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Why Do Cats Pee Outside The Litter Box?

Updated on December 31, 2012

Litter Box Problems

Cat culture and behavior is much different from human culture and behavior. To us, using the toilet is an act of cleanliness and necessity. Culturally it is expected of most humans. Litter box use has different motivations. If you have a cat that isn't using the litter box or is using it only part of the time, the cat is trying to tell you something. Cats only "miss" the box or go elsewhere with a reason. Let's explore what these reasons are.

The Difference Between Marking And Urination

Cats use urine for two purposes. The first purpose is urination (elimination) the other is for marking. Marking leaves a scent on the item that is unique to a given cat. Typically if a cat is peeing on a vertical surface by backing up and spraying urine on the surface it is a marking behavior. If a cat is peeing on a horizontal surface and trying to bury it afterwards the cat is often improperly eliminating outside of the box. It is important to know the difference as there are different causes and solutions.

If it is marking (vertical peeing), a product like Feliway may be of great assistance to you. It is a cat pheromone and can make the surface smell "friendly" so that the cat has no need to mark. Marking can also be a problem when there is an influence from outside cats, feral cats, or other indoor cats. Watch your cats interact to see if there are social problems. If your cat hasn't been nurtured, this is often a cause of marking behaviors. Get kitty fixed and the peeing may cease.

Never Punish A Peeing Cat

Cats have different thought processes than humans. If you punish a cat that is urinating the cat will often believe that the punishment is for the act or urination rather than for urinating outside of the box. This will cause the cat stress and often increases the frequency of the problem. Do not yell or punish the cat. Also, do not pick up the cat and place it in the litter box. The cat will blame the litter box for your actions and then will likely give up the box for good.

If your cat is having elimination problems and peeing outside of the litter box you should evaluate the cat's environment and take the cat to the vet. Psychological, environmental, social, and medical problems are the cause of improper elimination. In order to help your kitty (and your sanity) you will need to know what the cause is.

Take The Cat To The Vet

Cats often will pee outside of the box when their health is suffering. Kidney failure is a large cause for peeing outside of the litter box. Simple urinary tract infections are another cause of improper elimination. If it burns to pee in the box, a cat will often blame the box and pee elsewhere. A round of antibiotics will help this kitty the most. Thyroid problems, muscular skeletal problems, and inflammatory bowel disease can also be problems. A vet can check out your kitty and treat the underlying problem. This will typically solve the litter box issues.

Are The Boxes Clean, Comfortable, And Plentiful?

Make sure that you have one box for each cat plus one more additional box. If you have a cat with medical issues make sure there are lots of boxes so that kitty can make it to the box when the urge hits. Also make sure that they are low enough and large enough. If your cat was declawed, you can look for very fine grain litter. This is less likely to hurt your kitty's feet. Lastly, clean the boxes a few times a day, more if you have cats with bathroom issues. Keep the box by some plastic bags and scoop it out when you have to use your bathroom. Also, change all of the litter at least every other day. Scooping litter is fine as long as you do full litter changes every few days. Cats can smell the urine and feces even after scooping. You don't like using a dirty bathroom, neither does your cat. If the bathroom is dirty, hard to get to, or uncomfortable your cat will find someplace more comfortable to do its business and you won't like where it chooses.

Psychological Issues

Peeing gives a cat a sense of ownership. It smells like them and this makes the cat happy. If a cat is feeling depressed or anxious (or threatened by other cats) it will often get territorial and pee outside of the box. This can be marking or peeing. Help your cat cope. Play with your cat, look for problems with other cats in the home, see if feral cats are a problem, watch your cat for peeing patterns. Solving the stress may solve your problems.

Medication And Medical Intervention

Ask your vet about Prozac. Prozac for the owner and the cat can help the situation. A calm cat feels secure and doesn't need to mark or pee territorially and a calm owner doesn't worry the cat. 1-2 weeks after starting Prozac your problem may vanish. If it doesn't work there are anti anxiety medications or hormones that can be tried. If all else fails ask your vet for a talented behaviorist who will be able to analyze your cat and help you solve the peeing problems.


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    • Lwelch profile image

      Lena Welch 4 years ago from USA

      Interesting. Another idea for missing cats is to check the cat to box size ratio. We have started to use plastic storage tubs with doors cut into them for our 16 pound cat who has bowel issues.

    • lifelovemystery profile image

      Michelle Orelup 4 years ago from Houston, TX

      I have a female stand and for whatever reason she stands when she urinates. Her litter box has a great big dome to ensure that her waste stays inside the box.

    • sleepylog profile image

      Sleepylog 5 years ago from Australia

      I find that my cats only ever pee outside of their litter boxes if it needed cleaning. They are females though, but I've heard male cats can be more troublesome, often preferring to pee anywhere but in the litter box. It might have something to do with wanting to mark their territory, but I'm no cat expert so I really can't be sure.