My cat pees outside the litter box…

Cats pee outside of the litter box for a variety of reasons. It could be that something is wrong, or maybe, your cat’s trying to tell you something. I’ve spent countless hours with dozens of cats, and no two are alike. Let’s take a look at some possibilities.

By Peter McCarthy

for Assorted Ideas, Large & Small

Why does my cat pee outside the litter box?

orange cat sleeping on white bed
Photo by Александар Цветановић on

If your cat pees outside the litter box, he may need a check-up with your vet. An underlying medical condition might cause the behavior, and cats are masters at hiding illness or injury. But consider some simpler possibilities, first.

After all, the reason is as likely simple as complicated and expensive.

Cats are smart little investigators, always checking things out in detail, but their attention span is, according to Jackson Galaxy, “a nanosecond.” Boredom is a cat’s worst enemy, and your cat may just be letting you know he or she isn’t happy.

I always remind people to keep in mind that a cat can’t send out an interoffice memo or text you a message. He or she needs to communicate in the best way possible. And maybe that’s peeing outside the litter box. What else can they do?

A common cause, I’ve found, is easily overlooked. You’ve done all the right things, but even so, your cat just doesn’t like the litter box. Often, it’s the litter. One of our cats had trouble with the dust one brand created; so, we removed the lid. The problem disappeared.

Another, a friend’s cat was so terrified of a new litter box with a swinging door, she wouldn’t pee or poop in it. Must’ve looked like a trap to her. Taking off the top brought a deluge and great relief.

Other possibilities…

Always remember, your cat can’t drop a subtle hint in conversation nor can he or she ask a friend to clue you in. If your cat pees outside the litter box, think simple first. He or she probably does. Most cats don’t beat around the bush. They’re very direct.


  • Environmental factors like new furniture or even a change in routine can worry that little animal depending on you for… well, everything. Cats mix independence with overwhelming dependence. It’s a riskier tightrope they walk than most people realize.
  • An underlying medical condition, but that would never be my first guess. A medical condition would usually have other symptoms or indications.
  • A location he or she distrusts may cause your cat to pee outside the litter box. You never know what might scare a cat. One of my most fearless cats runs away if you’re carrying a bag or coat or anything like that. My best guess is that it reminds him of how he got trapped or saw a loved one trapped. We may never know what provokes fear, but it may cause a lot of mysterious anxiety.
  • Some cats are clean freaks and will not use a litter box that smells, even if it’s a lingering odor in the litter. Odor from another cat may also put your cat off.


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