Cats stop using their litter box for multiple reasons. Determining the cause can help resolve the issue, but this isn’t always an easy endeavor. Our Westerville Veterinary Clinic team knows how pervasive cat urine’s odor can be. Therefore, we explain reasons your cat may be urinating inappropriately and provide recommendations to help resolve the issue.

 #1: Your cat has a medical condition

Any condition that causes your cat to feel ill or in pain can result in inappropriate elimination. The most common culprits include:

  • Feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) — FLUTD is an umbrella term that describes conditions, such as urinary stones, infections, urethral plugs, and idiopathic cystitis, which affect a cat’s urethra and urinary bladder. Urinating outside the litter box is one of the most common signs. Other potential signs include straining to urinate, increased urination frequency, blood in the urine, vocalizing when urinating, and excessively grooming the urethral area.
  • Kidney disease — Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is common in cats, especially senior cats. Signs don’t typically manifest until the condition is advanced, when the affected cat has lost about 70% of their kidney function. In addition to avoiding the litter box, an affected cat’s signs include increased thirst and urination, inappetence, weight loss, and vomiting.
  • Arthritis — Studies indicate that as many as 90% of cats older than 10 years of age may have arthritis. Cats who have painful joints may have difficulty getting into and out of their litter box. Cats’ arthritis signs include stiffness after resting, hesitancy when jumping onto or off of elevated surfaces, increased time spent resting, weight gain, and resting in easily accessible areas.
  • Diabetes — Diabetes is especially common in overweight cats, and the condition can cause signs such as increased thirst, urination, and appetite, weight loss, vomiting, lethargy, and poor coat quality.
  • Hyperthyroidism — Senior cats have a high hyperthyroidism risk. This condition’s signs include increased thirst, urination, and appetite, weight loss, and restlessness.

If your cat is urinating inappropriately throughout your house, they are not doing so just to frustrate you. Underlying medical conditions often cause cats to avoid using their litter box. To help resolve your cat’s issue, follow these tips:

  • Schedule regular wellness visits — By performing your cat’s annual or biannual wellness exam, our Westerville Veterinary Clinic team can detect conditions that may lead to inappropriate elimination while the disease is in the early stages, before your cat exhibits troubling signs such as urinating inappropriately.
  • Seek veterinary care — If your cat starts urinating outside the litter box, don’t assume they are behaving out of spite. Contact our team, so we can determine whether a medical problem is contributing to the problem.

#2: Your cat is displeased with their litter box setup

Cats can be extremely particular about their litter box setup and may revolt if the situation fails to meet their expectations. To help ensure your cat’s litter box setup is acceptable to them, follow these tips:

  • Clean your cat’s litter box — Smelly, dirty litter is one of the main reasons cats avoid their litter box. Scoop your cat’s litter box at least twice per day, and change out the litter completely at least once per week. 
  • Provide enough litter boxes — Many cats dislike sharing their litter box and may seek somewhere else to do their business to avoid a confrontation. We recommend one litter box for every cat in your home, plus one extra.
  • Ensure the box size is adequate — Your cat’s litter box should be large enough to accommodate their body size. The box should be as long as your cat from their nose to their outstretched tail, and as wide as your feline friend from their nose to their tail’s base.
  • Ensure box placement is appropriate — Cats appreciate their privacy when in the litter box, and they dislike being startled. Place the box in a low-traffic area and avoid putting the box near appliances, such as the washing machine, which may make loud noises, and frighten your cat at an inopportune moment. In addition, place litter boxes in  convenient locations, so your cat can access them quickly and easily.
  • Use the right litter — Most cats prefer unscented, clumpable litter. You should only fill the box with about two inches of litter.
  • Avoid covered boxes — Most cats don’t like covered boxes or box liners. 
  • Provide a new box when necessary — Plastic litter boxes retain odors, and if you have had the box for awhile, a new box may resolve your cat’s inappropriate urination issue.

#3: Your cat is stressed

As predator and prey animals, cats are predisposed to stress, and numerous issues can lead to feline stress such as tension among household cats, inadequate resources, adding a new two-legged or four-legged family member, construction in or near the home, moving to a new location, and their primary caregiver’s absence. To help resolve your cat’s stress issues, follow these tips:

  • Provide scratching posts — Cats need to scratch, and you should place several posts in different orientations and scratching surfaces throughout your home.
  • Offer vertical space — Your feline friend enjoys surveying their environment from an elevated position, so ensure they have vertical space where they can rest and observe.
  • Feed separately — If you have a multicat household, feed each cat separately, so they can’t see each other, which helps prevent tension.
  • Introduce new pets gradually — If you bring home a new pet, introduce them to your cat gradually over several weeks to help improve the chances of a successful relationship.
  • Provide exercise — Provide daily exercise to ensure your cat stays physically active. Aim for five-minute high-intensity sessions three to four times per day.
  • Offer mental stimulation — Cats need mental stimulation to keep their brain healthy. To help stimulate your cat’s mental health, provide them with items such as a food puzzle toy and a bird feeder outside their favorite window perch, so they can watch the show. In addition, help your cat learn a new trick.

If your cat is urinating inappropriately, contact our Westerville Veterinary Clinic team, so we can rule out a health problem, and help you resolve your feline friend’s issue.