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Why Is My Cat Urinating in My House?

I love my cats even though they can be bad about using their litter box. I have spent a great deal of time training them to use the box.

This article will break down why your cat may be urinating in your home and what you can do to help them find the litter box.

This article will break down why your cat may be urinating in your home and what you can do to help them find the litter box.

Is Your Cat Urinating Everywhere but the Litterbox?

Does your cat urinate everywhere in your house? Would you like to discover how to remove cat urine smell from carpets? Want to learn how to train your cat to use a litter box and the best ways to try to stop your cat peeing everywhere?

Cats can be wonderful companions: loving, playful, and attentive. But there are times that they can try the patience of a saint.

I have had many cats over the years and, for the most part, did not have too many problems with my cats urinating where they shouldn't. I say "too many problems" because there were times when one of the cats would suddenly change its habits and stop going in the litter box.

An indoor cat can be a problem if they think that your home is their playground or, worse yet, their toilet. It's especially difficult when you come home and discover that, though the litter box is dry, your cat has been urinating on your carpet, on your beds, and on your furniture.

Cats might change their urination patterns if they're ill.

Cats might change their urination patterns if they're ill.

Why Do Cats Spray?

Thousands of cat owners, myself included, have suddenly found themselves with a cat that sprays urine everywhere in the house. Spraying is, by far, one of the most terrible of all cat behaviors. Why in the world do they do it?

The simple answer to this question is: When a cat sprays they are marking their territory. If your cat is an outside cat, he may be spraying a territory that extends for blocks around your house. An inside cat may spray urine in a few rooms of your house or the entire house. That is why it is so important that your cat have a "spot" in your house that they know is theirs. More on this later.

Another reason cats spray is when they are in heat. Female cats in heat spray to create a smell that attracts males from all around. The only way to avoid this is to have your female cat spayed. This is usually an immediate solution to the problem and helps keep the cat population under control.

Cats also spray when they are under stress: a new house, a new baby in the house, a new pet in the house, or an owner who is under considerable stress. All these and more can result in your cat starting to spray.

A wild cheetah marks a tree in his territory.

A wild cheetah marks a tree in his territory.

Why Does a Cat Suddenly Change Their Urination Patterns?

Cats suddenly start urinating outside of their box. What happened? Here are a number of possibilities:

  • They are sick. If you see your cat's behavior changing—they are not eating, they throw up after they eat, or they just aren't acting normally—take them to your vet for a check up.
  • Another cat has been brought into the house. Don't overdo the attention to the new cat; make sure the first cat gets as much attention as it did before.
  • You have moved their litter box. If you have to move the litter box, make sure to put your cat in it a few times a day, so they know where it is.
  • You have moved to another house. If possible, take the cat to the new house a few times before the actual move, set up a new cat box area there with a litter box for them to use, and let them know where it is.

If you have just got a new kitten, training will let your kitten know where they are expected to urinate. But If you have had your cat for some time, and they suddenly change their habits, it is a good idea to see if anything has been happening within your family for the past few months that could upset your cat and cause them to urinate where they shouldn't.

An older cat may have trouble going where it's supposed to.

An older cat may have trouble going where it's supposed to.

When Your Cat Changes the Place They Go, See What Else Has Changed

One cat started going in my garden that I had just dug up to plant flowers in. Another cat decided that my bedroom carpet was better to place to go. Being completely stunned by these new urination habits, I called the vet to get his advice.

Some of the things he asked me were:

  • Had anything changed in my household?
  • Had we brought any new animals into the house?
  • Did the cat seem sick?
  • Had his behavior changed toward the family because of something that had happened?
  • Was the family under stress?
  • Had the cat been spayed or neutered?
  • Had the litter in the litter box been changed to a different type?

As he was asking me these questions, many things were going through my mind. There were no new animals and no change of litter, the cat didn't appear to be sick, and we hadn't moved houses recently. What HAD changed was that I had begun working nights, and that had changed the family's schedule. We ate our meals at different times, watched TV at different times, and had our family time at different times. I guess we weren't paying as much attention to her as we did before. None of us had any idea that a cat could be so sensitive to a change in family dynamics.

