What to Do When Your Cat Urinates Outside the Litterbox

Find out what a vet recommends to stop your cat from urinating outside the litterbox.

By Elaine Wexler-Mitchell, DVM

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Q. My cat started urinating outside the litterbox. What can I do?

Elaine Wexler-Mitchell names potential factors as to why your cat is urinating outside the litterboxElaine Wexler-Mitchell, DVM, says: Urinating outside the litterbox and spraying are two different problems. Cats urinate outside the litterbox onto horizontal surfaces, such as the floor, not onto vertical surfaces as in spraying. Inappropriate elimination is either caused by urinary tract disease or behavioral problems. Behavioral problems that may cause inappropriate elimination are difficult to determine because situations that create stress or anxiety for your cat may not be apparent to you.

Make sure that you are keeping your cat's litterbox as clean as possible by scooping it twice daily. If you changed the type of litter you use in the litterbox, your cat may not like it; cats have preferences for certain types of litter. If there are no obvious litterbox factors, have your cat examined and her urine analyzed. If urinalysis and examination uncover a medical problem, your veterinarian will make treatment recommendations.

If there are no obvious medical problems, you need to work with your veterinarian or a behaviorist to identify the factors triggering the inappropriate elimination behavior. As with other behavior problems, the best chance for stopping inappropriate elimination is with early intervention. It is unrealistic to think that a behavior pattern that has been in existence for more than a couple of weeks can be turned around within a few days, so be patient and compliant with your vet's recommendation. You will achieve the best results with a combination of behavior modification and antianxiety drug therapy. Give your cat plenty of attention and set aside at least five minutes twice a day to play with your cat to decrease stress and boredom and create a new behavior pattern.

You will need to remove urine stains and odors so that your cat is not attracted back to the same spot. Avoid cleaners with ammonia as they intensify the smell of urine and make your cat want to eliminate in the same area. In addition to cleaners, you can create an obstruction or spray a repellant on the affected area. To create an obstruction, simply close the door to the affected room, place an additional litterbox on the area, put a plastic carpet runner placed upside down on the area, lay down aluminum foil, or play with and feed your cat at the site. Repel your cat from affected areas using solid air fresheners with a fruity or flowery scent. Cats do not like fruity or flowery scents; they only like their own. There are numerous brands available in grocery and drug stores.

If these steps are not successful, you can also use herbal calming remedies and antianxiety medications along with behavior modification to treat inappropriate elimination caused by behavioral problems. Some of the prescription drugs used are amitriptyline (Elavil), clomipramine (Clomicalm), buspirone (BusPar), paroxetine (Paxil), and fluoxetine hydrochloride (Prozac). Some cats can be weaned off the medication eventually, but others need long-term treatment to keep their behavior under control. You should avoid hormone therapy for inappropriate elimination due to the potential for side effects, such as diabetes mellitus or mammary cancer. Curing an inappropriate elimination problem requires early recognition, owner commitment, and patience.

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Reprinted from Ask the Vet About Cats © 2003. Permission granted by BowTie Press.

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Reader Comments

Lulu    Pensacola, FL

8/24/2015 10:14:09 AM

The article is very informative; however, beware the LINK given by betsy in Newington, Ct. in an advertisement which holds your browser hostage trying to force you to the "buy" page! BEWARE

Tracey    International

6/2/2015 9:05:42 AM

My 15 year old girl sits in the litter box, but actually pees over the side, onto the floor. If I have to use a box (she usually has access to outside areas) I have to put plastic down, essentially over most of the bathroom floor, or she will pee over the side and it goes under the box and over the floor. With the plastic, she still pees over the side but it is contained.
She's done this for perhaps the last 3-4 years; before that she used a litter box when she had to without a problem. She doesn't have a UTI or any specific bladder problems.
Oddly enough, if for some reason she gets stuck indoors (if her door is blocked for instance) she will most considerately pee in the shower or bath, where it is easy for me to clean!
Does anyone have any ideas to address the problem? It only arises rarely, but it is problematic when it does, especially as a litter box is more likely to be needed when away from home, where peeing outside the box is more of an issue!

Linda    Vineland, NJ

4/8/2015 6:07:43 AM

Please tell me what the Herbal remedies are to give my cat to calm her. Also, instead of a Rx and a trip to the vet, are there any holistic things to give her 'if' it is a UTI to avoid a costly trip to our vet?

betsy    newington, CT

2/8/2015 4:37:02 PM

Here's what I did. SOOOOO worth it. I couldn't take it anymore LINK

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