Your heart sinks when you smell the familiar cat urine scent as soon as you enter a room. Whether your feline friend has urinated on the carpet or marked your favorite blanket, you wonder why they would pee outside their box. Are they sick? Mad at you? While a medical issue may be to blame, cats eliminate inappropriately for many reasons. Our Tidmore Veterinary Hospital team shares five possible reasons for this frustrating problem.

#1: Your cat may be stressed

Inappropriate elimination is the most common reason cats are abandoned or relinquished, and much research has been dedicated to this problem. Unfortunately, we still do not have all the answers, although studies indicate that stress often plays an integral role. Cats are extremely sensitive to changes in their environment. A new family member, new house, or child leaving home may trigger anxiety, as can animals your cat sees through a window or door. Why stress manifests as urinary inflammation is unknown, but an irritated bladder can cause a sudden urge to urinate, wherever your cat may be at the time. When your cat pees on your bed after you bring home a new puppy, they are more likely stressed about the sudden change than upset with you.

#2: Your cat’s litter box may have changed

Cats are particular about their bathroom accommodations, from the litter type and depth, to their box’s cleanliness. And, if you have recently switched to a new scented litter or cleaning product, your cat may be completely thrown off, since they can smell much better than you can, and may not appreciate the strong odors while using their box. To keep your cat happy with their litter box, follow these guidelines:

  • No sudden changes — Don’t suddenly change your cat’s litter. If you want to switch brands, add another litter box with the new brand, and gradually switch the other litter boxes if your cat uses the new litter.
  • No scented litter — Don’t use harsh or scented products to clean your cat’s litter box. 
  • Privacy, please — Place your cat’s litter box in a quiet, private space. While the laundry room may be the most convenient place to hide the box, loud appliances may traumatize your cat and cause an aversion to their litter box. 
  • Keep it clean — Scoop your cat’s litter box daily, and completely clean it once a week. 
  • Keep it full — Fill your cat’s litter box with approximately two inches of litter, and replenish it throughout the week as you remove soiled litter.

#3: Your cat may be bullied by another household cat

The dynamics of feline relationships can be confusing, and an alpha cat may suddenly decide to stake a claim to a particular litter box and keep out other cats. To prevent bullying and resource guarding in your home, ensure you have enough litter boxes. The rule of thumb is one box per cat, plus an extra. So, if you share your home with three cats, you should have four litter boxes in your house in different locations. This way, there will be plenty of litter boxes to go around, despite the bully claiming one as their own.

#4: Your older cat may struggle to get into their litter box

As your cat ages and arthritis settles in, they may struggle to lift their legs over the side of their box and hop in as they did when they were younger. If you notice accidents near your cat’s litter box, they may be telling you they need help. Older cats often do better with a low-sided litter box, such as an under-the-bed storage container, that they can get in and out of more easily. Your senior cat may also struggle to walk up and down stairs, and may have accidents if they cannot get to their litter box that is on another level. Place litter boxes, and food and water bowls, on each home level so your cat can access them with ease.

#5: Your cat may have urinary system inflammation

If you address your cat’s potential litter box issues and they still pee outside their box, they may have a medical problem. Although cats rarely develop urinary tract infections, feline urologic syndrome (FUS) is a common problem that causes urinary issues, including inappropriate elimination. Bladder inflammation, which is often triggered by stress, may cause your cat to feel as if they have to urinate frequently, which can lead to accidents in your house. Other FUS signs include:

  • Straining to urinate
  • Vocalizing while in the litter box
  • Blood in the urine
  • Frequently urinating small amounts
  • Decreased appetite
  • Behavior changes

FUS can become a chronic condition, and may lead to life-threatening urethral blockage, particularly in male cats, who have a longer, narrower urethra. 

If you think your cat may have FUS, or they continue to urinate outside their box, schedule an appointment with our Tidmore Veterinary Hospital team. We can help you get to the bottom of the issue.