Why is my male cat peeing everywhere? Our vet shares what to do

After our wedding, I moved in with my husband and his cat. Soon, the cat started spraying in the basement. Fortunately, I understood the behavior was a signal that his sense of security was disrupted, so we knew how to deal with his inappropriate urination. In this article, we’ll look at various reasons your male cat may start peeing everywhere but in his litter box and whether there’s any difference with female cats. Then, we’ll offer some ways you may be able to stop the inappropriate behavior. Finally, we’ll explain when it’s time to head to the vet, and how much various treatment options may cost.

Do male cats pee everywhere for different reasons than female cats?

A male cat can pee everywhere for all of the same reasons as a female cat, except the marking behavior can have different causes. In this article, we will review specifically the most likely medical and behavioral reasons that cause male cats to stop using their litterbox.

What would cause a male cat to pee everywhere?

When your male cat starts to pee all over the house, it may be related to a medical condition or a behavioral cause. Any time you notice inappropriate urination, you should talk to your vet and rule out possible medical causes first. 

Medical causes

Cats are prone to lower urinary tract diseases, which can cause painful urination. When a cat has an uncomfortable experience while he’s peeing, he may associate his distress with the litter box and start going to other places around the house. 

1. Urinary tract infection

Urinary tract infections(UTIs) are most common in older felines, but they can affect any cat. When bacteria or fungi infect the urinary system, the bladder becomes inflamed causing discomfort and urgency. Signs of a UTI include:

  • Peeing outside the litter box(may be the only symptom)
  • Peeing more frequently but in smaller volumes
  • Draining and crying while urinating
  • Blood in urine

Cats with a UTI should be examined by a vet. While the infections occasionally resolve spontaneously, it’s not the rule. Some infections can spread to the kidneys and other organs. Your veterinarian can culture your kitty’s urine to determine the cause and prescribe appropriate antimicrobial medications. He may also give your cat anti-inflammatory drugs for pain.

2. Feline idiopathic cystitis

When cats show signs of an inflamed bladder but diagnostic testing does not identify a specific cause, it’s considered idiopathic. Stress appears to play a role in the development of this condition. The signs of feline idiopathic cystitis(FIC) are similar to UTIs and other lower urinary tract diseases and include:

  • Inappropriate urination around the house
  • Straining to urinate
  • Frequent urination
  • Bloody or discolored urine

With a presumptive diagnosis of FIC, your veterinarian will probably recommend you try to manage the condition at home. Some things you can try to help your cat include:

  • Minimize stress in the home and maintain a consistent routine for your cat
  • Station extra litter boxes around your home
  • Provide ample fresh water
  • Add cat trees, scratching posts, and toys to your cat’s environment for social enrichment

Once cats show signs of FIC, the condition usually requires management for the rest of their lives.

3. Bladder stones

Sometimes cat urinary systems don’t properly process minerals that occur naturally in the body. When this happens, the minerals crystalize and may combine with mucus to form stones over a few weeks or months. When bladder stones are large enough, they irritate the bladder lining causing:

  • Blood in the urine
  • Straining to urinate, possibly with vocalization
  • Frequent urination
  • Peeing in unusual places
  • Chronic UTIs

You may be able to help your cat eliminate smaller bladder stones by encouraging him to drink more water. Increased fluid intake helps to dilute the urine and may prevent crystals and stone formation. Your cat is also more likely to pass small stones if he has to pee more. 

For larger stones, consult with your veterinarian. He may recommend a specialized prescription diet to dissolve the stones. This approach is not always effective in which case the treatment is surgical removal of the stones.

4. Blocked urethra

Female urogenital system

Male urogenital system

Comparison of the urogenital system in male and female cats. Notice the female urethra has a direct pathway from the bladder to the vulva while the male urethra is curved and exits through the penis.

When larger stones get stuck in the urethra, they often combine with mucus and form a plug causing a life-threatening emergency. Because the urethra is usually narrower in neutered male cats, they are more prone to blockages. Signs of a blocked urethra include:

  • Straining to urinate with little to no urine passing
  • Frequent attempts to urinate, usually with yowling
  • Distended, firm abdomen
  • Vomiting
  • Depression
  • Changes in behavior, such as hiding

If you notice signs that your cat has a blockage, take him to the vet immediately. 

urinary blockage in Feline lower urinary tract disease

The doctor may be able to pass a catheter and dislodge the plug if it’s a mild to moderate blockage. Otherwise, surgery is necessary to remove the plug.

5. Metabolic disorders

If your cat has kidney disease, hypothyroidism, diabetes, or another metabolic disorder, it can cause him to drink and pee more. Of course, that means the litter box fills up faster. Most felines like a clean potty area. So your kitty may abandon the box if you don’t scoop it frequently enough. Schedule an appointment with your vet to check for a metabolic disease if you notice:

  • Increased thirst/drinking
  • Increased urine output
  • Weight loss of change in body condition
  • Repetitive vomiting

At the clinic, your veterinarian will examine your cat and run bloodwork to determine the underlying cause of the symptoms. Treatment varies depending on the diagnosis.

Behavior reasons

1. Marking behavior 

Cat spraying pee

When using pee to mark, a male cat will stand with their tail up and quivering, arched back, and usually move his feet while spraying. The pee will also often be on a vertical surface, rather than a horizontal one. Marking can happen in both neutered and unneutered cats for a variety of reasons. Reasons cats may mark include issues between cats in the house, male cats detecting a female cat in heat (either in the home or visiting from outside), or cats visiting the home from outside. 

