Why Does My Cat Pee Outside the Litter Box?

Do your cat’s bathroom habits drive you potty?

Cats peeing outside the litter box is a common problem which can happen for many reasons. If your cat has taken up the habit, some detective work is required to get to the bottom of the problem and correct it.

Health Problems

The first step is to work out if your cat has a health problem or if the issue is behavioral. Think about the following questions:

  • Is my cat drinking more? Increased thirst means the cat needs to empty his bladder more often, and they may not always be able to make it to the litter box.
  • Is my cat losing weight? Weight loss can be a sign of health problems linked to increased thirst, such as diabetes, kidney disease or overactive thyroid glands.
  • Is there blood in the urine? This can be a sign of infection or bladder stones.
  • Urinating little and often? Small puddles and frequent urination are signs of bladder discomfort.
  • Excessive grooming? If your cat spends an excessive amount of time washing his rear end, this can be a sign of urinary discomfort.

If you answered “Yes” to any of the above, the problem may be physical, not mental, and a vet checkup is essential. Indeed, any cat that pees inappropriately should first see a vet to check for physical problems.


Your vet will reach a diagnosis by running some of the following tests:

  • A physical exam: The vet checks the size and feel of the bladder for tenderness or discomfort
  • Urine culture: A sample is sent for culture to check if bugs are present
  • Urine analysis: Urine is spun down and the sediment looked at under a microscope to check for crystals which chaff the bladder lining
  • Ultrasound exam: A bladder scan to rule out stones, polyps, or cancer
  • Blood tests: Screening the cat for diabetes, overactive thyroid glands and kidney disease, which can lead to poor bladder control

If the tests are normal or negative, your cat has a behavioral problem.


Behavioral Problems

Cats are fussy about their toilet facilities and easily put-off. Common reasons include:

  • Not liking the cat litter
  • The tray is too smelly
  • Too many other cats use the same tray
  • The tray is not private enough
  • The cat was frightened while using the tray
  • The cat experienced pain while on the tray

What can you do to help?

  • Cat litter: Try different cat litters. Some cats prefer softer litter made of recycled paper, while others prefer the feel of harder litter under their paws. Also, avoided scented cat litters as these offend a cat’s sensitive sense of smell.
  • Tray numbers: The golden rule is: One tray per cat plus one extra. Having two cats means a minimum of three trays.
  • Cleaning: Scoop at least once a day; dump the entire contents once a week and wash the tray.
  • Location: Put the trays in quiet places where the cat has privacy.
  • Security: Avoid placing trays next to a washing machine, which suddenly goes into spin cycle and frightens the cat.
  • Pain: Treat urine infections promptly so the cat doesn’t associate the pain of straining with the litter tray.
  • Deodorize accidents: Clean up urinary accidents with an enzymatic cleaner to remove all traces of scent which could attract the cat back.
  • Pheromones: Using Feliway diffusers in the house helps a cat to relax and reduces stress-related spraying.


Remember, any cat at any age can start peeing outside the box. Distinguishing medical from behavioral causes is vital but can be costly. Wise cat owners invest in pet insurance so their cats can receive prompt treatment and prevent peeing outside the litter box from becoming a habit.

Top Image Photo Credit: Keturah Stickann via Compfight cc

1 Comment
  1. Reply
    Fran 04/03/2016 at 11:22 pm

    Hmm yes it could be medical related, or behavioral, would love to hear of anyone’s experience with this.

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