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Why Is My Cat Peeing Outside Their Litter Box?

Updated: Jul 4

If you’re a cat owner, you probably know that your furry friends are not the best at showing their emotions or pain. If your cat suddenly begins to pee outside of their litter box it may be tempting to assume that they are doing it out of spite, but the truth is that cats are usually trying to tell you something.

If your cat does not seem to be using his litter box consistently and regularly, you need to try to figure out the cause. Begin by monitoring your cat closely when they go to the litter box.

A cat's behavior will tell you a lot about what's going on with him. It is important to take note of what your cat does because he will be telling you something.

If you see your cat going to the litter box frequently, straining to urinate, or even crying out when using the litter box, it is a sure sign of a medical issue. This means either it is painful for them to urinate, or they are having trouble passing urine. In either case they need to be seen by a veterinarian right away.

Infographic of ways to keep your cat from peeing outside the litter box

Let’s take a look at the most common reasons your cat may be peeing outside the litter box.

Medical Issues

Cats can develop medical issues that can be life-threatening. This is why it is so important to get them checked out by your veterinarian before the situation worsens. Make sure you bring along any information that you have observed about their litter box problem.

Your veterinarian should run diagnostic tests to determine the cause of your cat’s issue. They will typically take a urine sample for testing and may do x-rays to see if there are stones present. Bloodwork may also be warranted depending on the symptoms.

Let’s take a look at some common medical issues they may cause inappropriate urination.

Bladder Stones or Struvite Crystals

These are small deposits of stones that are formed inside the bladder and can get stuck in the urinary tract. Male cats are especially prone to urinary tract problems because their urethras are smaller and can be easily blocked. Cats that are overweight can also suffer from bladder stones.

Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

Bacteria in the urine may cause inflammation in the urinary tract. This is most common in older cats. Your vet will likely prescribe antibiotics to treat a UTI.

Idiopathic Cystitis

Cystitis is inflammation of the bladder and Idiopathic means the cause is unknown. If your cat's urine contains blood, but there are no crystals, bacteria, or stones present, the likely diagnosis will be idiopathic cystitis. Idiopathic cystitis can be treated with a combination of diet change and environmental enrichment. But meds may also be in order to help with pain and inflammation.

Metabolic Diseases

If your cat has been drinking more or if their urine output has increased, it may be a sign of Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD). Other metabolic issues may be Liver Disease, Diabetes, or Thyroid issues. In any case you should take them to the vet for blood work to determine the actual cause if you notice this behavior.

Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD)

If your cat has a chronic urinary issue, your veterinarian may diagnose them with Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease. They will likely recommend a prescription diet made specifically for urinary conditions to support the urinary tract.

Unrelated Medical Issues

Your cat may also have unrelated medical issues such as arthritis or obesity that cause them to urinate outside the litter box because it is difficult or painful to get in and out of.

Vet examining a cat

Behavioral Issues

Many people would just assume that if their cat does not use the litter box, it is out of spite or to get back at them for something. But this is not true in many cases. Here are a few things that may cause this sudden behavior change.

Something has changed with the Litter Box

Maybe you moved their litter box to a new location, changed to a different litter box, changed their litter, or their box just needs to be cleaned. Cats are creatures of habit and don’t do well with change.

Your cat is getting bullied by another pet

If you have more than one pet or if there are outdoor pets or strays, they could be bullying your cat and causing them to fear going to the litter box.

Territory marking or spraying

Some behaviorists believe cats use their urine marking as a way of communicating with their owners and other cats. Urine marking is a natural instinct for cats. If your cat is urine marking, you will likely notice them standing with their tail upright, while a small amount of urine is sprayed backwards, leaving a scent mark.

Hire a cat sitter

Your cat is bored

Your cat may be acting out and peeing inappropriately simply because they are bored. To prevent this behavior, make sure you get them the proper stimulation and enrichment they need. Here are a few ideas to get your started.

  1. Buy them a cat tree, the taller the better

  2. Buy various toys such as feathers, laser pointers, etc. to keep them busy

  3. Buy them puzzle feeders and put treats inside so they have to find them

Woman playing with a cat

Your cat is stressed

Have you recently had a baby or gotten a new roommate? Are their neighborhood cats that are coming in your yard? Do you have a new pet, a new job with different hours, or did you recently move to a new home?

Any of these situations can trigger stress in your cat and may cause behavioral issues. So, what can you do to prevent inappropriate urination due to stress?

  1. Be sure their litter box is in a quiet but easily accessible space and that it is large enough for your cat to turn around in comfortably. Also, most cats prefer uncovered litter boxes because they don’t feel safe in enclosures.

  2. Make sure you have enough litter boxes. The rule of thumb is one litter box per cat plus one additional box.

  3. Find a litter that is suitable to your cat and stick with it. Frequent changes can cause them undue stress.

  4. Clean the litter boxes often. Some cats won’t use a box if there is any waste in them.

  5. Ensure they have plenty of stimulation and enrichment activities.

  6. Make sure they have a safe place to go when feeling scared. You may also try calming them with a pheromone product such as Feliway diffusers or spray, calming treats, CBD oil, or a prescription from your veterinarian.

Book Cat Care

In conclusion, if you have a cat with a litter box issue, don’t just ignore it and hope it will go away.

Cats who are exhibiting signs of being in pain or distress will oftentimes urinate outside the litter box. This could be a warning sign that your cat may have an illness, and it needs immediate veterinary attention.

If it is a medical issue, your veterinarian will develop a treatment plan for your cat. If the problem is behavioral, your vet will advise you on how you can change your cat’s behavior.

My goal is to teach you how to help your cat stop peeing inappropriately and live the happiest, healthiest life possible.

If you’ve had issues with your cat peeing outside the litter box, please share your experience in the comments below.

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