2. 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.

3. 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. 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. 

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 others. 

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 brand, 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.

6. Fear 

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. 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 or slightly after the change occurred, and your cat will often pee in small amounts in multiple locations.

8. 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. Cats that are fearful of other cats (or other household pets), or having issues with aggression could cause changes in litterbox use. 

Watching your cat’s behavior around other animals can give you some clues as to whether this might be a problem for your cat and potentially cause them to pee outside of the litterbox. Often there will be pee in small amounts in multiple locations when this is the cause.

How can I know if my cat’s inappropriate urination is due to a medical issue or a behavioral problem?

When cats are sick, they’re notorious for hiding their symptoms and playing the stoic. So, sometimes the only sign you observe may be peeing all over the house. The only sure way to know whether inappropriate urination is caused by a medical issue is to schedule an examination with your veterinarian. However, if you notice certain symptoms, there’s a good chance your cat has a medical condition.

  • Blood in the urine
  • More frequent urination
  • Straining to pee with vocalization or crying
  • Licking the genital area

What can I do to stop my male cat from peeing everywhere?

When you notice that your cat is peeing outside of the litterbox, try these steps to help him.

  • Rule out medical issues by scheduling an appointment with your veterinarian.
  • Keep the litterbox clean by scooping out waste every day and changing the letter every week. When you change out the litter, clean the box with an enzymatic cleaner to control odors.
  • Make sure the litterbox is in a clean, quiet, stress-free area.
  • Provide additional litterboxes around the house. Ideally, you should have at least as many cats in the household plus one.
  • Consider changing your litter type. Cats usually prefer finer particle litter that’s unscented. Find the texture that suits your furbaby. 
  • Clean all areas that your cat has peed outside of the litterbox using an enzymatic cleaner to eliminate urine scent.
  • Maintain a consistent routine to minimize stress for your cat
  • If your cat is social, give him extra TLC and attention.

When should I take my male cat to the vet?

Because cats with certain medical conditions may not show any symptoms other than inappropriate urination, it’s advisable to schedule an appointment any time your boy starts avoiding the litterbox. However, you should take your furbaby to the vet or emergency clinic immediately if you observe:

  • Straining to pee with minimal or no urine passing
  • Repetitive vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • A painful or distended abdomen
  • Depression or lethargy

Most medical conditions of the urinary tract can be painful and potentially lead to serious illness if left untreated.

What are the treatment options and how much will it cost?

The underlying cause of your cat’s inappropriate urination will help your veterinarian determine how to treat the condition. Below are possible treatments and estimated costs for different diagnoses.

  • The treatment of choice for a UTI is antibiotics. The cost of a vet visit, diagnostic testing, and treatment is usually $150-200.
  • Using a prescription diet to treat bladder stones medically will run about $100-150 for the vet visit and diagnostics and an additional $25-40 for a bag of dry food or case of cans.
  • Surgical removal of bladder stones(cystotomy) costs around $1000-3000.
  • Non-surgical treatment(catheterization) of a blocked urethra runs about $750-1,500.
  • Surgical correction of a blocked urethra may cost $3000 or more.

Frequently asked questions

How can I create a stress-free environment for my cat?

  1. Place litterboxes in quiet, safe locations. 
  2. Have enough boxes for every cat in the house plus one.
  3. Provide cat perches or climbing towers. 
  4. Set up scratching posts in the house.
  5. Give your cat a safe hiding area like a box or crate set up in a quiet location.
  6. Play with your cat for at least 20-30 minutes a day to provide mental stimulation.
  7. Give your cat TLC and cuddle time.
  8. Maintain a consistent routine with minimal changes in your cat’s environment.

What are some effective litterbox solutions?

If your cat is avoiding the litterbox, you should try to figure out the underlying cause. To help encourage using the box, try the following:

  • Place several litterboxes throughout the house in clean, quiet areas to see if the location is a problem. Do not put boxes next to one another – cats like their privacy.
  • Offer a smorgasbord of litter types to find his preferred texture.
  • After you identify the preferred litter type(s), test your cat’s preferred litter depth. Fill one box with a few inches of litter and another with a shallow layer.
  • Test different styles of litterboxes. Try high and low walls, covered and uncovered to find your cat’s preferences.
  • Find a size your cat likes. Most cats like a box that’s about 1 ½ times their body length to allow room to turn around.
  • Don’t place food or water dishes near the litterbox.

Can neutering my male cat help prevent inappropriate urination?

Neutering may help prevent spraying behavior in a male cat, but there are no guarantees. Cats are territorial by nature, and spraying is a way felines mark their domain. While intact males are the primary culprit, some females and about 10% of neutered male cats also spray.

Neutering is not likely to influence the likelihood of other causes of inappropriate urination. However, neutered males are more likely to develop a plugged ureter because their urethras shrink after the surgery. 

 

Authors

    by
  • Dr. Liz Guise, Veterinarian

    Dr. Elizabeth Guise (DVM) graduated from the University of Minnesota with a Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine. She worked as a veterinarian in private practice for over two years before going to work with the USDA as a veterinary medical officer for 14 years.

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  • Janet Cutler, PhD, Cat Behaviorist

    Janet Higginson Cutler, PhD, CAAB, is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist. She earned her Phd at the University of Guelph, and runs her own cat and dog behavior consulting firm, Landmark Behaviour, in Canada.

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