Reasons Why Cats Pee Outside the Litter Box and How to Stop It

The fact that cats urinate in places other than the litter box is a common reason for pet owners to contact a veterinarian.

The behavior can have medical or psychological causes.

When a previous room-clean cat begins to urinate in places other than the litter box, it is important to determine whether the cat’s changed behavior is due to illness or to disturbing factors in the environment or care. Does the cat have concomitant disease symptoms?

For example, does it withdraw, eat less, or drink more? Does it completely avoid going on the box or does it fulfill its needs both there and elsewhere?

A cat can start to find the litter box if, for example, you have changed to a new type of cat litter or do not clean the litter box as often as the cat wishes.

In addition, cats can also suffer from stress-triggered cystitis, so that a stressful factor in the cat’s environment (such as a new neighbor cat, cat sitter or renovation in the home) can both cause the cat to urinate in the wrong places and lead to inflammation of the bladder that needs to be treated in veterinary.

Psychological reasons why the cat urinates inside

What are the possible reasons for the cat to pee outside the box?

The cat dislikes the box

First of all, it is important to remember that you must have one box per cat, plus one extra box.

Sometimes the cat simply does not like the box – why?

Cat litter: your cat may not like the surface of the box. There are many different types of cat litter and cat litter for litter boxes, maybe you can try a new variety?

Hygiene: the litter box is not clean enough – it must be emptied every day and scrubbed at regular intervals.

Size and design: The cat box may be too small, or the cat may prefer a box with a roof where it can be left completely alone. Cats that are older can suffer from osteoarthritis of the joints and for these cats it can be painful to have to step in and out of a box with high edges.

Previous discomfort: Cats who have experienced discomfort in connection with previous toilet visits (eg constipation) may be reluctant to seek the box again.

Territory marking

Urine marking is a natural behavior in cats as they can use this to mark territory. Contrary to many people’s beliefs, castration is not always the solution to this behavior, as even neutered male and female cats can spray urine.

If the cat does this indoors, it is often a sign of uncertainty regarding the territory and it is more common in multi-cat households than in cats that live as solitary cats. The more cats, the greater the risk of problems.

Uncertainty can arise due to, among other things:

  • Stress
  • Problems between cats in the household or with cats in the same area outdoors
  • New and unknown scents in the house
  • Fear of being left alone
  • Changes in family composition
  • Handling the cat
  • Location of the box

The location of the box is of great importance and the cat can easily be disturbed by factors around the box. Place the box in a separate place so that the cat can be at peace when it fulfills its needs. Loud noises and running near the box can cause the cat to avoid it. The box should be placed so that the cat can supervise the room when it visits the box.

Even if the litter box is placed in the same place as always, there may have been things nearby that disturb the cat, such as shoes, boxes or children’s toys. Food and water bowls should also never be placed directly next to the box. The smell from other cats can seem daunting, so make sure that other cats do not use the box and that there are a sufficient number of cat boxes in your home.

Medical reasons why the cat urinates inside

Urinary tract problems

If the above possible causes are investigated and remedied and the cat continues to urinate outside the box, the cause may be a urinary tract problem. Signs of urinary tract problems are that the cat urinates often and a little, blood in the urine, the cat moans when it urinates, the cat goes to the box often but there is no urine or that the cat urinates outside the box.

If you suspect that your cat has urinary tract problems, you need to see a veterinarian as soon as possible. Urinary tract blockages are not uncommon and can develop into a life-threatening condition if not treated immediately! Many owners confuse difficulty urinating with constipation symptoms.

A cat that visits the box frequently and seems bothered should be examined by a veterinarian to rule out that it is the urinary tract that is the cause.

Urinary tract infection / cystitis

Urinary tract infection and bladder can cause urine leakage. The urine may be mixed with blood or foul-smelling and the cat may have frequent urination, but only a small splash. Read more about urinary tract infection here.

Urinary stones

Urinary stones can cause urine leakage partly because it paves the way for infections and partly, if there is a large amount of stone / s that take up space in the bladder, because the bladder then holds smaller amounts of urine. Urinary stones can interfere with the outflow of urine so that the cat does not empty the bladder completely when it is rested.

NOTE – urinary stones can, especially in male cats, clog the urethra so that the cat stops urinating. This is a potentially life-threatening condition that quickly must be treated by a veterinarian. Some animals with urinary retention may drip urine in small amounts.

Increased thirst

If the cat starts to drink more, it needs to urinate more often and may have difficulty holding tight if it does not have time. There are many medical conditions that cause increased thirst, including kidney disease, diabetes and the metabolic disease Cushing’s syndrome. These diseases often, but not always, show other symptoms such as weight loss and fatigue. A cat with increased thirst should always be examined by a veterinarian.

Congenital or acquired defects in the urinary tract

If the cat has a congenital malformation of the urinary tract that interferes with the urination process, it will probably not be completely room clean but can leak urine outside the litter box. In some cases, the malformation can be remedied, but this does not always cure the incontinence.

It also happens that anatomical abnormalities such as narrowing occur as a result of, for example, trauma or surgery, so that the urine is not emptied properly when the cat urinates but leaks out at other times.

Nerve damage

Bladder emptying is a complex process that is controlled by the autonomic nervous system, and if nerve damage occurs, for example, as a result of a traffic accident or herniated disc, the urination process may stop working. The prognosis for recovery varies from case to case and depends on the extent of the damage.


In addition to a general clinical examination, the veterinarian also usually analyzes urine samples to find out if the cat has signs of infection, urinary stones or other abnormalities in the urinary tract that may explain the incontinence. Urine concentration is also examined. Analysis of blood samples and imaging examinations are often performed using X-rays or ultrasound, and sometimes CT or MRI.


The treatment is controlled by what has caused the urination problems. If they are related to disease, the underlying disease is treated and if it is male cats’ urine markers, castration is usually recommended. If it is about stressful factors in the cat’s environment, you should try to eliminate what is stressing the cat. You can also try aids in the form of pheromones (Feliway) or supplements that can have a calming effect on the cat.

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