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Why is My Cat Peeing Outside the Litter Box?

Updated: Dec 6, 2023

cat looking out of a box

Is your feline baby avoiding the litter box at all costs? Seeing your litter-trained cat peeing everywhere besides the box can be frustrating.

Moreover, the pungent smell of urine and the constant clean-up everywhere inside your house can be stressful for you. Hence, it is necessary to address the issue and look into the matter in depth to figure out the cause and help your cat improve this condition. Multiple underlying conditions can trigger abnormal urination behavior. It can be certain medical complications like bladder stones or urinary tract infections. Behavioral changes and stress can also become a major factor in inappropriate urination.

Cats are steadfast creatures, straightforward about their wants and needs. If your cat is suddenly avoiding, vocalizing, or having difficulty using the litter box, visit your cat's vet! Be sure to pay attention to the recent changes that have been made in your cat's life and tell your vet so they can give a better diagnosis.

Signs Your Cat is Experiencing Urination Problems

Cats are extremely smart creatures and teaching them to use a litter box when they are young can help you maintain a clean house. Since most house cats don't go out much, having a litter box allows them to go when they need to go. Our dogs, however, need to be walked outside to do their business. So, when our cats have difficulties in the litter box, it's important to get them to the vet to find the true cause. Below are the most common signs that your cat is experiencing bathroom problems.

cat vocalizing is in pain
  • Straining to urinate

  • Spending an abnormal amount of time in the litter box

  • Small and abnormal amount of clumps of urine

  • Frequent visits to the litter box

  • Crying/meowing/howling out while urinating

  • Crying/meowing/howling before entering the litter box

  • Spends too much time licking of the genital area

  • Urinating outside the litter box

  • Blood in the urine

Medical Complications That Cause Your Cat to Urinate Outside the Litter Box

Several medical complications can lead your furry friend to adopt irregular urination habits. If your cat has not been diagnosed with the below complications and your cat is experiencing pain or unusual urination habits, visit your vet ASAP. Your vet can preform diagnostic tests to determine what may be going on with your baby.

cat drinking a lot of water due to diabetes


Cats with diabetes often drink more fluids. This results in more frequent visits to the litter box. When your cat can't make it back to the box in time, he may find a closer spot to urinate. This may become a common problem if the litter box is not close enough when he gets the urge to go. Think about placing more litter boxes in your home for easier access.

Liver disease

Cats with liver disease also drink more fluids to try to help flush toxins from their body. These cats also need to urinate more often and may have the same problem as cats with diabetes.

Feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD)

This is a general term for many conditions that affect the cats lower urinary tract. Cats may have irritation, inflammation and obstructions in the lower urinary tract that prevent them from urinating normally. Sometimes, cats can associate the litter box with pain because it only happens when they pee. In turn, they look for other places to go that won't cause them pain. However, we know the pain will still be present wherever they go because the litter box is not the cause.

Urinary Obstruction

In urinary obstruction, urine flow from the bladder is blocked, which can show up as blood in the urine, pain, straining, frequent urination, and vocalizing. Obstructions can be urinary stones or crystals from imbalanced bladder pH. Obstructions can be life threatening and are a medical emergency.

Male cats have a higher risk of obstructions due to the longer and more narrow urethra than females. Be sure to manage your cats diet correctly and monitor their litter box behaviors.

vet checking a cat for urinary obstructions

Treatment for urinary obstruction usually involves placing a catheter inside the cat to relieve the blockage. In some cases, surgery may be required to remove any stones or blockages that are present. With prompt treatment, your cat can recover fully from this condition. Your vet may also recommend a specialized diet for your cat to prevent recurring blockages.

Kidney Disease

The kidneys are very important for all animals. When the kidneys become compromised, it can lead to a build-up of toxins in their blood. Kidney disease usually becomes apparent when the cat begins to show symptoms. However, the kidneys may have been failing long before the symptoms show up. That's why it's important to get your cat routine vet exams.

