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When your cat pees outside of the litter box

One reason enclosed litter boxes are a no-no
Photo by Malingering

Cats are not vengeful. If your kitty is peeing outside of the litter box, there is a reason. Your cat is doing her best to communicate that reason to you. It is up to you follow the clues.

Three areas to pay close attention to are health, behavior and the actual litter/litter box. Time to play detective.

Is your cat peeing more or less frequently than normal?
Has the volume of the urine changed?
Is the color too light or too dark?
Is there blood in the urine?
Is your cat meowing while peeing?
Does she run away right after peeing?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, please call/see your vet immediately. There may be a serious problem. Your vet will most likely want to run a urinalysis and perhaps even blood work. He or she may check for a urinary tract infection, crystals in the urinary tract, inflammation in the bladder (cystitis), bladder or kidney infection, kidney disease, etc.

Is your cat limping? Perhaps it is difficult for her to climb into the box. Once again, a veterinary exam is recommended.

Older cats may also have a problem climbing into a litter box. Consider constructing your own low entrance box.

Sometimes life changes can cause a great deal of stress for cats. And stress can make cats behave in a way they normally would not. Peeing or even pooping in places other than the litter box is one way they can show they are feeling out of sorts.

Have you recently added a pet or person to your household?
Has a non-human or human family member that your kitty was close with recently move away or die?
Have you moved to a new home?

Noted cat behaviorists Pam Johnson-Bennett and Jackson Galaxy both offer helpful tips on helping cats overcome stress. You may also wish to consult with a local cat behaviorist. Your veterinarian may be able to offer recommendations.

Litter/Litter box
Everyone likes a clean bowl, even your cat. The type of litter and location of the litter box are also very important.

How often are you scooping? Once a day is simply not enough. The average cat pees two to three times per day. Add a daily poop and that means cleaning the box several times per day. Don't roll your eyes - it takes what, a minute to scoop? Do it first thing in the morning, when you come home from work and before you go to bed. If you have kids, have them scoop after school.

Have you recently changed brands of litter? If your cat stopped using the box once you changed the litter, the message is loud and clear.

Have you moved the litter box to a new location? Ditto to the point above.

Do you have a multiple cat household? If so, do you have at least one litter box per cat? This is recommended - and they should not all be in the same room, but rather in various places around the home.

Is your cat being bullied at the litter box? Sometimes in multiple cat households, one cat will stalk another cat doing her business. Or one cat will wait outside of the room where the litter box is located and pounce on an unsuspecting kitty that is simply trying to leave.

What type of litter box are you providing? If it is covered, it may work for you, but it is not the best option for most cats. A closed cover locks in odors. For your cat, it is like going in a porta-potty. Ew. It also keeps them 'trapped.' Cats need an escape route.

A better option is a high-sided litter box with an open top, like this one from Iris.

If your cat keeps relieving herself outside of the box, but in one very specific location, place a litter box in that spot. It may look terrible, but it also may solve the problem. Over time, you can move the box little by little and find a locale you can both agree on.

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