Cats peeing outside the litter box: the causes and remedies

Brown and white cat laying next to pee stain on carpet

Cats frequently experience urinary problems, and improper peeing outside of the litterbox can be so upsetting to cat owners that some may think about adopting new cats. You should be aware that there is still hope for your cat before you take this path.

Not only can you discover the best ways to handle your cat's urinary difficulties, but you might also be able to avoid some of them altogether. Discover below the causes of your cat's incorrect litterbox behavior and how to put a stop to it.

Why Do Cats Pee Outside the Litter Box?

It's crucial to comprehend the cause of your cat's improper urination before you can start to fix a litter box issue. One of two common causes for cats to eliminate outside of the litter box is either a health issue or a behavioral issue.

Medical Problems

The first thing to do if your cat is urinating improperly is to take it to the doctor. The veterinarian will examine your cat physically and examine a urine sample. Your veterinarian will suggest a course of action based on the findings. Numerous urological conditions are typical in cats, including:

  • Bladder stones: Some cats develop actual stones in the bladder that may cause irritation and even blockage. Crystals may accompany bladder stones or be a precursor to stone formation. If your vet suspects bladder stones, X-rays will be needed to determine the size and quantity of the stones. Smaller bladder stones might be dissolved with a special diet, but larger stones may need to be removed surgically (cystotomy). It's common for a cat with bladder stones to also have a UTI. If so, antibiotic treatment is necessary. 
  • Idiopathic cystitis: The term cystitis means inflammation of the bladder. Idiopathic means the cause is unknown. Cats with cystitis often have hematuria (blood in the urine). Testing a urine sample is essential because the blood may only be detected microscopically. If your vet determines that your cat's urine contains blood, but there are no crystals, bacteria or stones present, the likely diagnosis will be idiopathic cystitis. Idiopathic cystitis is usually treated with a combination of diet change and environmental enrichment. Pain and antianxiety medications may also be used.
  • Metabolic disease: Symptoms of chronic kidney disease may include increased urination. Other metabolic diseases that may increase the amount of urination your cat produces are liver disease, diabetes, and thyroid issues. If your cat has been drinking more, or you have been finding yourself needing to clean the litter box more often, your veterinarian may want to run some blood work to check for these issues.
  • Urinary tract infection or UTI: Urinary tract infections are rare in young cats, but can be a common cause of urinary issues in older cats, either by itself or in conjunction with other medical conditions affecting the urinary system. Bacteria in the urine may cause an inflammatory response in the urinary tract. Antibiotics are used to treat a urinary tract infection. Your vet will likely recommend follow-up testing after the antibiotics are finished to make sure the infection is gone.

The disorder is commonly known as feline lower urinary tract disease, or FLUTD, when one or more urine problems are persistent. Your veterinarian could suggest a specific urinary diet and/or supplements to assist the urinary system if your cat has FLUTD.

Particularly in male cats, urinary issues might cause a significant urinary blockage. Do not put off going to the vet if your cat has urinary problems. Your cat may have a partial obstruction or blockage if little or no pee is coming out despite your cat's posturing to urinate. In this situation, take your cat to the clinic right away since the condition might swiftly turn fatal.

When a cat has a nonurinary health issue, it might occasionally urinate inappropriately. Your cat may be eliminating outside the box as a result of discomfort or pain in another part of the body. If no health issues are discovered during the first examination or urinalysis, it is a good idea to have your veterinarian request extensive lab testing. Lab tests can identify major health issues like or renal disease, enabling your veterinarian to start treating you right away.

Behavioral Reasons 

If no medical cause is found for your cat's inappropriate urination, then it's important to determine what factors are causing your cat to behave this way.

Dirty Litter Box

Cats are picky when it comes to their latrines. Your cat can just find the litter box to be excessively unclean. Alternatively, it can be spotless yet awkward to use. For instance, your cat can find the box uncomfortable to use because it is too tiny. Or perhaps it's at a spot your cat doesn't like. Your cat could be bothered by this if it's covered. The litter may smell strongly or feel unpleasant on your cat's paws. Too few litter boxes might also be a problem since cats appreciate having options.


