Cats can pee or defecate outside the litter box for many reasons. From researching cat health advice to behavior modifications, there are several routes pet parents can take to help their adult or senior cat avoid soiling in the house.
Common Causes of Soiling in the House
When cats deposit urine or feces somewhere other than their litter box, they aren’t trying to get revenge on their pet parent. Instead, their actions stem from two main categories: medical and behavioral.
Cats develop more medical issues with age. Depending on the cause, this may lead to house soiling.
Arthritis occurs in 60 to 90% of older cats. It is a leading cause of incontinence and house soiling because cats with arthritis in their joints often have trouble getting in and out of the litter box. Since they have mobility issues, they may prefer to urinate or defecate somewhere that doesn’t cause pain or stiffness, such as on bare surfaces or soft, ground-level materials.
Kidney disease is another common issue in adult and older cats. It’s sometimes inherited, but kidney disease can also develop with age. About 35% of older cats have some stage of chronic kidney disease that can lead to urinary tract damage and problems getting to the litter box on time.
Cats can develop diabetes, although they are more likely to get Type II diabetes. A cat soiling in the house may have undiagnosed diabetes, especially if they have a dramatic increase in thirst and urination. Roughly 0.2 to 1% of cats may get diabetes, and obese cats are often four times more likely to develop this condition.
UTI or Feline Idiopathic Cystitis (FIC)
A urinary tract infection, or UTI, is a bacterial infection in a cat’s urinary system. Any infection can disrupt the bladder or urethra and lead to incontinence.
On the other hand, feline idiopathic cystitis is a bladder inflammation with an unknown cause. A cat with FIC might pee outside the litter box or in unusual places due to stress on their bladder.
Bladder stones are large mineral deposits that can lead to blockages and painful urination, another cause of house soiling. Male cats are especially prone to urinary obstruction because of their narrow urethra. Pet parents may notice cats “posturing,” where they want to urinate but are unsuccessful. Some pet parents can mistake posturing for constipation, but that’s rarely the issue and should be looked at immediately.
Many home environment changes and stressors can lead to behavioral issues where cats pee and defecate outside their litter box.
Disrupted Routine or Schedule
Even if a cat is litter box trained, they may soil the house if their routine changes. Any schedule disruption can cause stress and anxiety, especially if the pet parent goes out of town or returns to the office after working from home.
Unfamiliar Guests in the House
Strangers in the house can create anxiety or fear in cats, making them feel threatened or upset by the unfamiliar scents.
New Pet or Multi-Cat Disputes
Introducing a new pet to the home can likewise lead to anxiety or stress. Cats might also experience disputes in multi-cat households and cannot use the litter box before another cat chases them off.
Territorial Urine Spraying or Marking
Urine spraying or marking differs from urination. It happens when the cat is standing and is a way to claim territory or mark something unfamiliar with a familiar scent.
Unclean or Inaccessible Litter Box
Cats have highly sensitive noses, and they may avoid a litter box that hasn’t been cleaned in a while. They may also avoid a litter box that’s too difficult to access or has been moved to an unfamiliar location.
Treatment for Cat Soiling in the House
Stopping a cat from peeing in the house starts with ruling out medical issues before looking at behavioral issues. Of course, a veterinarian should always be the one to assess the cat’s health.
- Clean the dirty litter box more frequently, and check that the litter itself isn’t to blame. The cat may not like the current litter.
- Consider a different litter box, such as a larger one or with lower sides.
- Add more litter boxes to the home, especially with multiple cats, and watch for disputes that prevent access to the box.
Consider anti-anxiety medications to calm fears or stress from a new pet or disrupted routine.
- Introduce new situations, litter, or food slowly.
- Keep feuding cats apart to prevent territorial displays.
Fuzzy Vets for Expert Cat Health Advice
Pet parents wondering why their cat is peeing in the house can reach out to Fuzzy Vets for advice to help their adult or senior cat stay relaxed and mobile when it’s time to go.