A client called me on day to ask me why her cat was peeing anywhere but the litterbox. I explained there could be a medical reason her fastidious feline was avoiding the box. After asking questions to determine the history behind the undesirable behavior, I suggested the owner bring her cat in for an exam. In this article, we’ll discuss the reasons female cats shun the litterbox and start peeing everywhere else. Then, we’ll suggest some things you can try at home to encourage your furbaby to use the litterbox, and explain when it’s time to see your veterinarian.
About inappropriate urination in female cats
Sooner or later, most cats will exhibit inappropriate urination, to the frustration of their owners. When your female feline goes outside the litterbox, it can be concerning.
Usually, we assume peeing everywhere is strictly a behavioral problem, but that’s not always the case. When cats experience certain medical conditions like bladder infections or urine crystals, they may start to associate the pain they feel during urination with the litterbox
If your cat is peeing outside the litterbox, and you don’t have a ready explanation, you should visit the vet. Most causes of inappropriate urination, whether they’re triggered by behavioral issues, medical conditions, or stress, are treatable.
Key factors to keep an eye on when your female cat starts peeing everywhere
There are many different reasons why a cat may start peeing outside of the litterbox. It’s important to record where, when, and how they are peeing as it can help you start to figure out the underlying cause. This can be done by directly watching them or setting up a video. Watching your cat throughout the day for signs of anxiety and fear, aggression, or other behavior can be very helpful as well.
When evaluating specifically where your cat is peeing, pay attention to the amount of urine there is, and if it’s in multiple locations or a large amount in one spot. You also want to look at the surface your cat is peeing on (for example, do they choose blankets or something soft?), as well as where that location is around the house. Trying to figure out if they pee on a vertical or horizontal surface can also give you some important information that can help you figure out why your cat is doing this.
What would cause my female cat to pee everywhere?
There are various reasons why your female cat may start to pee everywhere, and they generally fall into one of two categories – medical or behavioral. If your kitty starts showing inappropriate urination, talk to your vet and rule out medical causes first to reduce the risk of a severe illness.
Any medical issue that makes urination uncomfortable can cause your cat to abandon the litterbox. Most medical causes of inappropriate urination in cats fall within the general category of Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease(FLUTD). Based on a survey of veterinary clinics in the United States, approximately 1.5% of cats examined suffered from FLUTD. The underlying causes of FLUTD include:
1. Urinary tract infection (UTI)
When bacteria get into your cat’s urine, it can cause urinary tract inflammation. UTIs are more common in older than younger felines. If your cat has an infection, you may notice:
- Straining to urinate
- More frequent urination with smaller amounts of pee
- Blood in the urine
- Vocalizing during urination
- Accidents in the house
If you suspect your cat has a UTI, take her to the vet. Leaving these infections untreated can be painful for your kitty, and the bacteria can travel to the kidneys or other body systems resulting in systemic infections. Usually, UTIs respond well to antibiotic treatments. Most cats recover in 7-10 days.
2. Bladder stones
The most common types of bladder stones, cystic calculi, in cats are struvite and oxalate. When bladder stones form, there may also be crystals in the urine. The stones irritate the bladder lining and cause inflammation and potentially causing a secondary UTI. Some breeds are more prone to developing crystals and calculi, but diet can also contribute to the problem.
The signs of bladder stones in cats include:
- Straining to urinate
- Frequent urination
- Licking the genital area
- Blood in the uring
- Painful urination
- Chronic UTIs
- Inappropriate urination/spraying
- Urethral blockages(more common in males)
If your cat has bladder stones or crystals in her urine, you may be able to help her by increasing her water intake to dilute the urine or push smaller stones out of the urinary tract. Your veterinarian may also recommend a prescription diet to help dissolve crystals. Larger stones usually require surgical removal.
3. Blocked urethra
While urethral blockage is more common in males, it can happen to your queen. If a larger bladder stone enters and lodges in the urethra, it may combine with mucus and create a plug. Without veterinary intervention, your cat may die. Signs of a blocked urethra include:
- Frequent attempts to urinate with little or no pee
- Yowling when trying to pee
- Firm, distended abdomen
- Loss of appetite
Depending on the size, character, and location of the plug, your veterinarian may be able to pass a urethral catheter to dislodge it. If not, he will perform surgery.
4. Feline idiopathic cystitis (FIC)
Idiopathic means the cause is undetermined. When a cat demonstrates the symptoms of a bladder infection including frequent urination and blood in the urine, but testing yields no evidence of bacteria, crystals, or stones, it’s FIC. While not proven, it’s likely that stress influences bouts of FIC.
If your veterinarian diagnoses FIC, you may be able to manage the condition by minimizing stress, adding extra litterboxes around the house, and changing her diet. Your veterinarian may prescribe antianxiety medications if the condition is severe. FIC is usually something that you will have to manage throughout your kitty’s lifetime.
5. Metabolic diseases
Cats suffering from kidney disease, liver disease, hypothyroidism, and other metabolic conditions usually have higher urine output. If your kitty fills the litterbox more often, she may start relieving herself elsewhere when the box isn’t clean. Contact your veterinarian for an examination and bloodwork if you notice symptoms like:
- Increased thirst/drinking
- Increased urination
- Chronic vomiting
- Weight loss/loss of body condition
Medication and treatment will vary depending on the underlying condition.
1. Dirty litterbox
Many cats like their litterbox to be very clean. You want to make sure that you have enough litterboxes (a litterbox for each of the cats in the house +1), and they should be cleaned daily (perhaps even more than that if experiencing issues). Litterboxes should be emptied and washed at least once weekly.
