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5 Reasons Why Your Cat Goes Outside of the Litter Box

Cats are famously clean pets. As you may know, felines have a natural instinct to bury their excrement, so most cat owners have little to no problem teaching cats to use their litter boxes.
However, outliers happen, and some cats stray from their natural cleanliness. They start using other places in your home as a toilet. This can happen for a variety of reasons, some of which are easy to fix, and others may require your friendly vet’s help. Keep reading to learn why your cat exhibits this troubling behavior and what you can do about it.

Stress and anxiety

Cat Litter Box Problems cat in bed

Cats may seem calm and unbothered at first glance, but in reality, they’re very sensitive to changes in their territory. Whether it’s a new pet, a new human, neighbor pets in the yard, a loud noise, or the litter box changing location, it can stress out the kitty cat. As a result, your cat will feel too unsafe and vulnerable to use the litter box, especially with other pets or people around

Your feline should have a calm and quiet place to hide, rest, and yes, relieve themselves. Once your cat has a refuge, it will likely stop peeing elsewhere as a way to mark territory and relieve anxiety. This is especially true if the feline had no toilet problems in the past.

The litter box is just not right…

Say what you will, but cats are very particular about everything starting with their preference in food to their choice of toys. The same is true for the litter box and even the kitty litter itself.
Cat Litter Box Problems cat sniffing litter box

If you recently changed the type of litter you use (or even the brand), and your cat suddenly stopped using the litter box, switching back to the previous litter often helps. The same may be true for a new cat that was given to you “litter trained” but doesn’t seem to use the cat toilet at your home. In this case, contacting the previous owner of the cat and buying the kitty litter they use can solve your issue.

The issue could be with the cat toilet itself as well. Some cats prefer an open litter box, whereas others will only use a covered litter box. You’ll need to experiment and find out which works best for your cat. Whatever box you choose to buy, make sure that the box is big enough for the cat to comfortably stand in. A litter box that’s one-and-a-half times the length of the feline is a good general guide.

Finally, consider the location of the litter box. Ideally, you want to choose a spot that’s quiet and rarely busy. A hallway, bathroom, or quiet balcony all work well, generally speaking. If you live in a large, multi-storied home, also consider having a litter box on every floor.

There are other cats in the house

Cat Litter Box Problems cat in a box

We already mentioned this in passing, but let’s explain territorial marking in cats in greater detail. “Peeing outside the litter box happens more frequently in a household with multiple cats, particularly if one is a bully who prevents another cat from getting to the box,” said Dr. Cathy Lund, a feline vet in Providence, Rhode Island. The less dominant cat is trying to establish its territory by marking it with urine.

If you suspect that this is the issue, start by having one more litter box than cats. Each toilet should be placed in a different room.

When you’re trying to introduce a new cat in the home, and one of them is marking territory, this means that the cats are not ready to exist in the same space just yet. Most vets recommend keeping a new feline in a separate room for days or weeks, introducing the cat to the home gradually not to spook them and the other cats.

Needless to say, your male cat should also be neutered, otherwise, it will keep spraying your furniture as a part of his mating behavior, and there’s little you can do to stop it.

The litter box is just not clean enough

Cat Litter Box Problems cat above litter box
Most cats are fussier than their owners realize, and this includes your cat’s standards of cleanliness. Remember that your cat has a much stronger sense of smell than you do. As Dr. Neil Marrinan, a vet at the Old Lyme Veterinary Hospital in Connecticut, points out, “The trick is making the litter box the first and only place they go — regardless of why they started to pee elsewhere.”
To do so, scoop the litter daily, or even several times a day if you have more than one cat. Also, refresh the entire litter every 1-2 weeks.

Health problems

Cat Litter Box Problems cat at the vet

If your cat has always used the litter box appropriately but suddenly started urinating elsewhere, the first step is to call the vet. Cats are prone to urinary issues, and improper urination could be due to any number of medical conditions, such as:

  • Bladder stones
  • Urinary tract infection (UTI, cystitis) - inflammation of the bladder or other parts of the urinary tract
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Liver disease
  • Diabetes
  • Thyroid issues.

Remember that urinary problems in cats can become very severe very fast, so don't delay the trip to the veterinarian. If your cat is struggling to urinate even though your cat is trying, the feline could have a complete or partial obstruction. This condition can be life-threatening.

H/T: PetMD, Best Life Online, The Spruce Pets

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