It’s a dark winter morning, and you’re already late getting ready for work. Last night was hectic, and you forgot to fold the laundry. You reach into the basket, expecting to pull out a clean outfit, and instead, you feel something warm and wet. If you have more than one cat, you’ve probably been there. Unfortunately, once a cat starts going outside the box, it’s not long until the other cats do the same, and you are stuck with a smelly, sticky problem. Cleaning up the urine will do little to help. To fix the problem, you must figure out the root cause. So, why is my cat peeing on everything? There are three main causes for inappropriate elimination: health concerns, litter box issues, and behavioral issues.
Health concerns typically are urinary tract infections, kidney problems or diabetes. If your cat starts going outside of the litter box, the first step should always be to go to the vet to rule out any underlying conditions. If that is not immediately possible, or you feel that the problem is more than likely behavioral, another option is to try a litter additive to test urine pH. These are available online and at almost every pet store.
Litter Box Issues
While this whole article is about litter box problems, this section specifically looks at issues with the litter and the box itself. The most common cause is litter boxes that are not changed to the specification of the cat. There are, of course, cats that are not happy unless you follow them around with a pooper scooper. Not having enough litter boxes is also a common reason. The recommended number of litters is one box per cat plus one. Another possible concern is that the litter box itself might be discouraging proper litter box usage. Some cats do not like covered boxes because they trap smells. Automatic boxes can be frightening for some cats as well.
Some cats prefer certain textures of litters. Cats generally prefer litter that is as fine as possible. Scented litters can be problematic because some cats interpret the scented litter as another cat, and thus interpret the litter box as belonging to the other cat (even if it doesn’t exist.) For the same reason, some cats may start peeing outside the box if a scented detergent is used in the laundry, or if a member of the household changes perfumes.
Cats are extremely territorial animals. Nearly everything they do while awake, from cleaning another cat to scratching a post, is an attempt to make their claim. As a result, territory is a very important part of feline psychology.
In feral cat colonies, groups of cats stake out a collective territory, which you can think of like a neighborhood. Then, each individual cat stakes a claim for their own parcel of land, which you can think of like houses. Most of the time, cats negotiate territory on their own, but sometimes there are border disputes. You can think of it this way: there are only a limited number of houses in the neighborhood, and someone isn’t getting the house that they wanted or has to agree to a roommate. To claim territory, the cat pees on what they want, and you end up with a smelly mess.
What you must do then is help them reset the boundaries. The easiest way to do this is to lock the offending cat in a room by herself for a little while. Then, she can claim whatever room she’s in as hers, and peacefully deposit her scent. While she’s doing that, the other cats can renegotiate boundaries, and hopefully, in a couple of weeks, things will be better. A bathroom often works best because it is easier to clean. If that doesn’t work, then you might want to consider anti-anxiety meds to make her less concerned about staking her claim.
If you’re proactive and can act before it escalates, most litter box problems are easily addressed. If the above tips don’t work, don’t be afraid to reach out to your vet – they have years of experience in helping people deal with problems exactly like yours.