Cat owner cleaning floor as cat watches.

One of the most compelling reasons why people love living with cats is their natural ability to locate and use their own bathroom. Of course, not everyone enjoys scooping litter, but it sure is handy that pet cats instinctively know what to do and where to do it. 

Accordingly, when a cat pees outside the litter box it can be absolutely bewildering. There is likely a reason (or multiple explanations) why they’re missing the mark. Since it’s not something anyone can easily ignore, it’s time to figure out what’s really going on – and what you can do to help.

Getting Checked Out

It is immensely frustrating when a cat pees outside the litter box.  For one, it’s very smelly. After the irritation wears off, though, it’s really important to get to the bottom of why it’s happening. Since litter box issues can be directly connected to various health problems, your cat should be examined.

Ruling Things Out

Litter box aversion requires quick action, intervention and support. It can be explained by any of the following possible medical problems:

  • Arthritis, sore joints, and diminished mobility can make it difficult for a senior cat to get to their litter box, climb inside it, or fear getting stuck inside the box. If their box is up or downstairs, consider moving it to the ground floor and be sure it is shallow enough for them. 
  • Excessive thirst caused by diabetes mellitus, hyperthyroidism, or kidney disease, can lead to an overly full bladder. A cat may not make it to their litter box in time.
  • Infections in the bladder or urinary tract can make urination very painful. Bladder stones or blockages, or crystals in the urine can also cause bladder inflammation, resulting in the urgent need to pee.

If your cat’s diagnostics cannot explain litter box aversion, we may turn our focus to behavioral concerns.

When a Healthy Cat Pees Outside the Litter Box

An otherwise healthy cat that chooses to go elsewhere may need some help at home. Litter box aversion can be explained by stress or anxiety. Have you recently moved? Does your cat live in a multispecies household? Do they feel threatened by another member of the household, or have anxiety about their environment?

Perhaps your cat doesn’t like the location of their litter box. They may not like the litter or the style of the litter box. For example, try to remove the hood (if applicable) to see if they’ll enter the box without it.

You may have to start at the beginning again. After meals, take your cat to the litter box and encourage them to use it. Use rewards and praise to positively reinforce this pattern.

Other Sanity-Saving Tips

If your cat continues to pee in a specific spot that is not their litter box, you can try:

  • Moving their food and water bowls to that spot
  • Moving their litter box near the area
  • Spraying the area with a specialty product that neutralizes cat urine
  • Laying down sticky tape in that area to deter them

When a cat pees outside their box it can be very upsetting, and explains many surrenders to adoption facilities. To reduce your frustration and help your cat stay exactly where they are, our team members at Brodie Animal Hospital are always here to help.