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Cats Peeing Outside of Litter Box: Common Reasons and What to Do About It

Cats Peeing Outside of Litter Box: Common Reasons and What to Do About It

Your cat’s litter box may not be the most enjoyable part of owning the little furball, but it’s still much better than the alternative! But is your cat peeing outside its litter box? If so, it’s vital to find the cause and resolve it as soon as possible. 

Let’s look closely at what might be behind their “going concern.”

Why Is a Cat Peeing Outside Its Litter Box?

Your cat peeing outside its litter box and somewhere else in the home is a big red flag for most cat owners. Unfortunately, the primary reasons for a cat peeing outside its litter box are related to medical conditions. Even worse, there’s a wide variety of ailments that could be causing your kitty’s bathroom issues. Here are a few of the more common ones your cat may be trying to tell you about. 


Hyperthyroidism results from an overly large amount of thyroid hormones being released into your cat’s body by malfunctioning thyroid glands. You may also notice weight loss, increased hunger, thirst, hyperactivity, or issues with your cat’s coat. 

Increased urination is also a symptom, which can occur outside the litter box, even for well-trained cats. Treatment typically involves some combination of medication, surgery, and diet changes. 

Cystic Calculi

Cystic Calculi is the scientific term for bladder stones, a relatively common disorder than can cause discomfort or more severe issues for your cat. They form due to unbalanced diets and may repeatedly reoccur in particular cats. 

Symptoms include frequent urination, urination in unusual places, and a more pungent urine smell than usual. Treatment can vary from medications to diet changes or other procedures. 

Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

UTIs have symptoms similar to the cystic calculi we just discussed. Conversely, they can also prevent your cat from urinating regularly or lead to blood in its urine. They’re caused by bacteria that make their way into the cat’s bladder. 

Fortunately, treatment is typically a relatively straightforward course of antibiotics, sometimes supplemented with pain medicine. Diet or lifestyle changes can also reduce the risk of future UTIs. 

If your cat has arthritis is may be difficult to climb into the litter box
Your cat may find it uncomfortable to step over the high ledge of the litter box or have difficulty squatting due to arthritis.


Like humans, older cats may develop arthritis in their joints, leading to bathroom issues. Your cat may find it uncomfortable to step over the high ledge of the litter box or have difficulty squatting. 

Treatments are wide-ranging, from pain pills and creams to acupuncture and massage. You may also want to change out your cat’s litter box for one that provides a more accessible entrance. 


Crystalluria is similar to cystic calculi, resulting in crystals forming in your cat’s urine. Typically, they’re small enough to pass naturally, but when cats have overly acidic or basic urine, they can grow large enough to cause pain. This discomfort can lead to out-of-the-ordinary urination as your kitty seeks relief from the irritating condition. 

Diet changes or occasional medication usually resolve the issue, which can become serious if left untreated. 

Kidney Disease

Kidney disease often strikes cats as they reach older age and progresses over time. Frequent urination, both in and outside the litter box, is a common symptom. It can also include increased thirst, decreased appetite, and weight loss. Diet changes or supplements are the primary treatments to slow the impact of the disease.


This is a broad term used to refer to inflammation in your cat’s bladder from various possible sources. If your vet has ruled out other causes on this list, they may diagnose cystitis. The exact causes and mechanisms aren’t well understood, but it’s generally linked to increased stress on your cat. 

Removing new stressors, providing a stable routine, and ensuring there’s no competition with other cats in your household can often help resolve the problem. 

Are There Non-Medical Causes?

Sometimes, the cause for your cat peeing outside the litter box isn’t medical at all. These are some of the most likely issues with your cat’s environment or lifestyle that could be behind the urination issues. Once you’ve ruled out that it is not a medical issue causing the inappropriate elimination, it is up to you to look at the facts and determine what triggered the behavior in the first place.

The video below introduces how to go about putting the pieces together, then we’ll dive into some of the most common causes of non-medical reasons why your cat is peeing outside its litter box.

Dislike or Aversion to the Litter Box

There are many different types of litter boxes out there. But your cat might not like the litter box your choose, leading it to seek other spots to go to pee and poop. 

Some may only want to go in a wide-open box with low sides to avoid tight spaces, while others may prefer the privacy of litter boxes with roofs or enclosed areas. You know your cat best, but there may still be a bit of trial and error involved in finding one that works for them and your home. 

An Unclean Litter Box

How do you feel when using a gross, dirty bathroom? Your cat typically feels the same way when encountering a dirty litter box. Without cleaning the litter box regularly and changing out the litter periodically, your cat will have to walk through unpleasant past “business” they’ll have to clean off their paws later. 

For particular cats, this is enough to deter them from going anywhere near an unclean litter box. Then, when they have to pee, they’ll go wherever feels convenient at the time. 

Stress and Anxiety

Once again, cats are similar to humans in that stress and anxiety can have very real physical health effects. Major changes in lifestyle like a new home, new owner, or additional pets can sometimes cause your feline friend enough distress to affect their bathroom habits. 

