinarian may suggest that you switch your cat to a special urinary diet or that you add supplements to help support the health of the urinary tract system.


2. Behavioral Reasons

If your veterinarian doesn’t find a medical issue that’s causing your cat to pee outside of the litter box, then it’s likely down to behaviour.

Cats can be very picky about their litter box. They may be deterred from using it if:

  • it’s too dirty
  • it’s uncomfortable or too small for them
  • they don’t like the smell or texture of the litter
  • they don’t like the location of the box, such as in a high-traffic area
  • they don’t like that the litter box is covered

Stress

Cat yawning

Since cats can’t speak to us to tell us what is bothering them, they have to use other ways to communicate. Your cat may be be trying to tell you that it’s stressed out.

Ask yourself: have there been any changes in the home that may be causing stress for your cat? Is there a new baby or pet, has someone else moved in (or out) of the house, or have you moved recently?

Your cat may be trying to tell you that it’s feeling a bit stressed out at the moment.

Cats may act out by peeing somewhere they are not supposed to if they are scared of another animal in the household, if there is a new addition to the home, or if you made a change to their living space.

Odour

Lastly, if your cat keeps returning to the same place to urinate, it might be because of the smell.

Cats have a much better sense of smell than we do, and even after we clean up a bathroom accident, their nose may still pick up the odour. If this is the case, your cat may just keep returning to the same place to pee.


Why is my cat peeing next to the litter box?

If your cat is peeing right next to the litter box but not in it, then it is likely caused by a dislike of the litter box as we discussed above.

Make sure that the litter box is clean, big enough, and is uncovered. Make sure the litter box is in a quiet but still accessible part of the home, and that it’s easy for your cat to get in and out of, especially if your cat is older.

Also, the type of litter matters! Veterinarians recommend unscented and scoopable litter.


Why is my cat pooping outside of the litter box?

Blue litter box

If your cat is housebroken and suddenly starts defecating outside of the litter box, it may be because it’s not feeling well.

For example, when it comes to issues such as diarrhea or constipation, the feelings of needing to go come on quickly, and your cat may not be able to make it to its box in time.

If there are no problems with your cat’s health, then your cat is likely acting out for a behavioral reason.

Make sure your cat likes where its box is, the box is an appropriate size, and the box is clean and unscented.


Discipline Or Not?

Gavel - symbol of discipline

It is best not to punish your cat for doing its business outside of the litter box.

Instead, you should reinforce good behaviors, because cats don’t learn from punishment. Give your cat a treat when it goes in the litter box.

If you do see your cat going to the bathroom outside of the litter box, stop it from doing so if possible. Then guide it to the litter box and show it where it’s supposed to be going instead.


Solutions To Try

If your cat is urinating outside of the litter box and you have ruled out a health condition, here are a few things you can try to encourage your cat to go in the proper place:

  1. Move the litter box to the place where you cat has been peeing.
  2. Make sure to have at least one litter box on every floor of your home, helping to ensure that your cat can make it there in time when they get the urge.
  3. If your cat has been peeing outside of the box in the same place, try to make it less appealing by putting aluminum foil, pet bowls full of water, or citrus-scented items in that location.
  4. Make sure to clean the litter box regularly. Don’t use a strongly scented cleaner like ammonia.
  5. Make sure the litter is not too deep. Cats usually like when the litter is about 1-2 inches deep.
  6. If you have more than one cat in your house, make sure that you have at least one litter box per cat, plus one extra, so that there is always a litter box available for your cats to use.

Conclusion

If your cat is peeing outside of the litter box, there is reason to be optimistic; once you understand the underlying cause and take the correct action, the behaviour can usually be stopped quite easily.

But if you’re really struggling with this issue and looking for more than some simple guidance in an article, I have something that might interest you.

SPCA Veterinary Technician Sarah Richards created a guide that has been proven to help cat owners stop their cats from peeing (and spraying) around the house.

It consists of step-by-step instructions, training guides, recipes, and other things you can use to stop your cat’s peeing problem once and for all.

Some of the herbal mixes contained inside were used by Sarah on her own cats, and guess what? They worked!

You can also read our full review of this guide here.

Thanks for reading. Do you have a cat that pees outside the litter box? Feel free to share your experiences in the comments below.

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