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Help! My cat pees in the wrong place, what should I do?

It is a relatively common problem that a cat who has always used a litter tray can suddenly start to urinate on the bed, the carpet or other inappropriate place. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to deal with this problem. Here we go through some possible causes!

This article was written by a FirstVet vet

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Causes

Why does a cat pee outside their litter tray? It is not always easy to know and can be due to several different reasons. One thing we do know is that cats do not pee outside the litter tray to "get revenge" or to protest. Instead, this abnormal behaviour is a sign to you as a cat owner that something is not right with your cat. Therefore, it is important never to scold or punish the cat if it urinates in an inappropriate place; this risks making your cat scared and stressed, which is likely to exacerbate the problem.

Underlying diseases

Urinating outside the litter tray can be a sign that the cat is ill. Some diseases that can cause the cat to urinate outside the box include urinary tract problems, thyroid problems, stomach problems or other painful conditions. However, virtually any disease can lead to a cat not using its litter tray as usual.

Changes in environment or routines

In addition to physical illnesses, there are a number of non-medical causes. This behaviour may simply be related to a routine change at home. Examples may include new furnishings, new family members, renovations, changing working hours, additional cats introduced into the family, new cats that have moved into the area, new cat litter or other types of food, are all things that a cat may react to.

The most common non-medical causes are:

  • Emotions: anxiety and fear due to stressors in the physical or social environment. Even though you may not perceive those stressors your cat may. Cats show stress in a different way than humans do. A cat behaviourist or veterinary staff will me able help you to identify the sources of stress
  • Litter tray problems: location, type of litter and type of litter tray. These are all things that can make a difference. Besides having very individual preferences, even a small change in the cleaning routine, especially if the tray is not always clean enough, may cause rejection. As a general rule, you will need to have more litter trays in the house than cats. Ensure that the tray is big enough for your cat to turn round in (and use more than once) without getting contaminated with their own waste. Do not put litter trays near food and water bowls or in busy household areas
  • Marking as a communication tool: your cat may be showing this behaviour as a reaction to changes in your lifestyle. These changes may be triggering some redistribution of their territories and cat may be just trying to communicate these changes

The Blue Cross offer excellent advice about how to litter training kittens, and International Cat Care have an article explaining more about soiling indoors and litter trays.

When to consult a vet

To help your cat start using the litter box again, a little detective work is often required. Start by asking your vet to examine your cat. This is to ensure that the cat is healthy. An examination is especially important if your cat is behaving differently or showing signs of illness. For example, vomiting, diarrhoea, being quieter or sleeping more than usual, or losing weight. You can always make an appointment with one of our FirstVet vets for an initial assessment and discussion about your cat.

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