Why Is My Cat Peeing Outside The Litter Box?

During our Meow Mini Mart pop-up events, mom gets asked a lot of questions from cat parents regarding dietary issues and litter box use – or the lack of! 

The diet questions are to be expected since we promote the raw, fresh food diet – but she didn’t expect to hear about the litter box issues.

Waste Management seems to be a hot topic today – as lately it’s the biggest complaint she hears from pet parents – the cat is not using the box regularly…or peeing in one spot or in several spots around the house.

Is it vengeful behavior towards the human parent? Or a behavioral problem with another cat in the house? Or caused by a medical issue? Or just an occasional “mistake”? 

Since Beau arrived 5 yrs. ago, every so often mom will find a “tootsie roll” outside the box – like upstairs or in another room….and wonders WTH?  I assured her it was not me, so therefore it must have been Beau! 

We can not figure it out other than a “dingle-dangle” gets stuck to his “balcony door” and falls off somewhere in the house as he wanders away from the box! Mom thinks it’s just the occasional mistake, so she is not panicking that there is something wrong with him.

And then there is Bouvier, the Sphynx whose previous pet parent complained that he would "miss the box" or even pee on a pile of laundry etc occasionally. When we inherited him, mom was shocked at how often he would "miss the box". A vet visit was scheduled and he had a urine test - and everything came back ok.

Meanwhile observing him for a few weeks, she concluded that Beau and I contributed to his issue by bullying him sometimes as he would head to one of the 6 litter boxes we have on 3 floors! I guess since Beau and I were caught in the act, I couldn't deny it.

But additionally she has concluded that Bouvier is lazy about emptying his bladder frequently enough - and will "hold it" until finally he can't hold it any longer! Did I mention we drink 1-1/4 cup of lukewarm water a day in our food? Lots of water makes for lots of urine!

So the first thing to do is to determine whether these litter box issues are caused by a medical condition...or a behavioral problem...or something else?

As we have always stated, mom is not a veterinarian. She is a passionate pet parent who has been self-studying cats pretty much all her life, their habits and behaviors and has learned what some of the best practices are to handle some of the issues facing cat owners today. In this case, you want to assess immediately if your cat’s “mistakes” are caused by a medical condition.

If your cat made a mistake and didn’t use the litter box one time – or it happens very infrequently (like Beau) – then chances are, there is no medical condition involved.

However, if it is starting to happen often or worse happens a few times in a week – take your cat to the vet asap. One of mom’s friend’s cat was peeing outside the litter box initially very occasionally – but then it started to happen more frequently, so she took her cat to the vet – and it was diagnosed with a bladder infection and now needs meds to clear it up. Repeat behavior means an immediate vet visit.

In the case of bullying or "other issues" like Bouvier, it maybe good to consult with a cat behaviorist as how to work with the dynamics of the other animals in the house to hopefully be able to mitigate the problem. I am going to write a follow-up blog on Bouvier's issues and how mom is working on it with us 3 cats! 

Lastly maybe your cat is just being vengeful or lazy and just acting up, let’s review the basics for litter box management to hopefully stop your cat from being naughty!

Using The Right Litter

Consider using a litter that is organic and sustainably sourced with no chemicals and synthetics added whenever possible. We have sensitive noses, and certain odors can turn us off! We use OKOCAT recycled wood litter that is sustainable, minimally processed with no chemicals, flushable and biodegradable. 

Some pet parents have had started to use specialized litters that specifically address the issue with a good successrate, such as  Dr. Elsey’s Cat Attract Litter or the Cat Attract Additive that can be sprinkled on to any litter in order to seduce the cat to use the litter box – supposedly it has a “catnip” quality that calms the cat and draws it to the box. Worth a try for stubborn situations!

There are also some special training litters just for kittens who sometimes need a little help in reinforcing good litter habits.

Litter Box Do’s and Don’ts

Scoop Everyday – it goes without saying that us cats like a clean box.

Throw Out and Replace your plastic litter boxes every year or two as they will retain the urine odor over time – and us kitties don’t like that.

The rule of thumb is to have One Extra Box for the number of cats you have. o if you have one kitty – have 2 boxes in different places in your home.

If you have a multiple story house, it is a good idea to have One Box on Each Floor. Beau, Bouvier and I have 6 boxes in our house scattered on 3 floors. 

Make sure that the Litter Box Placement is in a roomy area, away from high-traffic areas, where your cat can have some privacy.

Consider the Cat’s Size and Age – large cats need large boxes – and kittens and seniors need pans with low entry.

And please Do Not Ever Place the Litter Box Near Our Food Bowls…you know the old proverb…we do not poop where we eat!

Once you have the basics covered, then you can see if the litter box issues clear up or remain. If they remain and it’s not a medical condition, then you need to work on the behavior. Here are a few tips for that.

Litter Box Behavior Training

Move the litter box to the spot where the cat pees or poops, hopefully the cat will use the box then. Over the course of the next few days, pull the box towards its original spot a few inches every day – hopefully the kitty will follow! If your cat stops and reverts to the original spot – put the box back and try again.

If your cat is attracted to a certain texture – like a tile floor or a soft carpeted area – you can try clearing a large spot on the litter box bottom to simulate a tile floor. Or you can add a small remnant of carpet to the bottom of the litter pan if your cat likes soft textures.

You can also try closing off some of the areas that the cat likes to do his business with a piece of furniture, shutting a door on a favorite room or even covering the spot with a few cat treats in a bowl – as we said the cat does not like to “go” near where it eats. 

If your cat does not respond, then mom would say it’s time for a cat behaviorist to step in and assess the situation.

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