Why Cats Pee Outside the Self-Cleaning Litter Box


When you take note of your cat’s litter box habits, you notice that they pay a lot of attention to cleanliness. Despite this, there are situations when your cat will decide not to make use of the litter box. This is when they start exhibiting elimination problems.

There are different reasons why your cat may be having this issue, and the most common has to do with the cleanliness of the litter box. There are lots of simple strategies you can try to solve this problem, but you must visit a vet first. This is to ensure there is no health issue.

Litter Box Problems Due to Medical Conditions

Certain conditions can make using a litter box difficult for your cat. These conditions may cause pain while your cat is trying to urinate. They include the following:

  1. Bladder blockage or stones: When a cat has bladder stones or blockage, the cat will cry or mew while trying to eliminate. You may find them doing this in the litter box, and you will notice a tender feeling when touching the abdomen.
  2. Urinary tract infection (UTI): This is noticeable if your cat only releases a small amount of urine when in the litter box. The cat will also visit the litter box more frequently.
  3. Feline interstitial cystitis: This is a disease that leads to the inflammation of the bladder. It can create an urgency to urinate, which makes it difficult for the cat to wait until it gets to the litter box.

If there is no underlying health issue, then there are specific reasons why your cat may decide not to use the litter box.

Why Your Cat Doesn’t Use the Litter Box

There may be multiple reasons why your cat is doing this, and they can be any of the following:

  • A liner or hood on the litter box
  • Changing the litter box
  • Placing the litter box in a location with limited entry and exit points or one without privacy
  • A dirty litter box
  • A tight litter box
  • Sides of the litter box being too high for easy entry and exit
  • Inadequate number of litter boxes for the number of cats in the home
  • Finding a new elimination location like potting soil, bedding, or carpet
  • Associating painful elimination to litter box after treating the health condition
  • New stressors in the home such as a new pet or a baby

What to do When Your Cat Isn’t Using the Litter Box

Remember, the first step is to visit your vet. Once your vet confirms that your cat has no health problem, then you can try any of the following actions to stop elimination problems.

  1. Try placing a shallow bed of litter. Reducing the litter to a depth of less than two inches can help. Most cats prefer the litter to be shallow.
  2. Do your best to change the litter a minimum of once a day.
  3. Avoid the use of box lids or liners.
  4. Use unscented soap or baking soda to clean out the box every week.
  5. Choose locations with multiple entry and exits, while placing several boxes in various locations.
  6. Use a self-cleaning box since it offers better cleanliness than the regular boxes.
  7. Get a litter box that is much larger than the ones you currently use.
  8. Use a litter box with low sides for old, arthritic cats. Also, make sure kids don’t have access to the box.
  9. Make use of unscented, clumping litter that has a fine or medium texture. You can also try the litter your cat used as a kitten.
  10. If you have more than one cat, ensure there is a litter box for each one.
  11. Make sure the litter boxes are in positions that have low-light and offers your cat a full view of the area in case it needs to escape.

Choosing a Litter Box Location

In addition to placing litter boxes at places with multiple escape routes, you should also look for how to make certain surfaces unattractive. If your cat currently has a preference for a particular location or surface where it eliminates, then there are things you can do.

You can try placing upside-down carpet runners, double-sided sticky tape, or tin foil in this location. Making use of motion sensors or installing bright lights in this area can also dissuade your cat from eliminating on its preferred surface.

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Things You Shouldn’t Do

It is common for individuals to lose their patience when trying to get their cats to stop eliminating outside the litter box. This can lead to them punishing the cat repeatedly. In your bid to retrain your cat, there are some actions you must never take, such as:

  • Placing a litter box close to where you put food or water for your cat
  • Locking your cat in a room with the litter box
  • Using treats to get her to use the litter box
  • Rubbing the nose of your cat in feces or urine
  • Dragging the cat to the litter box and scolding the cat

As you treat your cat with care and patience, you should also clean up any elimination outside the litter box with an enzymatic cleanser. Unlike ammonia-based cleansers, this won’t cause the area to smell like urine. Ammonia is also toxic to cats if they inhale or ingest the residue.

Contact with ammonia can affect the stomach, skin, and eyes of your cat. Also, remember to use plastic sheeting or foil to cover the area. This will let the neutralizer work its magic, but has to be there for a few weeks.

Your last resort, if all else fails, is to get in touch with your veterinarian or an animal behaviorist.

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