It was eye-opening to realize that our cat could be so upset by these family changes. We all made an effort to give her more attention, include her in the times that the family were together, and praise her when she used her litter box correctly. After a while, the urination problem ended and she used her litter box instead of other places.

This was a BIG lesson learned: listen to what the cat is trying to tell you. Cats are like humans, they go along on an even keel until something upsets them. The secret is.....find out what upset them!!

Take your cat for a trip to the vet to diagnose any unresolved issues.

Take your cat for a trip to the vet to diagnose any unresolved issues.

Maybe The Urination Problem Is a Litter Box Problem

Many cat owners drive themselves crazy trying to figure out why their cat doesn't use their litter box. There are thousands of reasons why, but let's start with some basic ideas on how you may solve the problem.

For one thing: do not put food and water near the litter box! Cats like these two areas kept separate. Also, don't forget, if you have more than one cat get each one of them their own litter box.

First, check the litter box itself and where it is placed. Cats are no different than people when it comes to going to the toilet; they like a little privacy. The litter box should be placed in a quiet, private area of the house, away from the hustle and bustle of family life.

Here are some ideas on placement and dealing with the litter box:

  • Always keep it away from high traffic areas, privacy is very important.
  • Place it in the basement, with the door open or a cat door installed.
  • Put it in a closet, with the door open!
  • For easier cleaning, don't put it on a carpet.
  • Try putting it in the laundry room next to the washer or dryer.
  • Try the garage, as long as the cat has easy access.
  • Always make certain that there are no obstructions and the cat can actually get into the box.
  • Make sure that the box is big enough. If you got it for a kitten, it may be too small now.
  • Make sure you clean the box. A cat won't use a dirty box.

After placing the litter box correctly, ask yourself if you have altered the litter box in any way, such as by adding litter with a new fragrance or texture, or not filling the box deep enough with litter. That way, if your cat hesitates to use the new box, you have a clue as to why that might be.

Cats are usually clean and careful with their urinating; if a problem develops, check out all the surroundings before assuming the cat has gone bad.

Do Cats Need Privacy to Do Their Business?

Our cat was urinating all over the house again. Once again we went through the checklist of things that could have upset her and made her change her habits. This time we could not come up with an answer.

We did have young children, but they had been in the house when we got the cat, so that should not have been a problem. Our children loved the cats and treated them with respect, not over-handling or abusing them.

Simply by accident, we happened to see our two-year-old toddle up to the cat box and run his fingers through the litter. One of our older kids told us that he did this quite often, even when the cat was in the box trying to do her business. BINGO, the lights came on and we finally had our answer.

We moved the cat box into a different part of the house, showed the cat where it was, and put her in it several times a day, so she got the message. Problem solved—no more spraying about the house.

Another big lesson learned: cats are like people, they like a little privacy when going to the toilet!

Could Illness Be the Cause of the Problem?

No matter how hard you try, all your efforts to fix a urination problem could be in vain if your cat is sick. Since most of us look at our pets as small lions and tigers, it is hard for us to believe that they could get sick. But a cat, like any other animal on earth, can and will get sick.

Older cats, like older people, are prone to diseases and problems. Their joints can become stiff and painful, their eyes can become cloudy or blind, they can lose control of their bladder and bowels. No matter how active your cat has been, starting at age nine or so, old age can set in very quickly. This should be one of your first considerations when a cat's toilet pattern changes.

Cats can be attacked by parasites, such as ringworm, heartworm, hookworm, and roundworm. Your vet can recommend annual shots that take care of this type of problem.

One of my first male cats died of a urinary tract infection. This problem is most prevalent in male cats that haven't been neutered, but females can also suffer from it. Since our cat was an outside as well as an inside cat, and he was one of our first pets and we didn't know enough to look for this problem, we didn't catch the symptoms until it was too late. He was not using his litter box and we finally noticed that he had a very strong smell to his urine.

