5 Reasons Your Cat is Urinating Outside the Box
If your cat has decided to ditch their litter box, you may wonder what caused this frustrating—and smelly—behavior change. Your cat’s new bathroom habits may feel like a personal attack, but typically they are not punishing you personally, but crying for help. Our Island Animal Hospital team shares five common reasons why your cat may be urinating outside the litter box, and how you can get them back to their own bathroom.
Your cat may have an underlying condition
When you notice any behavior change in your cat, the first step is to evaluate their health, because medical conditions can cause your cat to urinate outside their litter box. Conditions include:
- Urinary tract infection
- Kidney disease
- Crystalluria (i.e., urinary crystals)
- Bladder stones
- Hyperthyroidism (i.e., hyperactive thyroid gland)
- Feline idiopathic cystitis (FIC)
- Degenerative joint disease
First rule out an underlying medical condition as the cause of your cat’s inappropriate urination by scheduling an appointment at Island Animal Hospital
for a thorough physical examination and diagnostic testing.
Your cat’s litter box may need cleaning
Cats by nature keep themselves clean and prefer their litter box to be clean and fresh. If you have been slacking on your litter box-cleaning duties, your cat may have decided to find a cleaner toilet. To keep your cat’s litter box clean and enticing, scoop the litter at least twice daily, and clean and disinfect the box and change the litter completely weekly.
Your cat’s litter box may be in an undesirable location
Cats can be fussy about litter box placement, and the area you choose should meet the following cat-approved standards:
- Private — Your cat’s need for privacy when they relieve themselves comes from their primal fear of a predator ambushing them when their guard is down. Put your cat’s litter box in a private location (e.g., a seldom-used guest bathroom) that will help your pet feel safe.
- Quiet — Do not place the litter box in a laundry utility room or near loud appliances, which can be stressful for your cat.
- Away from food — For sanitary reasons, keep your cat’s litter box away from their food dishes.
- Convenient — You may want to hide your cat’s litter box out of sight, but your cat may not want to use a box that’s too far away, and may seek out a more convenient location. Encourage your cat to use their litter box by placing the box in an area they commonly frequent.
- Availability — Multiple cats with too-few litter boxes can lead to inappropriate urination. The rule is one box per cat, plus one extra, to meet the cats’ needs for elimination and cleanliness. Also, place litter boxes in different areas of your home, including at least one per level.
Your cat may not like the litter box design
Your cat is unlikely to use a litter box that doesn’t meet their needs. Choose a litter box with the following design factors in mind:
- Length — Cats need room to move around in the litter box. Ideally, the litter box length should be one and a half times the length of your cat.
- Height — Ensure the sides of the litter box are low enough that your cat can easily climb in and out. Overweight or senior cats in particular may have difficulty getting in and out of a deep litter box.
- Coverings — Most cats prefer an open litter box. Covered boxes are often too small for your cat to comfortably turn around, and they trap odors inside—which you may appreciate, but your cat will not.
Your cat may not appreciate their litter
A change of litter brand or type could be why your cat is avoiding their litter box. Cats have a sensitive sense of smell, so resist the urge to get a scented litter to mask litter box odors. Most cats prefer unscented, clumping litter, and fine-particle litter rather than pellets or crystals, because that seems to feel better on their foot pads. If you decide to switch your cat’s litter, gradually mix the new litter with their current litter and give them time to adjust.
Your cat may be stressed
Urinating outside the litter box may be your cat’s response to stressors in their environment. Cats like predictability, and do not generally react well to change, such as moving, adding new household pets or family members, or losing family members, and changes in routine can trigger stress that results in abnormal behaviors.
If your last google search was, “How do I get cat pee out of the carpet,” you need some help. Contact Island Animal Hospital to schedule an appointment so we can find the cause of—and a solution to—your cat’s inappropriate bathroom behavior.