If your cat suddenly starts peeing outside of the litter box and urinating all over the house, it might just put the bond between you and your adorable furball to the test – as well as your patience! But what’s causing this out-of-the-ordinary behavior? And what can you do about it? Read on to find out. Or read more cat-friendly articles on the Tractive blog.

4 reasons for a cat peeing outside the litter box

It’s not uncommon for cats to go through a phase in their life when they no longer use the litter box and instead prefer other spots around your home to do their business. This can be… annoying. Especially if the bed or couch is involved, which happens all too often. Cat urine leaves stains and smells, and who needs that in their bedroom?

But you might be wondering, why has your cat suddenly changed their behavior? And why are they no longer using the litter box as they did before? The 4 most common causes are:

  1. Medical issues
  2. Stress
  3. The litter box is too small or dirty
  4. Wrong location

One thing is clear: your kitty doesn’t do it to annoy you, or because they think it’s funny!

1. Medical issues

One reason – that needs to be clarified urgently – is that there may be a medical issue causing your cat to pee outside of the litter box. For example, your cat may be suffering from a urinary tract infection. While cats are notoriously good at hiding illness, this painful condition can lead a cat to avoid the litter box, which they begin to associate with pain.

This in turn means they might look for a new place to do their business. Cats tend to hold on until it is no longer possible. So even if your cat seems healthy, consult with a vet who will be able to determine if your furry friend has a medical issue.

Tractive Activity Monitoring feature on mobile app, with an outdoor cat in the background

One of the first signs your cat might be sick? A dip in their regular activity. Your cat might seem less sociable and more withdrawn and lethargic.

But with regular activity monitoring, you can immediately catch on to drops and changes – and take action early on. So you can have a more productive discussion with your vet once you make a visit.

Tractive’s Wellness Monitoring features help you get a picture of how active your cat has been. You can set daily goals for them and get a picture of of how your feline friend is doing compared to others.

And if you notice they seem less active before – you can take action before it’s too late.

Get Tractive GPS

2. Stress

Another possible reason why your cat may suddenly pee in the house can be stress. Cats are very sensitive animals, and small things that seem trivial might throw off their emotional balance. Peeing outside of the litter box is a common reaction in such cases. Stress triggers can also be changes in the living environment, for example, moving somewhere new with your cat.

Cats are creatures of habit. So even small changes can have big consequences. It might cause them to meow or cry excessively, scratch up your furniture, or even hiss at you in defence.

Possible causes of stress might even include a new piece of furniture in the home, a new person visiting, or a new four-legged family member. If a dog moves into your household, be sure to follow these 7 rules in order to to get dogs and cats used to each other.

Cats are also prone to separation anxiety and this might lead to them peeing outside of the box.

3. Territory

Did you just bring home a second cat? Well, that’s one reason why your cat is peeing in the apartment. Your feline friend wants to defend their territory against intruders. So they’re leaving their “mark” everywhere in the apartment…unfortunately, with their pee.

You’re more likely to see this behavior in male cats – a bit less so in female cats. It’s how they show each other who’s boss and defend their boundaries.1

brown cat sitting in litter box looking upwards

3. Litter box too small or dirty

If your cat suddenly stops using the litter box anymore, it could be that your cat does not feel comfortable there and is looking for other options. If the litter box is too small, or too dirty, your cat may seek other places to do their business.

4. Wrong location

This might be surprising to humans, but the location of the litter box might also be the reason why your cat no longer uses it.

Cats – like humans – are not happy if there’s lots of action around them while doing their business.

Look for a nice and quiet corner in your home. For example, a quiet area in the living room, or better yet, your cat’s favorite spot. Do them a favor and put the litter box there!

Tip: Avoid perfumed cat litter, scents and deodorants. Cats don’t tend to like these things very much.

Again, you should always pay attention to the hygiene in the litter box: Cats like it clean. So if the cleanliness does not meet the requirements of your feline king or queen, you can expect them to find themselves a more suitable “throne”. In other words, start peeing outside of the litter box.

Checklist for getting a cat to use the litter box again

Remember, a cat peeing outside of the litter box is not unusual. So there is no need to panic. However, if this happens more often, or if your cat does not normally do this, it’s important to get to the the root cause of this behavior. Cat urination problems should not be underestimated, as your cat may be ill and need medical treatment.

  • Take your cat to the vet to rule out any possible medical causes.
  • Ask yourself, could something be stressing your cat?
  • Be sure to clean the litter box regularly, 1-2 times per day if possible.
  • Consider getting a self-cleaning litter box.
  • Put the litter box in a place where your cat can enjoy some peace and quiet.
  • Avoid using perfumed cat litter.
  • Don’t get angry. Remember, cats don’t suddenly pee in the house just to annoy us.

For more ideas to help resolve cat urination problems, check out the following video:

Do you know of other cat parents who could use this information? Then just share this article with your friends!