At the first signs of a urinary tract infection, take your cat to the vet; they have medication that will take care of the problem, and they can advise you how to avoid it happening again.

Two other things you might discuss with your vet are feline leukemia and feline diabetes. These two illnesses can be very dangerous to your cat and can shorten the life of any pet. The vet can recommend treatment to prevent or treat these diseases.

Any time you see your cat changing their habits, consider health issues right along with all the other things talked about in this article. Take care of your cat, the same way you would take care of your children; after all, cats are just "little people" in fur coats.

Spaying or Neutering May Help (Consult a Vet First)

Some people feel that the best way to treat cat urination problems is before they start: by getting their cat spayed or neutered at a young age. Although 12 weeks may seem quite young, the SPCA spays and neuters cats of this age. Spaying or neutering is the best way to nip cat urination problems in the bud, especially spraying. Of course it is always best to talk to your vet first.

For one of my male cats, this was the only solution that stopped him from urinating and spraying around the house. I did not intend to breed him, so the neutering did not interfere with any plans I had. Once it was done, he became much more loving and affectionate, and he always used his litter box. Neutering solved the problem and also helped hold down the unwanted cat population.

Don't give up your cat just because they're giving you a bit of trouble—put in the work to train them! It'll be worth it.

Don't give up your cat just because they're giving you a bit of trouble—put in the work to train them! It'll be worth it.

Don't Even Think About Getting Rid of Your Cat—Train Them

Cats are complicated beings. Things set them off, just like they set you and me off. The big difference is this: we can talk to each other to help resolve the problem, but have you ever tried talking to a cat? They just look at you and then just go about their business, completely ignoring your little chat.

How, then, can you ever get through to a cat that their urinating around the house is not acceptable?

The number one rule for changing a cat's behavior is: Never, ever, hit them. Don't scream at them, and don't stop loving them. As I said, cats are complicated, and they don't understand why the person who once loved and cherished them now wants to beat and disown them.

When my cats began to stray from their litter box, I would carry a spray bottle filled with water. When I saw my cat start to back up to something to spray, I would give it a squirt of water. A few times like this and the cat would usually get the message. I would also take them to their litter box, place them in it, and push their rear ends down to indicate that this was the place to urinate. I had good luck with this method, though I had to be persistent.

I began to carry small cat treats around so I could praise my cat when I saw them do something right, like using their litter box and scratching on their scratching post.

One of my cats was really difficult to break of the habit of urinating in the house. I ended up putting 15 pennies in a tin can, and when she was doing something wrong I would shake the can at her. The noise would get her attention and she would stop what she was doing, giving me a chance to pick her up and take her to the litter box. Eventually this and the treats made the correct impression, and she always used her litter box after that.

The one thing I always tried to remember was to stay calm, don't shout, and don't hit them. If you continue to show your cat love and affection, they will want to please you, they will still trust you, and they will be more easily bribed by a treat. All this and a lot of patience will eventually get the job done, and your cat will be more likely to always use their litter box.

The Odor of Cat Urine Drove Me Crazy

While I was having problems with my cats urinating in places other than their litter boxes, a bad odor filled my house. If you have ever had this happen, then you know how crazy it can make you. Having friends over is not an option; after all, how can you explain those bad smells. If you do have friends over and they comment on the smell, they usually say, "If it was me, I would get rid of that cat." After a while you almost start to agree with them, that maybe this is the answer.

Day after day, I found myself exhausted trying to get rid of that horrible odor.

  • I would wash bedding every day, because the cat peed on the bed.
  • I would burn candles of every scent to cover up the odor.
  • I sprayed gallons of Febreze into the air.
  • I used "enzyme eater" products from the pet store.
  • I had boxes of Arm and Hammer in every room of the house.

It was not easy to rid the house of the odor. I only totally got rid of the odors when I was able to get the cats to use the litter box again.

Tips for Dealing With Cat Urine Messes

Here are a few things I learned to do.

