Why is My Cat Urinating Outside the Litter Box?

There a number of reasons why your cat may urinate outside the litter box. Below are five of the most frequent causes, as well as some tips to help remedy the situation.

1. ILLNESS. The single most common symptom of Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD) is urinating outside the litter box. If you notice a sudden change in your cat’s litter box behavior, this may indicate illness. Don’t delay; take him or her to the veterinarian to rule out a potentially serious disease.

2. YOUR CAT HAS BEEN DECLAWED. If you haven’t already read our post about why you should not declaw your cat, this is just one reason. Declawing is very painful, and that pain often lasts a long time after the procedure. Getting into the litter box after declaw surgery may be a painful and distressing experience for your cat. Some cats associate the litter box with pain, and simply choose to urinate elsewhere. If you do have a declawed cat, experiment with some of the softer cat litters that are available.

3. YOUR CAT DOES NOT LIKE HIS/HER LITTER BOX. Many cats are sensitive to the manner in which their litter box is set up. Sometimes the problem is as simple as the box being too small. The problem could also be the type of cat litter being used. Litters have different textures and scents. Consider an unscented litter, and experiment with different textures. Litter boxes with hoods are popular; however, many cats do not like being enclosed. Try removing the hood. If you use a plastic liner on the inside of your litter box, this could also be distressing to your cat. In addition to being crinkly and noisy, liners –particularly when coupled with a hooded litter box– can create a build-up of static electricity. This static can result in an electric shock when your cat enters the litter box, especially if you have a long haired cat. So, ditch the litter box liners as well as the hood of the box, and experiment with different types of litter.

4. THE LITTER BOX IS TOO DIRTY. Can you really blame your cat for this one? How would you feel if you had to navigate a small space which was covered with poop and pee? The remedy for this problem is simple; keep the litter box cleaned out, and change the litter often. Also, consider adding an additional litter box; most veterinarians and behaviorists recommend one litter box per cat, plus one additional litter box.

5. YOUR CAT HAS NOT BEEN NEUTERED OR SPAYED. Here is another reason to neuter or spay your cat. Once unaltered males reach maturity, they will mark their territory with urine. Unaltered females may also urinate outside the box when they are in heat, in order to attract a male suitor.