← home
All

Why Is My Cat Peeing Outside the Litter Box?

Cats instinctively use the litter box, so when your cat pees inappropriately, they have a reason—and they are not still holding a grudge because you dared to pet them near their belly. Cats cannot speak, but they can communicate through their behavior, and you should suspect your cat is feeling unwell or unhappy when they pee outside the litter box.

Dr Treat
Why Is My Cat Peeing Outside the Litter Box?

Key takeaway

By doing some investigative work, you can determine your cat’s underlying inappropriate elimination cause. Our Dr. Treat team describes common reasons why your cat may be peeing outside the litter box, and how you can help them overcome this fickle feline behavior.

C
ats instinctively use the litter box, so when your cat pees inappropriately, they have a reason—and they are not still holding a grudge because you dared to pet them near their belly.

Cats cannot speak, but they can communicate through their behavior, and you should suspect your cat is feeling unwell or unhappy when they pee outside the litter box.

By doing some investigative work, you can determine your cat’s underlying inappropriate elimination cause. Our Dr. Treat team describes common reasons why your cat may be peeing outside the litter box, and how you can help them overcome this fickle feline behavior.

#1: Your cat may have an underlying medical condition

Inappropriate elimination is a common feline health condition sign, and you should contact your Dr. Treat veterinarian if your cat has begun to pee outside their litter box. The earlier your veterinarian can determine whether your cat is experiencing a medical issue, the easier they can treat the condition. If your cat is peeing outside their litter box, they may have one of these conditions:

  • Urinary tract infection
  • Kidney disease
  • Crystalluria (i.e., urinary crystals)Bladder stones
  • Hyperthyroidism (i.e., hyperactive thyroid gland)
  • Feline idiopathic cystitis (FIC)
  • DiabetesDegenerative joint disease

#2: Your cat’s litter box may be inadequate

Once your veterinarian has ruled out that an underlying medical condition is causing your cat’s litter box protest, they will talk with you about the most common culprit—the litter box itself. Your cat uses their litter box because the receptacle meets their needs, and if their litter box setup no longer meets their needs—well, you know what happens. Your cat may become unwilling to use their litter box because of these factors:

Size


Not all litter boxes are created equal. Cats can be particular about their litter box’s size, and their preferences naturally change as they grow. To determine the appropriate size for your cat’s litter box, a good rule of thumb is 1.5 times their length, including their tail, to allow them plenty of room to scratch and find a clean spot.

Accessibility


Consider the ease with which your cat can enter and exit their litter box. While you may prefer a covered litter box to keep in the odor, most cats prefer an open litter box—with sides that are low enough to climb in and out easily. Overweight or senior cats may have difficulty getting in and out of a deep litter box.

Location


Litter box placement is also an important consideration, and many cat owners place these receptacles in out-of-the-way home areas. While you likely do not want a litter box in your kitchen, you should place the box relatively close to the areas your cat frequents—but not right next to their food and water bowls, to avoid contamination. Opt for a quiet, private spot, and avoid placing your cat’s litter box next to loud appliances such as a furnace, washer, or dryer.

Cleanliness


You prefer a clean toilet, and so does your cat. To keep your cat’s litter box clean and enticing, scoop the litter at least twice every day, and fully change the litter and disinfect the box weekly.

Litter


A change to the litter brand or type could be the reason your cat is avoiding their litter box. Most cats prefer fine, unscented clumping litter to any scented litter. If you decide to change the litter type, gradually add a small amount to your cat’s current litter each time you clean the litter box, until your cat becomes accustomed to the new litter.

Availability


Sharing is not always easy, and inappropriate elimination is more common in households with multiple cats. To meet more than one cat’s elimination needs and ensure cleanliness, provide one box per cat, plus one extra, and place litter boxes in different areas of the house, such as at least one per level.

“Cats are sensitive creatures, and events such as moving, adding new animals or family members to your household—even a slight change in their routine—can leave your cat feeling anxious. ”

#3: Your cat may be stressed

Try to remain empathic if your cat is peeing on your clothes. They are not misbehaving out of spite, they are likely feeling extremely stressed. While human stress does not drive us to urinate in strange places, anxiety can cause us to behave abnormally. Cats are sensitive creatures, and events such as moving, adding new animals or family members to your household—even a slight change in their routine—can leave your cat feeling anxious. Before you give your cat the cold shoulder for their unpleasant new bathroom habits, consider recent events that may have contributed to their abnormal behavior.

Final notes

If your favorite feline is avoiding their litter box, they might be expressing a cry for help. When you become a Dr. Treat One™ member, you have access to in-person appointments and 24/7 virtual care, so your pet receives the care they need at any time of the day or night. Become a member so we can help your kitty appropriately use their litter box again, and feel like themselves—well and happy.

Written by:

Dr Treat

A veterinary practice that is reimagining the approach to the health and wellbeing of companion animals.

references
Read more on
Behavior
View all

Want to stay updated?

If you’re interested in learning more or you’d like to read our in depth pet health & wellness guides, join our newsletter.

your preference:
Thank you!
Oops! Something went wrong