Mar 12
cat in litter

Cat Peeing Outside the Litter Box

Cat’s peeing outside the litter tray is a common problem that can be due to many underlying causes. We need to find the actual cause so that we can reach the best treatment plan, to help your cat. Some of the underlying causes of this might be:

• Litter tray aversion
There are many reasons a kitty may turn their nose up at a litter tray. Cats dislike going in an already used litter tray (litter trays need to be cleaned daily and straight after a poop), they may dislike the substrate used, the position of the tray, or the tray itself. Some cats hate a covered tray while others prefer it so you may need to play around with the configuration.

• Anxiety
Even small environmental changes can be a big deal for a cat, and be one that triggers anxiety i.e. other cats coming into their territory, carer away more than usual, visitors in the house, new family members etc. This anxiety can result in toileting outside of their tray.

• Medical issue requiring treatment
Lower urinary tract disease, infection and the presence of crystals are all medical reasons why a cat might urinate in the ‘wrong place.’ In addition arthritis or leg and pelvic pain can also prevent your cat getting comfortably in the litter tray, and conditions causing increased drinking and urination can make it harder to get to the tray.  

What do you do if your cat is peeing outside of the litter box?
Firstly, we recommend checking with a vet to rule out any medical issues. If all medical reasons are ruled out, and you are happy with the tray position and substrate, the next steps are:

  1. Make sure you scoop daily – no exceptions!
  2. Be sure to change the litter and clean the whole tray, at least once a week.
  3. Thoroughly clean any areas outside the tray that they have used, or they will continue to revisit that spot. Their sense of smell is far more sensitive than ours and regular cleaning products won’t do. 
  4. Identify and remove potential stressors 
  5. Multi-cat households need a litter box for every cat, plus an additional box. This gives the cat/s plenty of choices and if one tray is dirty or not ‘ideal’ in the cat’s eyes, there is another option

In the case of anxiety, it’s worth trying a stress reducing device such as Feliway (artificial feline pheromone which is calming to cats). This plugs into an outlet and is best used in the room they are spending most of their time. However, some extreme cases may require medications from your Vet.

Is this serious?
If your cat is unwell, such as has a reduced appetite, vomiting, lethargy, blood in the urine, is straining to urinate (producing no or small amounts of urine) they will need to see the local veterinarian for a hands-on examination as soon as possible. Straining and producing reduced or no urine can be a medical emergency. 

Please note that due to their anatomy, male cats are more susceptible to urinary tract obstruction. This can be a life threatening condition so inappropriate urination should never be ignored in male cats (or any cat for that matter!)

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About The Author

Claire is a QLD graduate with 19 years experience as a neighbourhood Veterinarian in Australia and the UK. Animal lover and the founder of VetChat, born from a passion to help pet carers everywhere access trusted advice earlier, for healthier, happier pets. Grateful to be carer to her beautiful Red-dog.