Kidney disease can develop because of genetics, cancer, urinary obstructions, high protein foods, dental disease, ingestion of toxins (medications, antifreeze, pesticides), and more. Your cat will often show symptoms of weight loss, decreased appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, increased thirst and increased urination. When they feel unwell, they may avoid the litter box or can't make it to the box in time.

Treatment for kidney disease will vary depending on the severity of the disease. The most common options include dietary changes, medication, and fluids.

Bladder Stones

When there are deposits of hard minerals in your pet’s bladder, it may lead to the formation of stones. This can also lead to urinary blockages mentioned above. The most common symptom is difficulty urinating, as the stones can block the urethra. Stones can also lead to severe UTIs, incontinence, and kidney damage.

The treatment typically involves surgery to remove the stones, but in some cases, your vet might try to dissolve them with medication. Prevention includes diet changes and increase water content in the food.

Urinary Tract Infections (UTI)

cat licking genital area may have UTI

Urinary Tract Infections are another possible reason for inappropriate urination in felines. It is an inflammatory response against harmful bacteria residing in urine. Symptoms of a UTI may include difficulty urinating, bloody or cloudy urine, excessive licking of the genital area, and straining to urinate.

Vets typically diagnose UTI through a combination of a physical examination, urine analysis, and X-rays. Treatment involves antibiotics to clear the infection. Sometimes, your vet may recommend a specific diet or litter box changes to prevent future infections.

Behavioral Issues That Cause a Cat to Urinate Outside the Litter Box

Several behavioral issues can trigger your cat to pee outside its litter box. The most common ones include the following:

cat attacking a dog on a couch because the dog got into his territory
  • Territory issues: It happens when your cat feels like another pet is threatening its territory. They may start urinating outside of the litter box to mark their area.

  • Disliking other pets: If your cat doesn't get along with the other pets in the home, they may start urinating outside of the litter box as a way to avoid them if they are in the path of the litter box.

  • Stress and anxiety: Stressed or anxious cats usually pee outside as a coping mechanism. Also, if your cat's litter box is located in a noisy or high-traffic area, that could be a nuisance and cause stress. Your pet may feel like it can't relax or do its business in peace if there's too much activity around it.

With behavioral issues, you can try adding an additional litter box to your home. This may work best if you have multiple cats and want to designate each cat their own box or other pets who block the way to their normal box. You may also place the current box in a quiet location to reduce stress from high traffic areas.

Wrong Type of Litter or Litter Box can Cause Inappropriate Urination

cat too big for litter box can pee outside of box

You can find a variety of litter boxes in the market, so it's crucial to choose the right one for your cat. If you have a small cat, avoid buying a large box. Conversely, don't get a tiny box if you have a big cat. You also want to be sure to pick the correct shapes and access points. Some cats wont us top access litter boxes or enter a strangely shaped box. If you're using the wrong litter box for your cat, it'll likely start peeing outside the box. Be sure to research and try out different types of boxes to find what is best for your feline friend.

Another common reason behind your cat peeing at random places is an inaccessible litter box. If you place the box in a difficult-to-reach place, they may not be able to get to it in time and will instead relieve themselves elsewhere. Hence, you must ensure the litter box is easily reachable and there aren't any obstacles in their way.

cat doesn't like pellet litter pees outside of litter box

It's also important to consider the type of litter you're using. There are many types: fragrant, non-fragrant, natural, clumping, color changing and more. They all have different textures and smells. Your cat might prefer one over the other. Sometimes fragrant litters will repel the cat from using the litter box. Be sure to find the perfect litter type for your cat. Each cat may be different too! Keep in mind: clay litter may also increase the chance of blockages due to the dust.

Unclean Litter Boxes can Cause Inappropriate Urination

Cats are naturally clean animals and prefer to have clean spaces as well. You may have noticed them licking themselves regularly to clean their coats. You can even find cleaning their bottom after a visit to the litter box. Fact: cats don't like to be dirty.

It's important to keep their litter box clean to avoid harsh smells and bacteria growth.

scooping a dirty litter box can prevent accidents outside of the box
  • Urine - Cat urine often times smells like ammonia. This smell can bother your cat's extra sensitive nose. In order to avoid the smell, they may start using the bathroom away from the stinky box. In addition, ammonia can cause headaches, trigger asthma attacks, and result in respiratory illness for us humans. Imagine what it does to your cat!

