Help! My cat urinates next to the litter box

20/02/2024 Upbringing & behaviour Cat

Help! My cat urinates next to the litter box

One of the most common and frustrating issues you may encounter as a cat parent is when your beloved four-legged friend urinates outside the litter box instead of inside. Not only can this behaviour be confusing for you, but it could also be a sign of underlying problems.

In this blog post, we take a closer look at this behavioural problem and discuss possible causes and effective solutions. Find out why cats urinate next to the litter box and discover ways to understand and address this behaviour so that you and your cat can live happily together.

Causes and solutions

By understanding the underlying reasons behind this behaviour and taking practical steps, you can effectively address the situation and enhance your bond with your cat. The key to success lies in understanding your cat, patience, and a willingness to make necessary changes for a strong bond with your furry companion. Let's delve deeper into the issue of cats urinating outside the litter box and explore potential causes and solutions.

Possible causes

Health issues:
One of the first things to consider if your cat urinates next to the litter box is possible health issues. Cats can develop various medical conditions such as urinary tract infections, bladder stones, diabetes, and other ailments that cause pain or discomfort when urinating.

If your cat is having difficulty urinating or showing other signs of discomfort, such as frequent licking, it's important to rule out a medical cause. This can be done, for example, with the help of a urine test, nutritional advice from your pet shop, or a visit to the vet. A medical condition may be the underlying cause of this behaviour, and early diagnosis and treatment are essential to ensure your cat's health.

Litter box issues:
Another common reason why cats urinate outside the litter box is related to the litter box itself, primarily its cleanliness. Cats are picky when it comes to hygiene, and a dirty litter box can prompt them to do their business elsewhere. It's crucial to clean the litter box daily and change the cat litter regularly.

Additionally, the size and depth of the litter box may play an important role. Some cats prefer larger boxes, while others prefer shallower ones. It's helpful to try out different types of litter boxes and litters to discover what your cat prefers.

The location of the litter box is also significant. Cats appreciate privacy and tranquillity when using the toilet, so make sure the litter box is placed in a quiet and secluded spot where your cat feels at ease. Choosing the right litter box environment can contribute significantly to preventing inappropriate urination.
Stress and anxiety:
Cats are sensitive beings and often respond to stress and anxiety by exhibiting inappropriate behaviour, such as urinating outside the litter box. Changes in the environment, such as moving, the arrival of new pets, or other stressful events, can make your cat anxious. It's important to try to identify the causes of stress and, if possible, reduce these situations.

If reducing stressful situations isn't possible, there are other steps you can take. For instance, consider the use of calming agents for cats, which can be prescribed in consultation with a veterinarian. These can help reduce your cat's anxiety.

Territorial behaviour:
Cats are naturally territorial animals, and sometimes they may urinate outside the litter box to mark their territory. This territorial behaviour can occur in both neutered and non-neutered cats. If you have multiple cats, territorial behaviour can be a common issue.

A smart strategy to address territorial behaviour is to carefully choose the location of the litter box. Place the litter box in a spot where other cats don't have easy access, so your cat feels secure and is less likely to mark its territory.

Another effective measure is placing multiple litter trays in the house. Each of your cats will then have their own place to go to the toilet. This helps reduce competition and gives each cat a personal space, which can help reduce territorial behaviour.


Rule out medical problems:
If your cat keeps urinating next to the litter box, it's always good to rule out possible medical problems. Your cat's health is very important, and early diagnosis and treatment can prevent serious health problems. Get advice from your pet shop. They can help you further or refer you to a vet if necessary.

A veterinarian can conduct a more thorough examination and identify any medical conditions that may be affecting your cat's behaviour. Treating these conditions in time can not only improve your cat's well-being, but also help in resolving the behavioural issue.

The right litter box:
The right choice of a litter box is crucial to encourage your cat to use it. Make sure that you clean the litter box daily and replace the litter regularly. Choose a litter box that has the right size and depth for your cat and place it in a quiet and secluded location.

Stress management:
If stress seems to be the cause of the problem, it's important to identify the source of the stress and try to reduce it. Creating a calm and safe environment for your cat can help. This may involve the use of pheromone sprays, calming agents for cats, or behaviour therapy, among other things.
Territory management:
With territorial behaviour, it's important to place the litter box in a quiet location where other cats don't have easy access. This can reduce the urge to mark territory. Additionally, placing multiple litter boxes throughout the house, each in its own space, can help in minimising conflicts between cats.

Reward good behaviour:
Positive reinforcement is a powerful tool when training cats. Reward your cat with praise, attention, or treats when they use the litter box. It's important to reward good behaviour rather than punish bad behaviour, as punishment is often counterproductive and can increase anxiety and stress in your furry friend.

Patience and consistency:
Addressing this behavioural issue often requires patience and consistency. Don't expect the problem to disappear overnight. It may take some time for your cat to adjust to the changes you make. Stay calm and patient and continue to follow the above steps.

The golden advice

It's important to understand that cats don't have malicious intentions when they urinate outside the litter box. They usually just try to communicate something to us. By being patient, investigating possible causes, and trying the right solutions, you can help your pet.

While there's no absolute "golden tip" that works for every cat and every situation, there are some general guidelines and strategies that may be helpful in addressing the issue of cats urinating outside the litter box:

  • Rule out medical problems: get advice from your pet shop or vet
  • Ensure a clean litter box
  • Choose the right cat litter
  • Place the litter box in a quiet location
  • Reduce stress

Listen to your cat!

Cats are wonderful companions, but sometimes they exhibit behaviour that can confuse us, such as urinating outside the litter box. Understanding the causes of this behaviour and finding effective solutions is key to maintaining a good bond with your cat.

The most important lesson we can learn from this behavioural issue is that cats usually don't randomly urinate inappropriately just to annoy their owners. They are trying to tell us something. This could range from health issues to discomfort with the litter box or stress in their environment.

It always starts by ruling out any medical problems. If your cat is healthy, you can take steps to optimise the litter box environment, reduce stress, and use positive reinforcement to encourage desired behaviour.

So, if you find yourself dealing with a cat that is urinating outside the litter box, know that there are solutions, and with the right approach and necessary care, you can restore the relationship with your cat and enjoy a happy and healthy life together.

In a nutshell

There can be various reasons why cats urinate outside the litter box, including medical issues, problems with the litter box itself, stress, territorial behaviour, or behavioural problems.
No, generally, punishment is not an effective approach and can make your cat's behaviour worse.
To prevent your cat from urinating outside the litter box, it's important to identify and address possible causes.