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Cat Peeing Outside Litter Box? 11 Reasons and How to Stop It

Nicole Cosgrove

Most cats will use a litter box appropriately when a few requirements are met. Cats are generally known to be quite fussy, so it may take a while before they are comfortable with using their litter box and use it properly. A cat peeing outside the litter box is a common complaint.  There could be a variety of reasons for this, from behavior problems, not knowing how to use the litter box, or cats being fussy with their hygiene, as most cats do not appreciate a dirty litter box, especially when it has not been cleaned for quite some time. Luckily, most of these problems can be solved depending on the reasoning behind this frustrating behavior.

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11 Reasons Your Cat May Be Peeing Outside Their Litter Box

1. Marking their territory

Cats urinate, or “spray”, to mark their territory. This is especially common behavior if there are new pets in the house or if a feral cat decides to pay an unexpected visit into your garden. Territory marking is more common in unfixed cats (unspayed or unneutered). Before they display this behavior, you will observe them rubbing the sides or their bodies on objects around the house, leaving their scent. They will generally spray on vertical surfaces.

  • Solution: Getting your cat fixed should stop this beahvior. Make sure to secure your property so feral or your neighbour’s cats do not pay a surprise visit to your home.

2. Dirty litter box

Cats prefer a clean litter box. A dirty and unhygienic litter box will deter them from using it. This is common if multiple cats use the same litter box and it is not emptied appropriately.

  • Solution: Make sure to stick to a strict litter box cleaning schedule, depending on how many cats you own. Try replacing the litter as often as possible.

3. Not sure how to use the litter box

cat outside the litter box
Image Credit: Jennifer McCallum, Shutterstock

If you have recently acquired a new kitten or cat, they may not know how to use their litter box properly, so they will eliminate their waste in undesired areas.

  • Solution: Litter box training will be the most efficient way to eliminate this behavior. Place their waste in the litter box and the scent will attract them to use the box to eliminate their waste. Do this every time they leave accidents around the house and they should start to understand its use.

Related Read: 5 Best Dog-Proof Litter Boxes in 2021 – Reviews & Top Picks


4. Urinary tract infection (UTI)

A cat with a UTI may have trouble controlling urination and will leave unintentional accidents around the house. They may pee in small amounts and will have pain because they cannot empty their bladder.

  • Solution: An immediate vet visit is required; your vet should prescribe your cat medication to help eliminate the infection. In severe cases, the vet may give you the option of suggesting your cat wears pet diapers until they regain the ability to pee appropriately.

5. Stress

An emotionally stressed cat will not display their usual beahvior and will deposit their waste around the house, stress can make them too depressed to use their litter box and they will also display strange beahviors such as hiding most of the time, acting skittish, sleeping most of the day or not showing an interest in their toys or food.


6. Kidney disease

sad cat
Image Credit: greghristov, Pixabay

Kidney disease can result from consuming something toxic or poisonous to cats. They will have abdominal pain and trouble peeing or being able to control when they will pee. Check around the house or garden to see if they may have consumed a toxic human medication or plant.

  • Solution: This is a rare yet serious illness that requires vetinary treatment as soon as possible. Kidney disease can be a fatal case if not treated immediately. Get rid of toxic plants in your house or garden.

7. Environmental changes

A sudden change in your cat’s life can leave them confused and unsure. This includes moving houses, reorganizing your house, or moving the litter box from its usual place.

  • Solution: Let your cat adjust to the changes and place any waste in the litter box so they know where it is and will be attracted to the smell. If you see them in the act of using your house as its bathroom, pick them up and place them in their litter box.

8. Discomfort

cat leaving litter box
Image Credit: Lightspruch, Shutterstock

If your cat is feeling uncomfortable or scared, they may be averse to using the litter box. This is mainly common in older cats. Something in your cat’s environment could be causing your cat discomfort, such as young children who bug them when they are not in the mood to be cuddled or played with.

  • Solution: Teach your children to respect your cat’s boundaries and show them when it is appropriate to interact with the cat. If arthritis is the cause, a vet can prescribe pain medication to help relieve some of the discomfort.

9. Attention

If a cat feels like they are not getting enough attention from you, they may excrete their waste near you, trying to coax a reaction. If this is their only interaction with you besides feeding, they may feel like you are not interacting with them enough.

  • Solution: Give them the attention they want. Take time out of your day to play with your cat for a bit.

10. Candles and oils

Cats do not like the smell of most essential oils (peppermint, lemon, lavender) as well as strong candles with the same type of scents. If their litter box is in an area where these smells are commonly used, this will deter them from using their litter box.

  • Solution: Avoid using these smells in the area your cat’s litter box is in.

11. Illness

If your cat is feeling ill, maybe some stomach discomfort or a thorn in their paw, injuries, or underlying health conditions, they will be in too much pain to use their litter box and may eliminate waste in the area they currently in.

Solution: Move the litter box close to where they are hanging out and take them to the vet for a check-up.

two kittens cats litter box
Image credit: galsand, Shutterstock

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Does punishment work with cats?

It is not a good idea to punish your cat for doing something they do not understand is wrong, this will potentially make the situation worse and your cat may become fearful of you, finding positive solutions are the best option. Avoid these common punishments below, as they seem to be recommended online, but they have no benefits and is unnecessary.

  • Sticking their nose in their waste and then shouting at them, this is not going to help the situation the slightest
  • Spraying them with water
  • Shouting and throwing items at them
  • Putting them in a confined space as time-out

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Featured Image Credit: Ekatsyerina Kostsina, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.