  • Remove as much of the pee as possible, put baking soda on the spot, rub it in, vacuum it up, put some more on the spot, and vacuum again after about 15 minutes. Seems to work OK.
  • Put the cat box against the wall lengthwise and put a newspaper about 10 inches up the wall behind the cat box. If a cat is in the box and sprays high, the paper will catch it.
  • Put six layers of newspaper on the floor all around the entire cat box, extending about a foot out from the box. This will catch any urine spray that goes past the edge of the cat box.
  • To pick up cat vomit and cat poop, use a serving spoon. Dig the spoon into the carpet at least 1/4 to 1/2 inch and scrape towards you. This will pick up the solids and also the liquids. Then take a product like Nature's Miracle (from Petsmart), soak the area, and follow instructions on the label.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.


SparrowLujan on October 03, 2018:

I am really close to giving up my cat. I have tried everything, but this behavior is fairly new. He started peeing on things randomly. We have had a lot of changes in the last few years. He has destroyed one sectional. I replaced it and covered it with plastic. That was a deterrent for a couple weeks. Everytime I have company, he pees on the furniture. My sparrow is my heart, but he is destroying my home and i dont know what to do.

donna on March 25, 2018:

I have a 12 year old male cat with diabeties for the past 3 years and since Dec he now is peeing everywhere in the house. We have taken him to the vet several times to get tested and everything comes back fine except he still has diabeties and we have given him shots twice a day for the past 3 years. We have bought extra litter boxs and even clean it out twice a day. and he still is peeing everywhere. We are starting to think that he will need to be contained in one room or think of the other option which hurts to even think of it. Our house is out of control with the smell and we are buying pet cleaner weekly to help cleaning the odor and thats not working anymore. is there any hope at this point.

misscat on November 21, 2017:

thank you so much !

guys im reallu tired my family always blame me for what the cat does i love her to death but im tired of this

TedWritesStuff on December 22, 2012:

good source of information.

Mary Stephenson from California on October 31, 2012:

I had a cat that urinated all over. Found out after many frustrating years, that she had a severe sinus infection and so she couldn't smell. She died after major surgery trying to correct the sinus destruction, her blood would not clot. Seen many vets on this issue but it was not detected until too late. The cat was a happy wonderful fun loving cat, didn't make any sense, we just could not tell what was wrong. Lesson: always treat the whole cat, it isn't always just where the problem appears to be. Miss that cat so much, she was an absolute love.

anonymous on January 30, 2012:

i am having a cat problem. he likes to spray and popp outside his box sometimes. and mainly on rugs. which i guess is nice because they are easier to clean but he does this EVERYDAY and the only thing i can think is, it has been just me and my two daughters. and now i have a boyfriend and i think he doesn't like the change of fighting for my attention with another male. both he and i love on my cat all the time and i clean his litter box more often than not. not sure what to do about this. because if my cat cannot accept my new boyfriend (of 7 mo now) , frustrated

anonymous on January 03, 2012:

We have four cats and we have a problem with two of them occasionally urinating on the carpet. The worse incident was when one of them got on top of me while I was in the bed and peed on me! I agree with you about not hitting the cats, but I must admit I swatted the cat when that happened. I like your suggestion of the water spray bottle. I'm going to get one and try that. Thanks for sharing this lens.

JoyfulPamela2 from Pennsylvania, USA on June 14, 2011:

Thank you so much for your tips. We all adore our cat, but do get very frustrated when he marks around the house. We will give them a try. : ) *Angel blessed!*

Evelyn Saenz from Royalton on June 14, 2011:

I'm passing on your helpful suggestions on solving cat urination problems to my sister who has three large male cats who enjoy spraying her house. Thank you for the suggestions.

Blessed by a SquidAngel:)

Vladimir from Australia on June 06, 2011:

You've given me some ideas here. Next time the woman who feeds me changes her schedule I'll try a little urination power and see if she snaps back into line. Heaven knows she gets clucky enough if I venture a slight nervous cough

Susanna Duffy from Melbourne Australia on June 06, 2011:

I would like to leave a tip but I've never had a problem (touch wood) with any of the cats I've had over the years

I-sparkle on February 14, 2011:

This is a good lens. You have presented some very valuable tips and information here.