cat sitting on cat litter

Why is my cat suddenly peeing outside the litter box?

Has your cat forgotten all their house training? Petwise turns detective to discover the reasons why…

You’re up bright and early and making your way to the kitchen when… squelch! What’s this puddle on the floor?

Although it’s not the best start to any pet parent’s day, it’s unlikely that your feline friend set out to dampen your morning on purpose. As your Tom turns grey and enters their golden years, toilet troubles can become more common.

A host of reasons might be behind these accidents, so it’s your job to help your vet understand the cause to get your cat back on track.

While some causes are easily fixed, others might point to an underlying health issue that needs ongoing treatment – don’t forget to cover your pet with senior cat insurance to front those medical bills!

Below, you’ll learn why your greying mog could be peeing where they shouldn’t and what you can do to help.

So, why has your cat started peeing outside their litter box?

It would be wonderful if we could give a straightforward answer, but there are lots of reasons why cats stop using their litter tray. We understand that cleaning up strong-smelling pet pee is no one’s idea of fun, but most issues are treatable.

Here are the most common causes.

Medical problems

As with any animal, feline senior citizens are more likely to fall ill than their younger counterparts, and many of these conditions could mean you start finding puddles of pee around your home.

Have you got senior cat insurance to protect your old pet? If your feline develops a problem and isn’t covered, you could spend a small fortune paying for treatment.

With senior cat insurance in place, you can whisk your mog off to the vets of your choice without worrying about the financial side – we’ve got that covered!

So, what are the most common medical reasons for a cat peeing in unusual places?

  • Arthritis: Many older cats suffer from this degenerative joint disease in their later years, making it harder to move around. Joints go stiff and hurt your pet as they move, which could mean going up or down the stairs to their litter box is a challenge.
  • Urinary tract infection (UTI): Common in senior cats, a UTI causes inflammation. Symptoms to watch for include straining to urinate, blood in their pee and going to the toilet more often. Sometimes, the urge to pee is so strong, they can’t wait until they reach the litter tray.
  • Hyperthyroidism: If your mog has a hyperactive thyroid gland, it speeds up their metabolism. Affected cats may lose weight, vomit, become more vocal and drink more – making them pee more frequently and sometimes where they shouldn’t.
  • Kidney disease: Although this condition can occur at any age, it’s most common in older cats. As symptoms develop slowly, it can be hard to detect, but watch for increased thirst and peeing, loss of appetite, weight loss and vomiting.
  • Feline idiopathic cystitis (FIC): Stress can cause this condition because your pet’s stress organ sits in their urinary tract. So, if they feel anxious about something, they may well pee on the spot!
  • Urinary crystals: If your cat’s urine is too alkaline or too acidic, they could develop these crystals. As they grow, they cause inflammation and can eventually lead to bladder stones.
  • Bladder stones: When stones build up in the bladder, they roll about and inflame the bladder wall, often causing an urgency to pee wherever they are. This condition also puts your older pet at higher risk of a UTI.
  • Cognitive dysfunction: Also known as cat dementia, this condition affects your feline’s memory and makes them confused and disorientated, which could cause them to pee in random places.

It’s hard to identify the cause yourself, especially as so many problems have similar symptoms. Get your pet to the vet for a proper diagnosis and treatment.

If you have senior cat insurance with Petwise, arrange a vet video consultation which is included in your policy.

They can’t get to the litter box

We’ve already mentioned how arthritis could mean your cat seeks other peeing spots around your house. When their litter box is on another level and it hurts to reach it, an easier (but messier) option is more convenient for them.

Keep your feline’s litter box somewhere that’s easily accessible and consider placing a few around the house as they get older to make life easier for you both.

The litter box isn’t clean

Would you want to go to the loo time and time again without flushing it? Probably not, and neither does your greying cat!

If you’re guilty of not keeping up with litter box maintenance, your mischievous mog will soon find a new place to pee.

Scoop the litter at least once a day and refresh the supply and its tray with a proper deep clean every week or two. Remember, your cat's sense of smell is much more acute than ours, so even if it ‘seems’ clean to you, they might not feel the same.

They want more privacy

Cats can be shy, too, and putting their litter box where you, other pets and even visitors can see is enough to make them go elsewhere, which could even mean your bed!

The older they get, the more time they need to go to the loo and the less likely they’ll want onlookers. Keep the litter tray somewhere private and where your pet can pee in peace.

You own more than one cat

2 ginger cats sat next to eachother

Turning shy in front of other felines isn’t the only possible issue if you own more than one. Sometimes, one member of your cat clan feels superior to the others and may start bullying the rest by preventing access to the toilet.

