How to Stop a Cat From Peeing in the House

Help! My cat won't use the litterbox!

Not using the litterbox for urination is one of the most common behavior problems in cats. If you want to stop your cat from peeing in the house, the first step is to make sure that it is, indeed, a behavior problem and not a medical problem. Make an appointment with your cat's veterinarian to rule out a urinary tract infection or other medical problem first. A simple urine test can often be done right in the office while you wait. A course of antibiotics to treat a urinary tract infection may get your cat back in the litterbox much quicker and more reliably than any behavior modification! If she does have a behavior problem, you are going to want to make the litterbox more desirable and make the area in your house she is peeing in less desirable.

Show your cat that the litterbox is a nice place to potty

If your cat has been given a clean bill of health then he probably has a behavioral problem. The first step you want to take is making sure his litterbox is as desirable to use as possible. You should have one more litterbox than the number of cats you have in the household. If you have three cats, then you should have four litterboxes in the house. This is true even if only one of the cats is peeing in the house! Ideally, the litterboxes should be located in different areas, not side by side. In addition, make sure to scoop the litterboxes daily. Some cats will refuse to use a dirty litterbox. Most cats prefer open top litterboxes, not the covered variety. Covered boxes can trap and concentrate the odors, making it undesirable for the cat. (I hate those portable toilets at the fair for the same reason!) Most cats also prefer the finer texture of clumping litter. Avoid litters with a strong perfume odor. Avoid using cleansers if you dump the litter entirely to clean the box.  The odor the cleansers leave behind can be disagreeable to the cat and keep him away from the box.  Scrubbing with hot water is sufficient.  Feline Pine is an alternative litter that your cat may like. If you find a litter your cat likes, stick with it!

Keep your cat's personality in mind. If your cat is timid, they may be too nervous to use a litterbox in a laundry room when the washer or dryer is running. In multi-cat households, one cat may feel "trapped" by another when using a covered box or being forced to go into a small bathroom to use the litterbox.

Discourage the cat from returning to the area she soiled

The second step is getting your cat to stop using the new "litterbox" that she has chosen! You probably call this alternative litterbox by a different name - your carpet, your sofa, or your bed. She probably chose this place for a reason, she likes it. And now that she has urinated here, she will smell the urine and have even more reason to continue the habit.

First, you need to eliminate as much of the odor as possible. If it is on carpet, use multiple clean cloths and firm pressure to soak up as much urine as possible. Then, pour a small amount of warm water onto the stain to dilute the remaining urine and again use clean cloths and firm pressure to soak up the liquid. At this point you're ready to use a carpet cleaner. Equalizer Carpet Stain and Odor Eliminator and Anti-Icky-Poo are great carpet cleaners for pet smells and stains. Equalizer is an enzymatic cleaner while Anti-Icky-Poo has live bacteria. Every few days go back to the area of carpet and see if you can smell the urine. You may find the smell comes back even if the cat hasn't urinated there again. If you can smell the urine, the cat definitely can! Re-treat the area.

Second, deter the cat from returning to the area. Depending on the situation this can be easy or difficult. Make sure you've followed the steps to make the litterbox desirable as well as this may result in him choosing a new alternative "litterbox". If the urination is occurring in a room where you can close the door and keep the cat out, this is an easy solution. As an alternative, you can sprinkle a small amount (~1/4 teaspoon) of crushed mothballs on the carpet where the cat urinated. The strong odor will deter him. This is not a good solution if you have dogs or small children in the house as mothballs are toxic if ingested. Putting an upside down plastic carpet runner so that the spike side is up over the area will also keep the cat from returning. Use common sense, multiple other options may be available depending on the situation. If your cat likes to pee on clothes or towels on the floor, keep them picked up. If he urinates on small bath or area rugs, it may be easiest to eliminate them from your house. Perhaps it's time to redecorate and you can move a large piece of furniture over the cat's favorite new "litterbox". Or perhaps you can move a real litterbox to the area the cat prefers to use.

Help your cat relax

For some cats, urinating outside the box can be a form of marking their territory. Feliway diffusers or spray can lessen their anxiety and thus their desire to mark their territory with urine. Feliway is a synthetic feline pheremone that makes cats feel more comfortable and secure in the area they smell it. While Feliway is easy to use, it should be used in conjunction with the other techniques for maximum success.

If you suspect your cat is marking, this article will help you distinguish between marking and non-marking behaviors. If your cat is peeing in the house to mark it's territory, use these techniques in conjunction with the ones mentioned above.

Remember...

 Getting into the mind of a cat can be a tricky thing! She may use her litterbox reliably and stop peeing in the house for a period of time and then relapse. Try to be patient and remember the tips above to "convince" her to do what you want! Always remember to have your cat rechecked at her veterinarian's office if she relapses and does not improve with behavioral modification. Just because she did not have a medical problem last time doesn't mean the same is still true.

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