Frequently, it can be easy to pinpoint this as a cause if there’s been a significant change for them around the time the issues began.

Multiple Cats in the Home

Like many kinds of animals, cats mark their territory with the scent of their urine, among other ways. For some cats, the smell of another cat’s pee is enough to drive them away from the area. 

For indoor cats sharing a litter box, one may go to the bathroom outside the box. Luckily, this can be a relatively simple fix. Providing each cat with its own litter box in separate areas may be enough to solve the issue. 

cat litter box
Provide each cat in your house with its own litter box. This can prevent a cat from peeing outside its litter box.

Hard-to-Reach Litter Box 

No one wants their cat’s dusty, stinky, or otherwise unbecoming litter box right out in the open. But some go too far in putting their cat’s litter box out of the way, like in a cabinet or closet that’s difficult for a cat to reach.

Naturally, if your cat can’t get there easily, they may not use it and go wherever is convenient. This is another quick fix, with the problem usually resolved by relocating the litter box somewhere better for them. 

The Type of Litter

As anyone who’s been down the cat litter aisle at the pet store knows, there are countless types of litter – flushable, organic, corn, clay, anti-dust, and many more. Cats are creatures of habit and tend to get used to the feel of their favorite litter, so a change can result in their initial unwillingness to use it. 

In many cases, they may get accustomed to the new litter over time. However, in other cases, switching back to their old favorite may resolve their errant urination issues.  

How to Stop a Cat From Peeing Outside the Litter Box

In summary, there are many reasons why your cat may be missing the box. Fortunately, there are some very simple steps you can take to help figure out what is going on and remedy the situation. These simple strategies should help get your kitty’s bathroom habits back on track. 

#1. Consult Your Vet for Medical Issues

The first step to stop a cat from peeing outside the litter box should be a visit to the vet. In the best-case scenario, they’ll give your kitty a clean bill of health, allowing you to breathe a little easier and focus on non-medical reasons for their peeing problems. 

Even if there are medical issues behind it, you’ll have the information to move forward with any treatment or lifestyle changes necessary.

#2. Clean the Litter Box and Places the Cat Has Peed

Refreshing your cat’s litter box can go a long way toward a “reset” for them. Dump out all the dirty litter, and clean and sanitize the litter box itself. Then replace it with a fresh batch of your cat’s favorite litter. 

At the same time, thoroughly clean the other places your cat has peed since the issues began. Use a strong cat urine enzyme destroyer cleaner to neutralize any hint of the smell. This is important because even if you can’t smell it anymore, your cat’s sense of smell is much stronger. This will prevent them from associating the spot with the bathroom in the future and hopefully avoid any further urine marking. 

Place Litter Boxes in Accessible Areas

Think carefully about where you’ve set up the litter box and how it would feel for your cat. Consider if there’s a more accessible space for you to place it that will make it easy and obvious when the time comes. Also, would adding a box help? This also means keeping it away from areas where your cat eats and drinks.

Create a Happy Environment

If your cat’s peeing issues are related to behavioral problems, it’s vital to focus on creating a happier environment. Some stresses are unavoidable, like moving to a new home, trips to the vet, or loud noises from storms or fireworks. 

But you can take steps to eliminate unnecessary stressors and provide a fun and peaceful space for them with toys, scratching posts, and treats. You may even want to try commercial cat-calming products like Feliway and other brands. 

cat peeing outside litter box
Determine if your cat prefers an enclosed or open litter box.

Do Cats Prefer Open or Closed Litter Boxes?

While some cats prefer a litter box with a lid, others want the open concept. And some are willing to use either as long as their litter box is consistent. However, cats can be unpredictable little creatures! 

Some may refuse to use one style or the other, so you may need to try out a few to find the right one with a new cat. Otherwise, you should generally stick with the same overall style when replacing one for your current cat unless you’re willing to take the risk. 

Your Cat’s Litter Box Experience Is Important

As the famous saying goes, “everybody poops.” Every cat poops and pees too, so it’s critical that you take steps to make the experience easy and comfortable for your cat. If your cat is peeing outside the litter box, find the cause as soon as possible. Keep these common causes and solutions in mind, and when in doubt, get the advice of a trained and trusted vet.

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Petrics was born out of a love of helping animals and their owners live life to their fullest! Established in 2022, Petrics was founded by Caitlin and Tom Morton of Mortons on the Move, Discovery TV Show hosts and successful RV Travel Experts. They are a full-time RVing couple who loved traveling with their beloved rescue dogs. This Petrics team strives to share the most interesting questions answered, the most entertaining news and culture, and the most inspiring rescue stories. Additionally, our mission is to give back to animal welfare organizations so they can continue their good work in saving the constant stream of animals in need. In fact, 5% of all profits from Petrics are donated to animal-saving initiatives!

Our team has been animal caretakers and lovers all our lives. We get it. We know how deep the love for your furbabies goes, and we know where all your questions come from. We have them too! That’s why we strive to bring you the best pet-related content out there, backed by data and real-life trials, as much as possible.

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