Help! My Cat is Urinating Outside the Litter Box

If your kitty starts to urinate outside of the litter box, this can be a very frustrating problem that can seriously damage the bond you have with your cat.

The good news is that your veterinarian can help you sort through this problem, and hopefully help you correct it, so that you and your cat can cohabitate peacefully!

The first thing that veterinarians do when presented with the problem of a cat urinating outside of the litter box, is to determine if there is a medical or behavioral problem going on.

There is a whole slew of medical conditions that can cause your cat to urinate outside of the box.

There are medical conditions that cause pain when urinating. Cats will sometimes then associate the litter box with the pain and avoid using the box. These conditions include:

  • Inflammation of the bladder associated with crystals in the urine
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Bladder stones
  • Idiopathic cystitis (a frustrating inflammatory problem of the bladder with an unknown cause)
  • Bladder tumors

Sometimes painful defecation can also lead to negative associations with the litter box. Conditions that cause pain during defecation include:

  • Constipation
  • Anal gland infection or impaction

Some medical conditions will cause cats to drink and urinate more, leading to an overfilling of the bladder, and difficulty holding the urine. Medical problems that can cause this situation are:

  • Kidney disease
  • Diabetes
  • Thyroid disease

Also, cats with arthritis will sometimes stop using the litter box either because the box is located up or down a large flight of stairs that are painful to walk up and down, or if the sides of the litter box are to high, it can be uncomfortable for them to stretch up to get into the box.

Your veterinarian will want to do a thorough physical exam as well as checking a urine sample. Other tests such as an x-ray of the bladder, blood work to evaluate internal organs, or an ultrasound of the bladder may be recommended.

When a medical cause of urinating outside of the litter box has been ruled out, then we start focusing on management of behavioral problems. There are 2 basic reasons why your cat has chosen to urinate outside of the litter box. Either he or she is marking (spraying) or has chosen a new toilet area. See the chart below to compare the different types of inappropriate elimination:

Condition Characteristics of urine spots in house Causes of condition Treatments
Spraying/Marking Cat will back up to
area being
sprayed on, tail
will often quiver.
They will produce
a small amount of
urine on a vertical
Anxiety related:
Unrest amongst
cats, marking
submissive cat
herself with her
own scent,
roaming cats in
yard or any type of
change in the
May need to
separate cats
Feliway calming
Keep roaming cats
out of yard
Anti-anxiety meds
Chosen a new
toilet area
Cat is voiding its
bladder, so you
will find a large
amount of urine on
a horizontal
1.) Your cat may
not like the litter
box that is
2.) Some cats
would prefer to
urinate on a
different substrate
then litter
The litter box must
be large enough
for the cat, and in
adequate numbers
(one more than
the number of
cats). It must be
cleaned regularly,
and in a quiet
area. Remove
covers from boxes.
Cats that have a
preference should
be prevented
access to that area
or substrate. If
that is not an
option, you can
make the area
undesirable to
urinate on by
covering it with
aluminum foil or
plastic or turning it
into a food and
water station.

Many causes of urinating outside of the litter box can be corrected! Get your veterinarian involved early in the process for the best rate of success.

What's Next

  • 1

    Call us or schedule an appointment online.

  • 2

    Meet with a doctor for an initial exam.

  • 3

    Put a plan together for your pet.

GI Stasis in Rabbits and Guinea Pigs