Think Outside of the Box: Why Does My Cat Pee Outside of the Litter Box?

There comes a point in almost every cat guardian’s life when they will experience the frustration—and stench—of a kitty who pees outside of the litter box. Even though this may seem inevitable to anyone who has ever shared their home with a cat, not using the litter box is actually a sign that something isn’t right with your furbaby.

While every situation is as unique as every cat, there are a number of common places where cats tend to wrongfully pee. This isn’t by accident. In fact, a lot of cats pee in specific places because they are trying to tell you exactly what is wrong. 

If your cat is peeing by windows or doors…

This likely means that your cat is suffering from territorial insecurity. Your cat can spend hours each day looking out of your windows and doors, and if they see something that is threatening to their home, will begin to mark the area with their pee. A threat can be anything from a neighbor to a coyote, but is most often a community cat. You can help your cat get back their territory—and confidence—by putting humane deterrents like motion activated air cans in the area. Until the threat no longer comes by, also put a litter box in that area so your cat has somewhere appropriate to go when they feel the need to mark. 

If your cat is peeing next to the litter box…

This is probably because they are in pain when they pee. A cat who pees next to the litter box knows where they should be going, but associates too much pain with the space to actually use it. If this is happening, you need to take your cat to the vet ASAP. She may have a UTI that could become life threatening if untreated. If that isn’t what’s wrong, your vet can help assess the real issue that’s going on. When the medical problem is fixed, your kitty will likely go back to using the litter box. 

If your cat is peeing on clothing or bedding…

When a cat chooses to pee on soft items, it’s often because their paws hurt when they go into their own litter box. This is almost always the case for declawed cats who have litter box issues. When a cat is declawed, their paws become damaged and deformed. The inhumane act can allow litter pellets to go up into the paw where claws should be, causing excruciating pain. To avoid this, never declaw your cat. However, if your cat is declawed already, you can help her by swapping out the litter you use to be a smaller size. 

If your cat is peeing on the dog bed…

This circles back to the idea of territory and your cat feeling insecure in hers. Territory is precious to cats, and if you have another animal in your house, she can become possessive and want to claim the other animal’s space as hers. This happens a lot with dog beds, where a cat will pee in it to try to own it. You’ll keep buying new dog beds, and she’ll keep doing the same thing. Instead, give your cat her own item to claim in that area. One way to do this is to give her a cat tree nearby so that she can get a bird’s eye view of your dog and feel like she still rules the space, without having to mark it. 

No matter where your cat is peeing in your house, remember:

The most common reason why cats pee outside of the litter box is because they are in pain.

If your cat is peeing somewhere they shouldn’t, take them to the vet the first chance you get. Peeing outside of the litter box isn’t normal, and there is always a reason why it is happening. 

Getting your kitty to go back to peeing inside of the litter box will take some time and patience, but in the end your cat, your home, and you will be much healthier and happier. 

I know a lot about cats, but I’m not a veterinarian. Please don’t take any of the statements I give as medical advice and do always consult your trusted vet, especially if your cat is experiencing behavioral challenges.

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