Perhaps your cat is trying to inform you that things are stressful at home. It might be trying to communicate with the other animal in the house that it doesn't like them by marking its territory. If the other animal is out and about, your cat could feel it is too risky to use the restroom. In addition, if a new person moves into the house, your cat could "act out."

Cats are extremely sensitive to even the slightest changes in their surroundings. Make sure your cat has a peaceful retreat where it can escape, regardless of the stressor. This sanctuary shouldn't be accessible to the new animal or person.

Old Urine Smells

Even after you clean up the mess where your cat urinated, the odor may linger. Your sense of smell is substantially worse than a cat's. There is a very significant likelihood that your cat is returning to the area because of the scent if past pee odors are still present in your home.

How to Stop Inappropriate Litter Box Behavior

The fact that cats don't like using the litter box is probably the most frequent cause of improper cat urination. It's time to review your litter boxes if your cat is urinating all over the place and you've ruled out any medical problems.

  • Begin by making sure your cat's litter boxes are as clean and desirable as possible. Choose the largest litter boxes possible and try to keep them uncovered. Your cat may feel cramped inside a covered box, especially if it's a large or fluffy cat.
  •  in a quiet yet accessible area of the home. Make sure they're not placed in the area where your cat eats or drinks. For the sake of your cat's privacy and your own decor, consider a decorative screen to separate the cat litter box area from other areas.
  • Make sure there's a box on each level of your home.
  • For older cats, the litter box should be easy for your senior cat to get into. Consider getting a shallow cat box or placing a ramp at the entrance of the box. 
  • Find a good cat litter that your cat likes. Ideally, choose an unscented, scoopable litter that cats love, such as Dr. Elsey's Cat Attract. 
  • Many veterinarians recommend having one litter box per cat, plus one extra. This means having two litter boxes even in a one-cat household. One reason for this is that some cats like to use one box for urine and the other for stool. The other reason is to prevent competition between cats for litter box territory.
  • Make sure your home is a happy place for your cat. Add plenty of vertical space and feline enrichment to make your cat's environment optimal. Remember to  and provide toys. If environmental changes are not effective, your vet may recommend a supplement or prescription medication to reduce stress and anxiety in your cat. 
  • It's essential that you thoroughly clean any inappropriate areas where a cat has urinated using a , such as an enzymatic cleaner, to completely eradicate the odor. Otherwise, your cat may continue to pee there.

In general, being a responsible, attentive cat owner is all it takes to halt improper cat urinating or prevent it completely. Maintain your cat's health by taking it to the doctor for regular checkups and whenever problems arise. Reduce tension in your cat's surroundings and make an effort to maintain a cat-friendly, calm household.

  • How long can a cat go without peeing?

    Cats can go up to two days, or 48 hours, without urinating.

  • How do you stop a cat from peeing on the bed?

    Identifying the cause of your cat's bed-wetting may help you find the solution. Does your cat have a litter box? Try giving each cat its own box if they are sharing. Is there a lot of traffic near the litter box? Allow it some solitude! Has your bed been urinated on by other pets? That could be the perfect invitation for this one. To ensure that no stench is left behind, wash your linens using an enzymatic cleaning solution. Do you have cat fights? One may "mark" its area in this way. To maintain harmony, make sure each person has ample personal space and consider using a pheromone diffuser. Finally, and most crucially, a cat urinating on your bed can be an indication that it has a UTI or another bladder-related medical condition, in which case an immediate trip to the doctor is required.

  • Why is my cat peeing blood?

    Hematuria, sometimes known as your cat peeing blood, can be caused by a variety of conditions, including cystitis, bladder stones, feline lower urinary system disorders, and more. You should visit your local veterinarian emergency hospital right away because this is a serious issue.

If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.


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