Cat Behavior: Help! My Cat is Pee’ing Outside the Litterbox!

Dear Catnip Times,

My cat stopped using the litter box.  Do you have any idea why?


Betty G., Houston, TX

Dear  Betty,

Cats will stop using the litter box for a number of reasons including (but not limited to):

  1.  You changed the litter on us.  We liked the last kind of litter, and we don’t like the new one you switched to for some reason.  It might be too dusty, or too perfume-y or it might feel weird and/or hurt our paws.  Try going back to the old litter and see if your cat comes back.
  2. You don’t clean the litter box enough.  How would you feel if you went to use the potty and someone hadn’t flushed?  As cats, we are very particular about where we do our business – so please clean out the litter box at least daily.  Luckily, my owner cleans ours every morning and every evening – and we have 5 litter boxes to choose from, so there’s always a clean spot to go.
  3. Your cat may be trying to tell you something is wrong.  They may not feel well, have a urinary or bladder infection, diabetes or something else.  If you’ve taken care of the issues above, then we suggest you take your kitty to the vet and get examined.  Cats have very few ways to get your attention – and unfortunately, peeing where we aren’t supposed to is a surefire way to get you to listen!
  4. Be sure you try the following:
  • Be sure your cat is healthy.  A cat will inappropriately eliminate for all sorts of reasons:  bladder infections, kidney stones, diabetes, etc. etc.  Go to the vet to eliminate anything medical.
  • Use unscented litter or go back to your original litter if you changed it recently.
  • Be sure the litter box is located in a quiet, secluded area, so your cat has some privacy and feel safe.
  • Don’t scold your cat or “rub it’s nose” in areas that they have inappropriately  eliminated in… they don’t understand yelling, punishment, or discipline the way humans do…they will just become frightened of you.
  • Do make sure you completely remove the smell from any urine that may be in your floor/walls/carpet.  This can take a lot of work.  I’ve even had to inject a good urine destroying cleaner into the carpet pad beneath the carpeting, and then repeated treatment over a few weeks, even after the cat stopped eliminating in the problem area.  Cat’s have an unbelievably keen sense of smell, so if they smell urine, they’ll continue to mark inappropriately.
  • Make sure you are keeping the litter box very clean.  Clean the litter box daily at a minimum.  My litter box gets cleaned at least twice a day – in the morning and evening… it literally take a couple minutes and it’s so worth it for you, the cleanliness of your home, and the happiness of your cat.
  • If all else fails, you can try lining a separate litter box with puppy pads.  Some cats just don’t like the feel of kitty litter under their paws, especially if they have been declawed.  Many cats that refused to use the litter box began using it when they had the option to pee on a soft pee-pad inside a litter box.  A separate litter box with litter is still maintained when the cat wants to poo…
  • Be patient – your cat doesn’t speak your language, so you have to be a bit of a detective.