As a cat owner, you may have experienced one of the most serious frustrations of sharing your home with a sensitive feline—peeing outside the litter box. Cats are commonly surrendered to animal shelters because of inappropriate elimination, which can be challenging to manage, especially if rooted in behavior issues. However, learning why your cat may be urinating outside their litter box, and how to treat these issues, will help your feline friend find their way back to the box. 

#1: Your cat has developed a urinary issue

Many people think their cat has a urinary tract infection (UTI) when they start peeing outside the litter box, but they actually have feline idiopathic cystitis (FIC). UTIs are caused by bacterial infections and are more common in older cats, whereas FIC is a bladder inflammation typically found in healthy, young adult cats. A simple UTI can be treated with a course of antibiotics, but FIC is more difficult to manage, and often flares up again. FIC does not have a known exact cause, but is thought to result from stress, a defective bladder lining, or neurogenic inflammation. Stress in a cat, no matter the reason, can trigger a cascade of events that leads to bladder inflammation, which causes frequent urination, often outside the litter box. The best option for FIC management, and the consequent flare-ups and litter box accidents, is to reduce your cat’s stress through environmental enrichment, play, and proper resource management.

#2: Your cat has developed a chronic medical condition

If your cat has developed organ dysfunction, an endocrine disorder, or other chronic medical condition, they may be prone to excessive thirst and urination that may cause them to pee outside the litter box. Conditions such as kidney disease and diabetes are common causes of frequent urination in cats. 

With kidney disease, the kidneys degenerate and lose their ability to concentrate urine and flush out toxins and metabolic wastes from the bloodstream. Your cat will drink more and also urinate more, sometimes outside the litter box, since their kidneys cannot concentrate urine. While kidney disease is a progressive, incurable condition, you can help your cat’s kidneys function as well as possible through appropriate diet, supplements, and fluid administration. 

If your cat develops diabetes, their body again tries to flush out metabolic wastes through excessive drinking. In this case, your cat’s bloodstream contains too much glucose, and the kidneys kick into overdrive to filter out and absorb the excess. When the kidneys fail to keep up, the excess glucose is excreted into the urine, dragging along tissue fluid, making your cat dehydrated and thirsty. As your cat drinks more, they urinate more, and may miss the litter box. Proper insulin administration and diet can help cats regulate their diabetes and the associated signs. 

#3: Your cat will avoid a dirty litter box

Nothing is worse than a dirty bathroom. In your cat’s case, they may avoid a dirty litter box altogether and find a clean place to urinate, like your bed. Scoop out their litter box at least daily, if not more frequently, to keep it clean. Dispose of all litter weekly, and disinfect the box with a mild cleaner. If you have more than one cat in your home, ensure you have a box for each cat, plus one. For example, three cats should have access to at least four litter boxes. 

#4: Your cat’s litter box is placed in a bad location

Many cat owners place litter boxes in out-of-the-way locations to reduce odor and a mess in main living areas. However, your cat may refuse to use a litter box placed in a corner or next to the washing machine or furnace. In households with a bully of a cat, the other cats may feel trapped, and avoid using a litter box in the corner. And, your cat may be frightened if their box is next to the loud washing machine, and find a quieter location to eliminate. To encourage your cat to use their litter box, place the box in a quiet, secluded area that offers multiple exit routes, and ensure you provide multiple bathroom areas for multiple cats. 

Has your feline friend been urinating on your bed, jacket, or rug? Finding the underlying cause of inappropriate elimination is challenging, but let our Mill Creek Animal Hospital team first rule out a medical reason. Call us to schedule an appointment.