Get Your Cat to Use the Litterbox

CatChannel veterinary expert Arnold Plotnick, DVM, talks about how to stop cats from urinating outside of the litterbox.

By Arnold Plotnick, DVM | Posted: April 15, 2011, 3 a.m.

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Q: My 5-year-old male cat is healthy, but he has a major problem. He constantly pees outside the litterbox on the floor. We have had to put down plastic so that his urine doesn't ruin the carpet.

How can we stop this awful habit? We keep the litter very clean and we have two litterboxes because we have two cats. The other cat has no problems with the litterbox. We have watched him peeing outside the litter box. Your help would be greatly appreciated.
A: A cat urinates outside of the litterbox for either a medical problem, marking behavior or inappropriate elimination behavior. First, rule out a medical problem. Take your cat to your vet and have a urinalysis, urine culture and an X-ray performed. Once you rule out a medical problem such as a urinary tract infection, bladder stones or idiopathic cystitis (inflamed bladder of unknown cause), you’re left with marking behavior or inappropriate urination behavior.  

When cats engage in urine marking, they usually spray the urine onto vertical surfaces. It sounds like your cat is not spraying, but rather, is squatting and urinating on the floor and the carpet.  My guess is that your cat is engaging in inappropriate urination. Most cats do this because they do not like their litterbox, they especially like the spot they’re urinating on, or both. Your job is to make the litterbox more appealing and the spot he’s going on less appealing.

First, to make the spot he’s going on less appealing, deodorize the areas that he has soiled. In fact, not only deodorize, but treat with something that enzymatically destroys the odor molecules. Many products are out there. Then, to keep him away from the area he’s been soiling, put something on the spot that will repel him. Double-sided sticky tape works well; cats hate the way the  tape feels on their feet. A product called “Sticky Paws,” large sheets of double-sided sticky tape, exists for this purpose. 

Make the litterbox more appealing by adding one more litterbox to your household. The  magic formula is “n + 1”: have one more box than there are cats in the household. You have two cats; you should have three boxes. Place the new box in a quiet, low traffic area. Do not put a hood on the box. Clumping, unscented litter is preferable. 

If these recommendations don’t solve the problem, certain psychoactive medications have been shown to help this problem. For this, you’ll need to talk to your veterinarian. Good luck!
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Reader Comments

CatChannelEditor    Irvine, CA

7/24/2012 11:28:44 AM

Jo -- This sounds like a good question to pass along to more cat owners. Try discussing this in our forum LINK Good luck!

Jo    Edmond, OK

7/23/2012 10:53:11 AM

I have a question. Is there anything that really works to keep the litter from being tracked out of the box. We changed to a higher sided box but didn't help on the tracking issue. I have tried rubber mats from pet shops and they do not work. Is there anything out there that helps take the litter off their feet when they get out of the box.

CatChannelEditor    Irvine, CA

4/11/2012 10:41:14 AM

Tisa -- Take your cat Sam to the vet to rule out any medical conditions. Altering posture during urination could indicate pain. Once that situation is clear, be sure to keep four litterboxes in the house (one for each cat, plus an extra). This will reduce battles for particular boxes.

Tisa    Sherwood, OR

4/10/2012 2:18:36 PM

The article is nice. But I do have a problem, maybe you could suggest something I could try.
I have to have covered litter boxes bcause one of my cats (Sam) as he is peeing will raise his hind up and the urine will go over the edge of the box and onto the floor. I have acquired another cat PyPy (my daughter's when she died). When he first came he was afraid of the other 2 cats and lived under my bed. I put a regular litter box under there for him which he used. But Sam decided to use that one too. Consequently his urine was going all over the carpet under the bed. So, I thought this is not going to work. I removed that box. So I'm trying to get Py-Py to use one of the covered litter boxes which he won't do. He insists on still going under the bed on the carpet. I do not know what to do. Please, do you have any sugestions. (The carpet was going to be replaced anyway - but I would like to solve this problem before I do that.
Thank you so much for any help you may have.

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