Help! Why is My Cat Peeing Outside of the Litterbox?

It can be frustrating for pet parents to deal with their cat peeing outside of the litterbox without knowing why it is happening. There may be an underlying behavioral or medical problem, and a visit to your veterinarian can help distinguish the two. Sometimes, treatment is easy and the issue resolves, but other times it can take some time and patience.

Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD)

FLUTD is a term describing all of the urinary issues that can be attributed to a medical cause. Urinary tract infections, bladder stones, bladder inflammation, or urethral obstruction can all result in urinary issues. You may notice your cat urinating more frequently, passing blood in the urine, or straining to urinate. Your cat may even cry out when urinating or fail to pass urine at all! If you are noticing any of these signs, you should seek veterinary care.

Once at your veterinarian, he or she will do a thorough physical exam, collect a urine sample, and perform imaging, such as an x-ray or ultrasound. If these tests show that bacteria and inflammation are present within the bladder, your cat will be given anti-inflammatory and antibiotic medications followed by a urine recheck one week later. If the urinary tract infection is not resolving, it may be necessary to collect a sterile sample to better target antibiotic therapy. If bladder stones are seen, surgery may be necessary to remove them. Obstructions may be relieved by passing a urinary catheter or in severe cases, surgery may also be necessary. Cats with obstructions must be hospitalized for several days.

Once the underlying cause has been addressed and resolved, switching your cat to a diet formulated for urinary health and reducing stress in the environment may be recommended for long-term management.

Stress-Related Behaviors

Once all possible medical reasons have been ruled out, behavioral modification may be necessary. Cats can become easily stressed or anxious especially in multi-cat households where there may be conflict. Altering the environment through renovations or addition of a new baby can also cause stress to your cat, which can manifest as inappropriate urination. A few strategies can be helpful to try to eliminate these behaviors.

Feliway products, such as diffusers and spray, can be used. They emit calming pheromones which can reduce anxiety, fear, and stress in your cat. I also recommend having one more litterbox than the number of cats in your household. For example, if two cats live in your home, you should have three litterboxes each placed in a different area of the home. Providing vertical space, such as with shelving or cat trees is also helpful to keep cats active and engaged.

Inappropriate urination can be frustrating for pet parents. The first step in getting to the bottom of this behavior is to see your veterinarian who will be happy to discuss possible causes and treatment options.