Peeing outside the litter box is a common issue cat owners face. If your cat is exhibiting this behavior, they aren’t misbehaving to make you mad or spite you. Our Woodinville Animal Hospital and Mobile Services team explains six reasons your cat may be peeing outside the litter box, and ways to address this problem behavior.
#1: Your cat has a medical problem
If your cat is urinating outside the litter box, the first step should be to have your veterinarian evaluate them. Any health problem can cause your cat to eliminate inappropriately. Common medical issues that cause this behavior include:
- Urolithiasis — Stones can develop in a cat’s bladder, causing bladder wall irritation. Struvite and calcium oxalate stones are most common. In some cases, dietary changes can dissolve the stones. If a diet change is ineffective, surgery is necessary to remove the stones.
- Urinary tract infection (UTI) — Bacterial infection can cause inflammation to a cat’s urethra and bladder. These infections are typically responsive to oral antibiotics.
- Feline idiopathic cystitis (FIC) — Stress and bladder lining defects can cause FIC signs, which include difficulty urinating, increased urination frequency, bloody urine, and urinating outside the litter box. Managing FIC typically involves dietary modifications, reducing stress, and administering medications to alleviate pain.
- Kidney disease — Cats don’t have a strong thirst drive, making them prone to kidney disease. Senior cats are especially susceptible. Treatment approaches include dietary changes and fluid therapy.
- Arthritis — Cats who have painful joints may have difficulty navigating the litter box sides’ height, and may choose an easier accessible area to urinate, such as on a rug. If your cat has arthritis, provide a low-sided litter box, or cut an entryway in their current box to ensure your feline friend can easily access the box.
#2: Your cat’s litter box is dirty
Cats have an excellent sense of smell, and they are extremely particular about their litter box hygiene. Follow these tips to ensure your cat’s litter box passes their inspection:
- Scoop frequently — Scoop your cat’s litter box at least twice a day, removing all fecal material and urine clumps.
- Clean regularly — Change your cat’s litter at least once a week, cleaning the box well before replacing the litter.
- Replace the box — Plastic litter boxes absorb urine smells, and you may need to replace the box to appease your cat’s sensitive nose.
#3: Your cat doesn’t appreciate their litter box setup
Cats can be finicky about their litter box setup. Follow these tips to help your cat love their loo:
- Place the box appropriately — Cats appreciate privacy when using the powder room. Place your cat’s litter box in a quiet area where they aren’t likely to be disturbed, but ensure the location is convenient for your cat and easily accessible. In addition, ensure your cat’s litter box is not near their food and water bowls.
- Ensure the box is large enough — Your cat may not use their litter box if the box is too small for their comfort. Ensure the box is as long as your cat is from their nose to their outstretched tail, and as wide as your cat is from their nose to their tail’s base.
- Ensure the litter is acceptable — Most cats prefer unscented clumpable litter, and you should only fill the box about one to two inches.
- Avoid litter box accessories — Most cats don’t appreciate litter box liners or hoods.
#4: You have a multicat household
Cats who live in a multicat household are more likely to pee outside the litter box, especially if one cat is a bully. A good guideline is to provide one box for every household cat plus one extra.
#5: Your cat is stressed or anxious
You may think your cat lives an easy life, but any change in their environment can cause them to experience stress or anxiety. Potential stressors include home construction or at a nearby location, a new household pet, visitors, moving to a new home, a change in your daily routine, observing other pets or wild animals outside, and rearranged furniture. To stop your cat from urinating outside the litter box, you must first determine what is causing their stress, and eliminate the problem if possible. In some cases, synthetic pheromones or anti-anxiety medications may be beneficial.
#6: Your cat smells old urine stains
Your cat has a much more sensitive nose than you, and they can often smell a past accident’s odor. If you don’t clean an accident spot appropriately, your cat may return to the aromatic location when they feel the need to go. To remove a urine odor effectively, follow these tips:
- Blot the spot — Use paper towels or a cloth to absorb as much urine as possible.
- Vacuum the area — Rinse the area using clean water, and remove the liquid using a wet/dry vacuum.
- Douse the spot — Soak the spot with an enzyme cleaner, letting the solution sit for 10 to 15 minutes before blotting with a clean cloth. For older or particularly smelly stains, you may have to reapply the cleaner. Never use ammonia-based products because the compound’s odor may attract your cat to the area.
- Block your cat — Ensure your cat can’t access the scene of the accident during the cleaning process.
The only way to stop your cat from peeing outside the litter box, is to identify the reason for this inappropriate behavior. If your cat is peeing outside the litter box, contact our Woodinville Animal Hospital and Mobile Services team, so we can identify this problem behavior’s cause, and help you devise a management plan.
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