The best way to resolve this problem? Get each cat their own tray in a different part of the house. The boss won’t be able to protect them all at once!

It’s also a good idea to avoid covered litter boxes with multiple pets. Certain felines may feel a little uneasy when they can’t see whether another one is inside or not.

We’ve got lots more tips on living in a multi-cat household on our blog.

Anxiety and stress

Cats are creatures of habit and even the slightest change to their routine or environment can cause a lot of stress. As they age, they’re even more set in their ways and become anxious easily.

Moving home, having a baby or getting another pet can upset your mog and make them feel the need to mark their territory – in other words, peeing everywhere.

How can you tell stress is the cause, though? According to Blue Cross, there are other tell-tale signs your cat is anxious, including:

  • Hiding away
  • Becoming more vocal
  • Aggression
  • Easily irritated
  • Over grooming
  • Not wanting to go out
  • Scratching furniture (yes, some love to do this anyway but it can signal stress)
  • Lack of appetite

Remember, not all these symptoms are stress-specific, so you’ll need to visit the vet to discover the cause.

If you want some quick advice regarding your pet’s condition, you can use our 24-hour vet video service if you have senior cat insurance with us.

7 tips to create the best litter box setup

You’ve read the causes and possible treatments, but how can you do your bit and create the perfect toilet environment for your old cat? We’ve got some ideas:

  1. Make sure the litter box is clean and fresh as often as possible.
  2. Choose large, open trays so your pet doesn’t feel cramped.
  3. Put the litter box(es) in a quiet, secluded part of your house away from where your cat eats and drinks.
  4. Make sure there’s at least one litter box on each floor in your home.
  5. As older cats need a little more help getting in and out of their box, get them a shallow model or consider putting a ramp at the entrance.
  6. Once you’ve found a litter your pet likes, stick to it. Changes in the smell and consistency can put them off using it. And although one that smells pleasant might appeal to you, unscented options are usually a cat’s favourite.
  7. Have a litter box for every cat and consider getting an extra one. Some felines like to use one for pee and one for poop, and this also helps avoid competition between pets.

Can you stop a cat from peeing outside the litter box?

In most cases, yes, but if your pet suffers from a condition like cat dementia, it can be a lot more challenging to fix the issue.

Make sure your cat’s peeing environment is just how it likes it and that you keep it clean and fresh at every opportunity. Reduce stressors in your home and take your pet to the vet for regular check-ups to spot health concerns before they become harder to treat.

These check-ups aren’t included on your senior cat insurance, but they are a necessity you should budget for as a responsible pet parent.

If your cat does pee where it shouldn’t, make sure you use a special cleaner to get rid of the smell or they might go there again.

Why does my cat poop in the litter tray but pee elsewhere?

Some cats can be particularly fussy when it comes to going to the toilet and prefer to pee and poop in separate boxes. Make sure you have two litter trays set up to avoid this issue.

Can I stop my cat from peeing on my bed?

Perhaps one of the worst places your cat can choose to pee is on your bed. Just imagine hoping to climb under the covers after a long day and finding a big puddle in the middle! The last thing you want to do right now is a load of washing and scrub the smell out of the mattress.

You’ll first need to figure out why they’ve chosen this spot. If you’ve got other pets, it might be marking its territory – a pheromone diffuser could help keep them calm.

Maybe it went on your bed for some privacy? Revisit their litter box setup to make sure they can go in peace.

Medical reasons will need to be addressed by your vet and you’ll need to do all you can to eliminate the odour from your sheets – an enzymatic cleaning solution works wonders.

How do I know if my cat has a urinary tract infection (UTI)?

According to International Cat Care, around 1%-3% of felines are affected every year, and the elderly generation are at a much higher risk.

As one of the more common causes of peeing outside the litter box, it’s important you know the signs to watch for. Animal Trust mentions the following tell-tale symptoms:

  • Blood in pee
  • Urinating more often
  • Crying when peeing (due to pain)
  • Excessively licking genitals

Your pet will likely need a few tests to diagnose a UTI – the most common being a urinalysis – to come up with the right treatment plan, which could include:

  • Pain relief
  • Catheter
  • Surgery

You can do your best to prevent the issue in the first place by cleaning litter trays often, providing plenty of fresh water and making your home as stress-free as possible.

Pet insurance your cat deserves

Here at Petwise, we want to give every feisty feline the protection it deserves no matter their age.

That’s why our lifetime plans have no upper age limit and come with a host of benefits:

  • Dental cover as standard
  • Senior food contribution
  • No co-payment excess
  • 24/7 vet video consultations
  • Farewell cover
  • Bereavement helpline

Ready to find the right plan at the right price? Get a quote for senior cat insurance today.