Help!! My Cat is Urinating Outside of His Box!!

By:  Dr. Hilary Slaven

We hear this question not infrequently here in the clinic.  It’s a frustrating thing for owners and may be caused by several different possibilities.  We usually have a mental checklist that we go through with clients when trying to pinpoint the cause of this behavior.  Check this out:

Step 1.   Does the litter box set up work for the cat?  (AKA:  What kind of toilet does a feline prefer?)

I’m not kidding, our furry friends can be particular about these things.  We have a few general guidelines for you:

  1.  Felines LOVE a clean litter box.  Have you ever noticed that as soon as you put in fresh litter, your cat runs in immediately and uses it?  Litterboxes should be scooped out daily, with a complete litter change at least weekly.
  2. A large, open litter box is generally preferred.  However, it may be useful to have an open and a closed litter box present, so that he/she has a choice.
  3. Cats like clumping litter, as close to sand-like as you can get.  Changing the litter type may be a good first move to find one that your friend prefers.
  4. Quantity of litter:  be sure to add enough that your kitty can do normal behaviors like burying stool and scratching around.  This creates a more natural environment for your cat and encourages using the litterbox as a toilet.
  5. Keep it quiet.  Some kitties don’t like to toilet where there is a lot of action, like a laundry room or a trafficked area of the house.
  6. Some cats do not like to toilet in the same space as they are fed.  Keep a distance between food/water and litterbox.

Step 2.  A stressed cat is more likely to urinate outside the litter box.  Are there any changes to home life that have happened recently?

Possible kitty stressors:  Children, other pets, loud noises (such as furnace or laundry room), changes to the family (new spouse, etc), change in routine, moving to a new home.

Step 3.  Are there any medical issues that could be causing urination outside the box?

Possible medical issues:  Urinary tract infections, arthritis, hyperthyroidism, kidney disease, diabetes, constipation, diarrhea, diet, bladder stones, neurologic abnormalities, loss of vision, and anxiety to start the list.

Some cats are born more anxious than others, and this can lead to behavior problems as well as another bladder disease called FLUTD, which is a sterile inflammation of the bladder that leads to painful urination, and in an emergency situation, a complete inability to urinate.  (If your cat is trying to urinate but cannot, call your veterinarian ASAP!!)

Sweet kitty needs to hit the toilet, not our carpet, please, Doc!!

Sweet kitty needs to hit the toilet, not our carpet, please, Doc!!

In addition, male cats that are in tact (not neutered), have a tendency to spray the walls with urine.  Neutering and appropriate cleaning of the soiled area can help to deter this behavior.

Your veterinarian is trained to help pinpoint the cause of this difficult behavior, call us for an appointment today!