Why is My Cat Peeing Outside Litter Box?

As a cat owner, you may have encountered issues with your cat’s litter box behavior now and then. Although a few problems along the way are typically nothing to worry about, frequent peeing outside the litter box can indicate a problem for your feline friend.

In the article below, we’ll walk you through some of the most common potential problems that may lead to your cat peeing outside the litter box such as changes in the home, dirty litter, urinary tract infection and more. Read through this list to see if you can narrow down your cat’s symptoms and determine what’s going on with your pet.

cat peeing outside of litterbox

Changes in the Household

Many cats are particular about their homes and territories staying relatively stable. If you’ve recently had any major changes in your household, your cat may be showing some behavioral issues by peeing outside the litter box. These types of changes may include a new baby in the family, a move to a new home, or new pets that have recently been added to the home.

If you’ve made changes to your household and feel like this could be the cause of your cat’s litter box issues, work on training your cat to use the litter box properly. Try placing the litter in a safe, quiet location and providing treats when your cat uses it.

Dirty Litter

Some cats are more particular than others, but no cat wants to use a dirty litter box. If you haven’t scooped or cleaned the litter box in a few days and your cat pees outside it—especially if they pee right next to it—your pet may be trying to tell you it’s time to clean.

Clean the litter box thoroughly and replace it with fresh litter. In many instances, this is all it takes to help your cat start using the litter box the right way again.

New or Uncomfortable Litter or Box

Have you recently changed your cat’s litter, or has the old formula for their favorite litter changed? Have you bought a new litter box or moved the litter to a new location? Any of these types of changes can cause a cat to start peeing outside the litter box, especially if they find the new litter uncomfortable or doesn’t like the smell.

Try to keep your cat’s litter situation as stable as possible. If changes must be made, take time to reward your cat with treats every time they use the litter box properly to help them build good habits once again.

Urinary Tract Infection

Sometimes, a cat may pee outside the litter box when they have a urinary tract infection. This may be because your cat is unable to hold urine until they get to the litter. It can also happen if your cat mistakenly associates the litter box with the cause of the pain and discomfort.

If your cat is straining to urinate, yowling and crying when urinating, or has blood in their urine, take them to the veterinarian or emergency vet right away. A urinary tract infection can become fatal in cats if left untreated for too long.


Diabetes may cause excessive thirst and excessive urination in cats. Sometimes, cats with diabetes may have to pee so much that they cannot make it to the litter box in time and will pee on the floor instead. Diabetic cats may also be overweight and may become lethargic, moody, or weak.

If you suspect your cat has diabetes or you’re unsure if they do, take them to the vet for tests. Your vet will work to determine whether your cat’s issues are caused by diabetes and will help you make the right treatment plan decisions if so.


Just like humans, cats begin to grow somewhat incontinent as they age. If you have a senior cat who is peeing outside the litter box, age could be the cause.

If you suspect your cat’s age could be contributing to this behavioral problem, try moving the litter box closer to where they sleep. This way, they won’t have to travel as far to get to it, and your cat may be more likely to make it to the box in time to urinate properly.

Talk with the Vet about Your Cat Peeing Outside the Litterbox

There are many potential reasons why your cat may be peeing outside the litter box. Some of these issues could signify a severe health problem, so it is important to have this symptom checked out as soon as possible by your vet if it occurs more than once.

Your vet will perform blood work and will likely take a urine sample to determine what’s going on with your cat. From there, the vet can help you find the right treatment or management solutions to combat the underlying problem and help your cat get back to their usual self as soon as possible. Heart + Paw has many locations to help your pet. Book an appointment online to talk with the vet about your cat peeing outside the litterbox. 

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Heart + Paw was founded in 2018 by Chief Veterinary Officer Dr. George Melillo, who currently serves the Mid-Atlantic area. Heart + Paw offers a combination of veterinary care, pet grooming, and dog daycare to help be a resource in your pet parenthood journey.

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