If your cat has suddenly started peeing outside their litter box it can be a concerning sign for pet parents. Our Santa Barbara vets share a few reasons why cats urinate outside their litter box and tips to help this disturbing behavior.
Why Cats Pee Outside The Litter Box
First of all, when your cat is showing distressing new behaviors, it is important to consider their health. Cats will often pee outside of their litter box if they are suffering from a bladder infection or severe bladder inflammation. It is also common for cats to pee somewhere else if they are experiencing high levels of anxiety or stress which results in chemical imbalances in the body.
Before you go any further, if your cat has recently started peeing anywhere that isn't their litter box, it's time to take your kitty to the vet for a checkup.
Other Reasons Why Your Cat May Be Peeing Elsewhere
If your vet rules out health issues as the cause of your cat's new behavior, it is time to look into other possible reasons that your cat is not using their litter box. Some of the most common are listed below.
Recent Changes in The Household
Your cat craves predictability. Problems involving soiling outside of the litter box can be sparked by a change in the household, such as someone moving in, someone moving out, or the arrival of a new pet. Perhaps you have started a new job and are out of the house for long hours.
Make sure you spend a little extra quality time with your kitty helping them to feel safe and secure despite the recent change. With a little extra love and attention, this behavior should resolve itself once your cat feels safe and secure again.
Dirty Litter Box
Cats have a strong sense of smell so one of the common reasons that they won't use their litter box is simply that they don't want to go into a dirty, smelly, litter box. If you use clumping litter, take a few minutes every day to clean the clumps and any solid waste out of your cat's box, and replace the litter weekly. If you use non-clumping litter, be sure to do a full litter change at least twice a week, but if you have a particularly fastidious cat you may need to change the litter every second day to keep your feline friend happy.
Litter Box Position
Strangely enough, cats can be picky about where their litter box is located. Cats want to feel safe and secure when they are in a vulnerable position such as going to the bathroom. If your cat's litter box is placed in a high-traffic area of the home, your cat might not feel comfortable.
It is also important to note that cats will not urinate or defecate near food. This means that your cat may not use their litter box if it is located too near its food and water bowls.
In some cases, cats want more light, or perhaps your cat's litter box is kept in an area that necessitates passing your dog's favorite spot.
Moving your cat's litter box is an easy change to make, that could help to stop your kitty from peeing elsewhere.
Need More Litter Boxes
Having more than one litter box can be helpful, especially in multi-cat households or if your cat is still a kitten, or if your house is quite large with multiple stories.
Make sure that the litter boxes are all easy to access, and if you have a multi-feline home, try having as many litter boxes as you have cats so each cat can have their own.
Dislikes The Style of Their Litter Box
While covered litter boxes are a favorite of pet parents, many cats refuse to use them. Your cat may feel trapped inside these covered boxes, they may find it too dark in a covered litter tray, or the smells may be too strong. Try providing your cat with a standard open litter try to see if that is a better solution.
Size also matters when it comes to litter boxes. If you have a kitten be sure to provide them with a smaller litter box that they can easily access. Make sure that the sides aren't too high for your cat to step over.
On the other hand, if your cat is on the large side, such as a Maine Coon, be sure to provide your large feline with a litter tray that provides plenty of space for shuffling around and scratching.
Finds The Litter Unpleasant
You may think that the type of litter you use doesn't matter, but it might matter very much to your feline friend. Some cats will refuse to use litter boxes lined with litter made from coconut or corn. Cats will not urinate or defecate near their food, and because cat litter made from these substances can smell more like food than a place to relieve oneself, your cat may refuse to use their litter box.
Cats can dislike certain brands of kitty litter. They might find one too hard on their feet, too dusty, too scented, or too clumpy. The best thing to do is try out different types and brands of kitty litter until you find one that your cat is happy to use.
Tricks to Help Stop Your Cat From Peeing Where They Shouldn't
Whatever approach you try, be sure not to yell or punish your cat. Positive reinforcement combined with loving patience is always best.
Change the Meaning of The Space
Besides making your cat's litter box a more pleasant place to go, a helpful approach can be to change the meaning of the place your cat is choosing to urinate or defecate. What this means is, if your cat has started to pee elsewhere, spend time playing with your cat in that place, and give your cat some treats while in that area. Your cat will stop thinking of that part of your house as a place to relieve themself and more as a place to relax and enjoy.
Thoroughly Clean The Area
It will be essential for your sanity, as well as to help deter your cat, to clean the area where your cat has peed to remove all smell. If your cat can smell urine it may encourage them to pee in that spot again. For yourself, of course, there is nothing nice about having a home, bed, sofa, or rug that smells like cat pee. Be sure to use a cleaner that has been formulated to neutralize the smell of pet urine. In some cases, you may need to rent a steam cleaner to help get rid of the pee odor.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.