Is Your Cat a Vertical Pee-er?

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Dealing with a cat who pees outside the litter box is one of the most frustrating issues cat parents may be faced with. We’ve previously addressed the various reasons why cats eliminate outside the litter box, including litter box aversion, urine marking, hormonal problems, and medical issues, here. Today, I’d like to address a less common, but nonetheless frustrating version of litter box behavior: cats who pee standing up, or vertical pee-ers, as I like to call them.

The difference between vertical peeing and spraying

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. And yes, female cats do this, too – we’ve got our own resident pee-er with Ruby.

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.

Anatomy of a vertical pee-er

After I adopted Ruby, I couldn’t figure out why there was frequently a small amount of urine just behind the litter box. Since the box is placed in a corner against the wall, I knew that she couldn’t possibly have squatted back there, so how did the urine end up outside the box? After a couple of days of being puzzled, I finally caught her in the act.

She started out squatting and peeing horizontally, but slowly and gradually raised and wiggled her rear end throughout the duration of her peeing. A normal size litter box wasn’t high enough to contain the urine.

And so the search for the perfect litter box began.

The search for the perfect litter box

I don’t like covered boxes. Most cats don’t like them either. They don’t like not being able to see while they’re doing their business. If covered boxes aren’t scooped immediately after the cat deposits something in them, the stench becomes concentrated inside the box (think of a covered litter box as the feline equivalent to a Port-a-Potty). I also like to be able to see what my cats are doing when they’re using the box. Some health problems first manifest through unusual behavior in the litter box, such as straining.

Several friends suggested that I get a large Rubbermaid or clear plastic storage container with high sides and cut an opening on one side that’s low enough so the cats can easily get in and out. This can work well, but it also looks pretty ugly. While my litter boxes aren’t the center of my decor, they are in pretty visible spots (I don’t believe in hiding them in a dark corner), so I wanted something that was at least somewhat pleasing to the eye.

There are a number of high-sided, uncovered litter boxes on the market, and I tried most of them. Most worked 90% of the time. The other 10% of the time, I dealt with cleaning up urine that had spilled over the edges of the box. Both of my litter boxes sit on carpet, so this was not fun. Thankfully, the Anti-Icky Poo enzyme based cleaner I’ve been using for years completely eliminates urine stains and odors, even on (white!) carpet. For extra insurance, I put a Drymate Litter Mat underneath the boxes. Now all I had to do when we had spillage was throw the mat in the washer, but I was still nervous about some urine making it past the mat onto the carpet.

The NVR Miss

Thankfully, I discovered the NVR Miss litter box a year or so after I adopted Ruby. At the time, it was the highest box on the market, and I think it still is.

This box is everything a litter box should be. It’s roomy. It has a strategically positioned cat-friendly entrance that makes it easy even for senior cats to get in and out of the box. The clever design (a slight protrusion across from the entrance) provides a cue for cats to align themselves lengthwise, so you won’t have to worry about urine going outside the box at the low entrance. The sides are high enough even for Miss Ruby and her vertical peeing gyrations.

While I was more concerned about urine spillage, another nice benefit of the high sides is that it also keeps litter contained inside the box. Ruby and Allegra are litter kickers and they both get pretty energetic when it comes to covering what they produce. This box has kept that issue to a minimum. Another plus is that the smooth finish allows litter clumps to easily release from the box’s walls – something that has not been the case with some of the other boxes, where parts of the clumps would stick to the box’s sides and then break into small pieces.

Litter box issues should never be taken lightly, but if you’ve ruled out medical and behavioral issues, you may just have a vertical pee-er!

*The Conscious Cat is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. This means that if you decide to purchase through any of our links, we get a small commission. We only spread the word about products and services we’ve either used or would use ourselves.

12 Comments on Is Your Cat a Vertical Pee-er?

  1. Timmy Tomcat
    August 10, 2019 at 8:24 am (3 months ago)

    We took notice of this post right away as Toby is one of these vertical kitties. Dad went through a time of figuring out what the heck was going on as Toby did not do this when he was young but developed the habit after about 5 years old. Of course the vet was consulted and no issues. Dad said he was in the box so that was half the battle. We now have two large covered rubbermaid containers. One is 45 gallon and the other 30 gallon. Both have two hole cut in for easy in and out. Buddy who is pushing 20 uses the bigger one as he can walk in one door look out the other and let go. They work great and we have not need of loads of litter boxes “one for each cat and an extra.” which is ridiculous. In fact our family of 6 only use the larger box leaving the smaller one needing a scoop every other day. Love big boxes

    Reply
  2. Allison
    August 8, 2019 at 2:10 pm (3 months ago)

    My youngest is a vertical peer. She uses a covered litter box. I’m saving this article for other options.

