What to Do When Your Cat Pees Outside the Litter Box

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Dealing with a cat who pees outside the litter box is one of the most frustrating issues cat guardians may be faced with. It’s also one of the most common reasons why cats are returned to shelters. The reasons why cats eliminate outside the litter box vary, and include litter box aversion, urine marking, hormonal problems, and medical issues.

The difference between urinating outside the box and spraying

Cat guardians often confuse urinating and spraying. Cats who are urinating outside the box usually squat and deposit larger amounts on horizontal surfaces. Urine spraying, on the other hand, is a territorial behavior. Cats who spray stand upright and deposit a small amount of urine on vertical surfaces.  Even though both male and female cats spray, the behavior is mostly seen in unneutered male cats, and occurs more often in multicat households, although even a single cat may spray.

Spraying is not to be confused with vertical peeing. Some cats, both male or female, will urinate inside the litter box either standing up, or they start urinating in a squatting position and then gradually stand up as they finish.

Your first step: a trip to your veterinarian

Anytime a cat stops using the litter box, a trip to the veterinarian should always be your first step. Inappropriate urination can be an indicator of a serious health problem. Your veterinarian will perform a thorough physical exam and a urinalysis. Bloodwork and radiographs may also be necessary to diagonse the problem.

Addressing behavioral problems

If there are no medical problems, your best bet is to work with your veterinarian and/or a feline behaviorist to identify what is triggering the inappropriate urination. Sometimes, the solution can be as simple as adding an additional litter box, changing the location or type of litter box, or changing the type of litter you’re using. Long standing issues may require some more intense detective work.

In multicat households, inappropriate urination can be caused by territorial issues. Treating the problem will require analyzing the dynamics of your entire household, with an eye to identifying what causes territorial stress and tension between cats.

Cats do not urinate outside the litter box out of spite

One of the biggest myths around litter box issues is the idea that cats pee outside the box because they’re angry at you, or because they’re getting back at you for something you did. They may urinate outside the box because something in their environment is stressing them out, such as a new family member, a guardian who travels frequently, new furniture, or any other major changes in the household, but they do it because they are upset with something in their environment, not with you.

Thoroughly remove urine stains and odors

Anytime a cat pees outside the litter box, it’s important to thoroughly clean the area, because cats are attracted back to the same area if there’s even just a residual scent of urine. There are a number of effective stain and odor removers, you can find some of the best here. Don’t use ammonia based cleaners as they can intensify the smell of urine. One of the best products to completely eliminate urine odors is the Critterzone Air Purifier (see the banner below this post for more information.) This deceptively small unit eliminates odors completely: simply mop up excess urine, then place the unit upside down on the damp spot for about 30 minutes.

A blacklight* can help you find stains invisible to the naked eye.

Holistic remedies

Safe Space for Cats* is an effective remedy for cats whose inappropriate urination is caused by territorial issues. Some cats may respond to herbal calming remedies. Reiki can help reduce stress in households with territorial issues.

Medication

If none of the steps to correct behavioral causes of inappropriate urination are successful, cat guardians may need to consider anti-anxiety medication in conjunction with behavioral modification.

The litter box

Sometimes, the litter box itself is the cause of the problem. Too few boxes, the wrong type of box, the wrong type of litter, a box that isn’t scooped frequently enough, can all contribute to inapproriate urination. Please read How to Prevent Litter Box Problems for more information.

*These are affiliate links, which means that I will receive a small commission from any purchases.

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The Conscious Cat is an award winning website published by writer and cat expert Ingrid King, author of Buckley's Story and Purrs of Wisdom. Here at The Conscious Cat, we're passionate about cats. Our mission is to educate cat guardians so that every cat, and every cat's human, can have a happy, healthy life together.

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On this site, you will find expert advice from a seasoned cat consultant. The Conscious Cat features articles on cat health, cat nutrition, cat behavior, cat lifestyle, pet loss, and, of course, pictures of cats. We'll bring you product and book reviews, as well as news from around the cat world.

We'll also share Purrs of Wisdom: lessons in conscious living, inspired by the cats who share our lives. Other features include our Mews and Nips; fascinating feline stories from around the globe, and Allegra's World and Ruby's Reflections; written from the perspective of Ingrid's two feline companions. After all, who better than a cat to teach us a thing or two about how to live a joyful life!

And let's not forget, we have a soft spot for tortoiseshell cats and their unique personalities, also known as "tortitude."

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This post is sponsored by Pod

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Alamo-cat

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