Understanding Why Your Cat is Peeing Outside the Litter Box

cat pee next to litter box

Cats peeing outside of the litter box is a common issue we all face as cat owners.

By understanding and actioning this problem early on, you will be able to maintain a healthy and happy environment for your cat.

Quick answer
Common reasons for cats peeing outside the litter box include urinary infections or other health issue, a litter box that is not cleaned often enough, or stress caused by a change in the household.

Understanding the Problem

When a cat pees outside the litter box, it’s not just a major headache for ourselves, but it’s also a sign that something might be wrong.

Our cat decided to pee on the litter mat

Cats are very known for their cleanliness, and using the litter box is a natural behavior for them.

If they start peeing outside of the litter box, it’s often a sign that they might have some health issue, feeling stressed, or they are unhappy with their litter box.

Possible Causes of the Problem

Medical Issues

Medical issues are a very common cause of cats peeing outside of the litter box. These can range from infections to more serious conditions like diabetes or kidney disease.

Pain during urination caused by crystals or bladder stones can also be an issue that will lead a cat to avoid the litter box.

In some cases, arthritis pain can make it very difficult for your cat to climb into a high-sided litter box. If this is the case you should opt for a litter tray

It’s important to consult with a vet if you think that your cat might have any medical issues that lead to her avoiding the litter box.

Stress and Anxiety

Cats always like to have habits and they don’t really like changes that much or react well to stress.

Any changes in their environment, such as a new pet or a new flat mate, moving to a new place, or even moving furniture in the house, can cause stress and anxiety. This can manifest as inappropriate urination.

cat pee on shoes
He once decided to leave some cat pee on my husband’s shoes. This was a behavioural problem as he didn’t want to play with him and he was ignoring him.

Cats may also experience separation anxiety, which can also lead her to urinating outside of the litter box.

By identifying and addressing this potential facts you can provide a safe space for your pet, which will allow our furry friend to maintain the routine, and use the designated place for him to do his business

Litter Box Issues

Litter box issues are another common reason why cats pee outside the box. These can include a dirty litter box, not enough boxes for the number of cats, or a litter box that can be too small with high sides, where your pet can’t climb over.

The location of the litter box can also be a leading factor. Cats usually prefer a quiet and safe place to do their business and may avoid the litter box if it’s placed in a noisy or high-traffic area.

Have a look at the type of litter you are using, as some cats may prefer one type of litter over another, and many cats dislike scented litter.

By removing all of these issues you can encourage your cat to start using the litter box again.

Behavioral Issues

Behavioral issues are mostly found in homes with multiple cats, where your furry friend is trying to mark it’s territory.

In some cases, a cat may develop a preference for urinating on a certain type of surface or in a specific location.

If this is the case, you will need to work with a veterinary behaviorist or a cat behavior consultant to identify the root cause and develop plans to address the issue

Identifying the Cause

Now that we understand the causes it’s time to take the first step towards addressing it and identify the cause.

Start by ruling out any medical issues as soon as possible. Consult with a vet who can perform a checkup and run any necessary test.

If the medical issues are ruled out, you should consider the some other causes.

Were there any changes in your house that may lead to stress?
Is the litter box clean, big enough and cleaned often?
Is the litter box in a quiet area?

Answering these questions can help you to identify the cause of the problem

Addressing the Problem

Once you have identified the cause, it’s time to start making some changes.

If the issue is health-related, follow the vets advice for treatment. If stress is the cause, try to reduce or eliminate completely these factors if possible. This might involve moving the furniture back to it’s original place, or even spending more time with your cat. If you recently introduced a new pet into the family, try to limit the time they spend together

If the issue is the litter box, make sure it’s being cleaned regularly. You might also need to try a different type of litter or get a bigger box. On the behavioral side, you still need to consult a pet behaviorist who can provide you with full guidance

We believed this was due to the health issues but the vet said he’s ok

Preventing the Problem

In order to prevent your cat from peeing outside the litter box you should do regular vet checkups, maintain a stable and stress-free environment and have a proper litter box maintenance schedule.

Regular vet visits can help to catch any potential health issues before they can start causing problems.

Keeping your cat’s environment stable and stress-free can help to prevent any behavioral issues.

And finally, keeping the litter box clean and appealing can prevent your cat from avoiding it. Here are some tips on how to keep the litter box clean:

  • Scoop the litter box daily to remove waste. This will help to keep the litter box fresh and prevent any odors
  • Completely change the litter and clean the box on a weekly basis. When cleaning the box you should use mild dish soap and water, but remember to avoid using any strong chemicals or cleaners with very strong scents.
  • Keep a good level of litter in the box. Most manufacturers recommend two to three inches of litter, but you should always add a bit more if your cat is a deep scratcher.


Understanding why your cat is peeing outside the litter box should be the first step you take in order to address this issue as it can help you to ensure you will keep her happy and healthy. It’s important to be patient and persistent as it might take some time to identify the root cause and find a solution that works for you and your furry friend.

Additional Resources

For more information on this topic you can consider checking out the below study :

Feline Behavior Problems: House Soiling

Remember, every cat is unique and what can work for one might not work for another. It’s all about understanding your cat’s needs and preferences and providing them with a safe and comfortable environment to live in.

Indre K Williams

Indre K Williams

Indre K Williams (DVM) graduated from the Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine in 2015, she brings a wealth of knowledge and a genuine passion for animals to their writing. With years of experience working closely with pets and their owners, she has developed a deep understanding of their needs and behaviour.

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