A white and black cat lying on the floor next to a litter box.

How to Manage Inappropriate Cat Urination

Most cat owners have dealt with it, and most people can identify it immediately: Your cat has urinated somewhere inside the house but outside the litter box. While accidents do happen, there’s probably a reason that your cat opted to “go” somewhere he or she isn’t supposed to go.

If your cat is regularly urinating outside of the litter box, it’s time to consult your veterinarian; there may be an issue with their health. Otherwise, to save yourself the headache of having to clean up a mess, here are some things you can do to encourage your cat to love the litter box.

Keep it clean

No one likes to go in a filthy toilet, and cats are typically fastidious animals. It stands to reason that a neglected litter box could be a reason for your cat choosing to urinate elsewhere. The Humane Society of America suggests scooping a litter box at least twice per week (although some experts recommend daily scooping) and a wholesale litter change every 2 to 3 weeks, depending on your cat’s volume. If you notice change in aroma or a sudden difference in your cat’s attitude toward his or her box, it’s a good idea to immediately wash the whole litter box with mild, unscented soap and water and to fill it with new litter. Be sure to pay close attention to what’s going on in and around the litter box (does the urine smell worse, are there larger or smaller amounts of urine, has the frequency of using the litter box changed, etc.) so you can discuss these details with your veterinarian.

Add litter boxes

Standard practice is to make sure that there’s a litter box available for every cat, plus an extra. So, two cats equals three litter boxes, and so on. Make sure that they’re all in a quiet, private place, away from food and dogs. And if your cat has access to every level of your home, it might not hurt to make sure that there’s a litter box on every level, in case they get locked on a level for a while. If your cat is having problems making it to the litter box, providing more options may help.

If your cat doesn’t seem comfortable with the litter box situation, there are other details you can try; there’s no one-size-fits-all remedy. Try to mix up the type of litter. If you’re using scented, go with unscented. Vary the type of litter. There’s a number of materials cat litter can be made from, including clay, corn, sawdust and recycled paper. Make sure the depth of litter is right: Common practice is two inches deep. If you have a covered box, try an uncovered one, and vice-versa.

Reduce stress

Any change of lifestyle, routine or even diet can cause your cat to be stressed out, and a stressed-out cat may express his or her stress by urinating on the floor or your furniture. Even if you suspect a health issue and have consulted your veterinarian, examine your life for things that may cause stress in your cat. Have you recently moved? Gotten a new pet? Changed your work schedule? Are there new cats outside? Anything different can be a cause of stress. You might not be able to entirely eliminate some stress factors, but if you can narrow it down, you can take action to manage that stress.

Cats also need an “enriched” environment to avoid mental stagnation, which can cause stress. Food puzzles, room to run around, activities and toys can keep your cat from getting into a stressful rut. This is especially important for indoor-only cats.

No matter what, you can put your buddy at ease with more snuggling, grooming, petting and attention in general.

Positive reinforcement

Whatever you do, don’t punish your kitty for an out-of-the-box experience. There’s a reason they’re not using the litter box. There’s a good chance your cat is trying to tell you something.

Get to the bottom of the issue

The first step toward solving your cat’s litter box issues is figuring out why there’s an issue in the first place. If you suspect that it’s a health issue, your veterinarian will confirm and determine a course of action. But it also could be one of many behavioral conditions that resulted in your cat’s new undesirable behavior. You can read more about those issues here,

RELATED POST: What You Should Know About Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease

The information in this blog has been developed with our veterinarian and is designed to help educate pet parents. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health or nutrition, please talk with your veterinarian.


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