Cat Not Using Litter Box? Inappropriate Urination in Cats

Cats that urinate outside of the litter box might have a medical problem.

Inappropriate urination is the most common behavioral problem reported by cat owners. It is a leading cause of cats being abandoned outdoors, left at shelters, and euthanized. There is no doubt that it is extremely frustrating to have a cat that is urinating on your carpeting, bedding, or clothing. Most cases of inappropriate elimination can be resolved, but it may take some detective work and adjustments to your household to achieve it.

Why Do Cats Use Litter Boxes?

Many of us assume that cats use litter boxes instinctively. Actually, their impulse is to eliminate in soft soil or sand. The box is a convenience for humans, and it's really rather amazing that cats are so accommodating about it. Understanding this point will be a great help to both you and your cat. Elimination is a basic necessity, but in cat terms this function has an additional meaning. Cats sometimes use elimination as a communication tool to help establish their territory. So if your cat is not using the litter box, he may be trying to communicate something.

What is Inappropriate Urination in Cats?

It is important to differentiate between the two types of urinating outside of the litter box: spraying and inappropriate urination.

There is a difference between feeling spraying and urinating.

Spraying is performed by the cat standing and spraying a stream of urine on a vertical surface such as a wall, window, furniture, drapes, etc.

You can learn more about feline marking behaviors in this article.

Inappropriate urination is when a cat urinates in the normal squatting position, but not in the litter box.

Causes of Inappropriate Urination in Cats

Medical Problems

The first thing to do if you have a cat that is urinating outside of the litter box is to take him to the veterinarian. A urinalysis and possibly blood work can help to determine if there is an underlying medical condition contributing to the problem. If a medical cause is not found, it is time to do some detective work. It's important to understand the non-medical reasons that cats eliminate outside of the litter box in order to determine why yours could be doing it.

Negative Experiences in the Litter Box

Your cat may develop an aversion to litter boxes in general under some of the following circumstances:

Box Location Aversion

Location aversion means that your cat does not like the place that you chose to put his litter box. It's important to provide your cat with a place to eliminate where he feels safe and comfortable. The most common problems with litter box locations are as follows:

Read about tips for good litter box placement here.

Box Type Preferences

Many cats have a kitty wish list regarding the litter box itself. Following are the most common box preferences for cats:

Litter (Substrate) Aversions

Read tips for avoiding litter type aversion here.

Read tips for good litter box cleaning here.

How Can You Tell If Your Cat Is Developing a Litter Box Aversion?

It is important to deal with inappropriate urination problems immediately. The longer the behavior persists, the more difficult it is to change. It is even more helpful if you can spot the problem coming before it actually begins and take steps to deter it.

You may be able to catch your cat's litter box aversion while it is developing if you notice any of the following signs:

NOTE: It is not uncommon for cats to leave their urine and feces uncovered. In the wild, many cats do this to mark their territory. On its own, leaving litter box contents uncovered is not a sign that your cat is developing a litter box aversion.

If the above tips don't work for your cat or you need more ideas, take a look at this article: General Tips for Solving Inappropriate Urination Problems in Cats

Inappropriate urination in cats is a frustrating problem. Understanding your cat's behavior, then using a systematic approach to changing it can have you living in harmony with your feline friend again.

You May Also Like These Articles:

Location Aversion

Litter Box Location Preference

Essentials For Your Cat

How to Deal with Aversions

Proper Cleaning of Litter Box

Cat Marking Behavior

Substrate Aversions and Preferences

How to Detect and Clean Urine Stains

Disclaimer: This website is not intended to replace professional consultation, diagnosis, or treatment by a licensed veterinarian. If you require any veterinary related advice, contact your veterinarian promptly. Information at is exclusively of a general reference nature. Do not disregard veterinary advice or delay treatment as a result of accessing information at this site. Just Answer is an external service not affiliated with