    Reply
  3. Karen Hernandez
    August 6, 2019 at 7:49 am (4 months ago)

    I too had this issue with an adoptee – since the litter box is under a shelf in my laundry room, I took aluminum foil and taped it to the wall behind the box, letting the edge of the foil drape into the box and wrapping it around the two sides, taping it in place to the shelf bottom. No more puddles on the floor!

    Reply
  4. Terri A Garcia
    August 6, 2019 at 6:59 am (4 months ago)

    I’m so glad to see this article. We rescued a 20 lb ginger male kitty last year and a few months I actually watched him go and it goes straight out from his back end and over the top of the litter boxes. I was shocked! We immediately got rid of our litter boxes and bought 2 35 or so gallon tubs to use as litter boxes. They have worked perfectly. Sometimes he comes pretty close to the top but has never once gone over since the change. Makes me wonder if that’s why his previous owner got rid of him. Such a simple solution, I would done anything to make it work and could never given him back to shelter over this. Thanks for posting..I really thought I had the only weirdo but very loveable kitty. ♡

    Reply
  5. Dana
    August 6, 2019 at 1:10 am (4 months ago)

    I have a very tall kitty (part Maine Coon) who is also a vertical pee-er. The only litter box that will contain her pee is the Modkat Flip Litter Box which is over 16 inches tall. I use without the lid or inserts.

    Reply
  6. Mahshtay
    August 5, 2019 at 9:03 pm (4 months ago)

    My kitty does that every once in a while so I finally switched out his traditional litter box to one of those large, clear storage boxes (the kind you can get at Target). It has higher sides and he’s also a very tall kitty. That has stopped the urine from hitting the wall.

    Reply
  7. Dinah
    August 5, 2019 at 8:11 pm (4 months ago)

    My newest rescue was hitting the wall. I then purchased ‘Nature’s Miracle Just For Cats Advanced High Sided Corner Litter Box’. (Chewy). Did the trick. The thing I like about it the MOST is the anti-stick surface. I’m not fighting the clumps of litter. Swish, and done. While we don’t necessarily use the corner box because of the layout of the ‘potty’ room, we like the entrance and high sides. We had to get 2 because of two cats. Can never figure out which box the ‘high-sider’ wants to use. 🙁

    Reply
  8. Valmae Walsh
    August 5, 2019 at 6:50 pm (4 months ago)

    Hi thank you for that, my cat Harry does this, I was teaching him to use the toilet and he completely misses. Ha, Ha

    Reply
  9. Kim
    August 5, 2019 at 6:15 pm (4 months ago)

    Hi,
    I clicked on your link above for litter boxes and it brought me to the part of your guide for litter boxes, litter, and accessories. I was happy to see that we have 2 products for our cat that you like! We use the smaller Drymate Litter Mat with the cat paw pattern on it for in front of his litter box (2 actually – 1 in front of each). We also use Dr. Elsey’s litter. Glad to see some of the things we have for Rocco are Conscious Cat approved/recommended! 😉

    Reply
  10. Andrea
    August 5, 2019 at 2:37 pm (4 months ago)

    I have a couple of vertical urinators. I’ve tried the giant hooded boxes but the hood just directs the urine out the back of the box. I’ve used them without the hoods and they usually work just fine. However, for one of vertical guys I finally bought a Rubbermaid container. It works great for him but scooping it is sometimes a nightmare. The bottom of it is not flat. But that’s where we’re at for now.

    Reply
  11. Sharyl
    August 5, 2019 at 2:35 pm (4 months ago)

    These are THE absolute best boxes. First heard of them here from Ingrid. You can request an extension in the comments when you purchase and they will send you a paypal invoice for $10, so worth it. They are super easy to keep clean and for us not a lot of scratches. The cats (4) love them. We have at least 2 vertical pee-ers but it seems like the other 2 think it’s fun now and try too lol

    Reply
  12. Jody A Vernay
    August 5, 2019 at 11:04 am (4 months ago)

    I have a vertical pee-er. He just turned 8 years old and the first 6 years he lived here he did not do that! And even now, he doesn’t do it all the time. I was like you, puzzled at first, until one day I caught him in the act. I gently pushed down on his back while he was in the act, and he squatted then. I have had him to the vet to investigate possible health conditions that might of caused this “new” behavior. My vet assured me there is nothing wrong healthwise. I tried the boxes you recommend here, but often they were not high enough. I now use extra large hooded boxes. I noticed the tail playing a part in this behavior. If his tail is contained in a down position, no standing while peeing. If there is room for the tail to raise up high, the vertical peeing ensues. Just some FYI. Love you Ingrid, Allegra and Ruby

    Reply

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