My Cat Urinates Outside the Litterbox ? Is He Mad at Me?

CatChannel behavior expert Marilyn Krieger, CCBC, lists reasons why and help for a cat who won?t use a litterbox in a multicat household.

By Marilyn Krieger | Posted: September 24, 2010, 3 a.m. EDT

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Q: I’m sure that my 16-year-old cat Harris is mad at me or wants to get even. He jumps up and then pees on my feet while I’m lying on the sofa reading. I have four other cats. They all share one litterbox with no problems. Only Harris refuses to use it. How do I change his attitude toward me so that he’s not mad at me?

A: When cats won’t use their litterbox, they are responding instinctually to either a situation or something in their environment that is causing them to feel stressed and insecure. Harris is sending you a message, but the message isn’t that he’s mad at you. Cats don’t urinate outside of the box or on people because they are trying to get even or because they are mad at a particular person.

From your description, it sounds like Harris has a couple of reasons for not wanting to urinate in the litterbox. But, before determining this is a behavior issue, you need to take Harris to your vet for a checkup. There are many diseases such as Urinary Tract Infections and Thyroid disease that will cause cats not to eliminate in their litterboxes.

Harris is probably eliminating outside the litterbox because there aren’t enough litterboxes available. Ideally, because you have five cats, there should be six large, uncovered litterboxes located throughout your home. Your cats need to be able to choose which litterbox to use. If a litterbox is a little too dirty, then Harris has alternate litterboxes to select.

Harris might not feel safe in the one litterbox because it might be located in an area where one of the other cats can trap or ambush him after he uses it. Also, some cats engage in a behavior called “resource guarding.” A cat who resource guards a litterbox  often lies directly in the path leading to the cat box, or he sits at the entrance to the door of the room where the cat box is kept. The other resident cats, wishing to avoid the resource guarding cat and a confrontation, find other places to eliminate that feel safer. In Harris’s case, the sofa is a safe place to urinate since he can see if any of the other cats are approaching and he can easily escape any possible threat.

You can help change Harris’s unpleasant habit of urinating on your feet by adding five large, uncovered cat boxes in different areas of the house. The new boxes should be located in areas where the cats won’t feel cornered or trapped. They should have a good view of the room and out the door so that they can see when other cats are approaching. Also, scoop the litterboxes at least once a day; every few weeks, completely empty the boxes. Wash, dry and refill the litterboxes with fresh unscented cat litter.  

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My Cat Urinates Outside the Litterbox ? Is He Mad at Me?

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Reader Comments

KP    KO, MI

10/14/2010 12:34:14 AM


karen    cheektowaga, NY

9/28/2010 7:41:17 PM

Great advise !!! I have four cats, seven litter boxes !!! It is a good idea to have one on every floor in your home. Keep them separated so each cat can have a "special" place to go without being interrupted by another kitty.

Holly    Stouffville, ON

9/28/2010 4:27:33 PM

Great advice! I hope everything works out!

Shirley    Tucson, AZ

9/28/2010 3:12:19 PM

Very good advice.

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