  • Feces - Depending on what you feed your cat, their poop can be extra stinky. If you don’t scoop your pet’s litter box regularly, it can become a breeding ground for bacteria. In the wild, cats would run away from their poop in order to avoid predators who smell the stink. Indoor cat people categorize this action as having the zoomies.

How to Stop Your Cat From Urinating Outside the Litter Box?

If you think your cat may be urinating outside the litter box for one of the above reasons, visit the vet first. Then, you can try these things to prevent them from urinating outside the box:

  • Clean litter box regularly: You must scoop out waste at least once daily to keep the litter box clean. Moreover, don’t forget to change the entire contents of the box every one or two weeks.

  • Add more litter boxes: As mentioned above, this can help them make it to a nearby box or prevent litter box rivalry with other pets.

  • Add more litter to box: If your cat is not covering their waste, try adding more litter to the box so they have more material to work with.

  • Try a different type of litter: Your cat's sensitivity to the litter's scent or texture might prompt them to pee anywhere else than the box. Hence, try changing the type and observe any positive outcomes.

  • Change their diet: A diet that prevents pH imbalance will help support the urinary tract. This can prevent bladder stones, UTI, and other blockages.

Acupressure for Feline Urinary Support and Kidney Disease

Urinary Disease Prevention

Holistic practitioners always promote prevention first. Prevention is the best way to support the natural bodily functions of your pets. Part of prevention is noticing their normal behaviors and knowing when they begin to act abnormal. When you catch abnormal behaviors quickly, you most likely can find a remedy before things get worse.

cat eating healthy food for its best health care

The other part of prevention is providing complementary care. Complementary care means using multiple methods together to complement each other. Combining diet, exercise and proper health care provides our cats the perfect complementary care to maintain a healthy cat.

Providing your cat daily or even weekly acupressure point work will help support all natural functions. It is a great preventive option for your cat! Acupressure works to increase the blood flow, reduce inflammation, support the tissues and body functions. It can help your cat physically and mentally. Remember we discussed anxiety can cause inappropriate urination? Well, acupressure can also reduce stress and anxiety naturally.

Acupressure for Complementary Care

Acupressure also works when using it in combination of veterinary recommendations. This is the complementary care option we mentioned above. You can add acupressure sessions to their lifestyle. It complements diet, exercise, and other preventative options for your cat.

For kidney disease, acupressure can help alleviate bothersome conditions and promote overall kidney health. Acupressure works best when conditions are caught in the early stages. Once a condition has become chronic, it takes longer for acupressure to bring the body back to balance. Holistic practitioners say animals are balanced when they are healthy. So, bringing back to balance would mean clearing the harmful conditions and getting your cat healthy again.

An acupressure point that can help support kidney function would be Ki3. This point can be found on both hind legs. The points are found in the depression of the hock, near the tarsus. You always want to use this point on both sides of your cat.

cat acupressure points for kidney health

To perform acupressure, place your thumb or finger on the selected point and apply gentle pressure for 30-45 seconds. You can do this once daily or as needed. However, it's important to consult a holistic veterinarian or acupressure practitioner before beginning acupressure point work yourself. Acupressure is NOT a replacement for veterinary care.

We have Nationally Certified Animal Acupressure Practitioners that provide sessions local to Charlotte, NC. Book a preventative or complementary session today! If you would like to learn more, look for an upcoming acupressure class. Contact us if you would like to host a class!

Bottom Line

Cats can be unpredictable and it is crucial to determine the cause of a sudden change in their elimination habits. With a bit of detective work, you and your vet can become successful in finding out reasons that might trigger this behavior. It's so important that you take steps to resolve the issues quickly so you can get them back on track with using the litter box again.

We hope that our list of common causes has helped you identify potential triggers and helps you find an ultimate solution to stop your cat from peeing outside the litter box. We understand it can be frustrating, but your baby needs your love and support during these difficult times.

relaxing cat is healthy from acupressure preventative care

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