2. Litterbox sides/design
If your cat is in pain or getting older, it could be they are having difficulty getting into the box. Observe your cat getting in to see if they struggle, and consider the height of the sides of the litterbox. Some cats also do not like covered boxes or self-cleaning boxes. This often results in cats peeing/pooping near the litterbox but can be in other locations as well.
3. Litterbox size
Cats like to be able to turn around in their litterbox, so ensure the box is large enough that they can jump in and out easily and turn around inside. This often results in cats peeing/pooping near the litterbox but can be in other locations as well.
4. Litterbox location
Your cat may not like the litterbox location, and this can change even if they were fine with the location before. This could be due to changes in the environment, interactions with other cats or animals in your home, and other reasons. Try moving the litterbox or adding a new litterbox in another location (if your cat is peeing in a particular location, start putting a litter box there, you can gradually move it later). Oftentimes cats will pee/poop in one or two other locations they prefer if the location is the issue.
5. Litter type
Cats can dislike new litter types or have a negative association with a particular litter type. If you’ve recently changed your litter type, then you might want to consider going back to the old one. You could also try changing the litter type or adding another litterbox with a different type of litter to see if your cat prefers that. Often cats with preferences for substrates will pee/poop on particular types of materials, and it will be in one spot with a large volume of urine.
A bad experience in the litterbox (eg painful peeing/pooping, a very loud noise while in the litterbox, and more) could make a cat not want to use the litterbox. Cats will typically completely avoid the litterbox and the area it is in, and will often pee in small amounts in multiple locations. Trying a new location and possibly a new litterbox design can help.
7. Illness or medication
Sometimes having a recent illness or being on medication can change litterbox use. These changes in litterbox use would happen at the same time as the illness/medication or shortly after.
8. Changes to household
Any changes to the household with people or animals (adding or removing) could disturb litterbox use. In this case, the changes to litterbox use would happen when the change occurred or slightly after, and will often pee in small amounts in multiple locations.
9. Household cat interactions
Cats that are fearful of other cats (or other household pets), or having issues with aggression could cause changes in litterbox use. Watching your cats’ behavior around other animals can give you some clues as to whether this might be a problem for your cat that’s potentially causing them to pee outside of the litterbox. Often there will be pee in small amounts in multiple locations.
10. Stress in the household
Stress in people can affect litterbox use in cats. If there has been recent stress in the house and your cat has started to pee in other areas, this could be the cause of the behavior. Often there will be pee in small amounts in multiple locations.
11. Marking behavior
When using pee to mark, cats will stand with their tails up and quivering, arched back, and usually move their feet while spraying. The pee will also often be on a vertical surface, rather than a horizontal one. Marking can happen due to issues between cats in the house, when a female cat is in heat, or if there are cats visiting the home from outside.
Tips to help your female cat stop peeing everywhere
Nobody wants their cat peeing all over the house. Fortunately, there are some things you try to encourage your girl to use the litterbox. You should take your kitty to the vet when inappropriate urination starts. If the doctor diagnoses a health condition, pursue treatment. When you get a clean bill of health, try the following measures.
- Keep the litterbox clean and in a safe, easily accessible area
- Spend bonding time with your cat to minimize feelings of stress
- Thoroughly clean any area your cat pees inappropriately with an enzymatic cleaner to eliminate urine scents
- Place treats in the places your cat has been peeing to discourage using the area as a potty
- Lay down plastic sheets, sandpaper, or electronic mats that send mild, harmless shocks to discourage unwanted peeing
- Close doors or bar access to the areas your cat uses to pee
When should my female cat see the vet?
If your cat starts exhibiting inappropriate urination by peeing all over the house, you should contact your veterinarian and schedule an appointment. While the issue may have behavioral roots, you want to rule out infections and diseases that could be painful or dangerous for your furbaby. Head to the vet immediately if you notice the following symptoms:
- Loss of appetite
- Straining with little to no urine passing
- Distended, painful abdomen
- Lethargy or depression
Would a vet be able to help over a video call?
If cost is a concern, starting with a video call may help you sort out whether your kitty’s inappropriate urination is medical or behavioral. The doctor can review the symptoms and history of your cat’s peeing behavior, and you may be able to show a sample of the pee. If the video call suggests a medical condition, the vet will probably recommend an office visit.
Unfortunately, veterinarians can’t perform a physical exam or run diagnostic tests over a video call. Many of the medical causes of urinary issues have similar symptoms, so it can be hard to reach a diagnosis. As a result, your furbaby may not receive the treatment she needs in a timely manner. Sometimes, this results in more severe illnesses.
Frequently asked questions
Will spaying my female help stop her from peeing all over the house?
If your cat is spraying, spaying her may reduce the urge to mark territory, but it doesn’t always work. In other cases, spaying your female cat is not likely to help prevent her from peeing all over the house.
How can I tell if my cat’s urination problem is behavioral or medical?
The best way to know for sure if your cat’s urination is behavioral or medical is to bring your cat to the vet for testing. However, some signs are more likely with medical conditions, such as:
- Blood in the urine
- Straining to pee
- Vocalizing or crying when urinating
- Licking the genital area
- Increased urination frequency
Are there any home remedies I can try to resolve the problem?
There are not any home remedies for inappropriate urination, but you may be able to redirect your cat’s behavior by:
- Restricting access to areas she’s been peeing
- Laying down plastic sheets, sandpaper, or another noisy/rough surface to make the area undesirable for peeing
- Placing treats around the area where your cat pees to discourage using it as a potty
- Enzymatic cleaners can be tried to eliminate urine scents in previously soiled areas