Why is my cat urinating in the house?

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Angry cat

When a cat starts to pee in the house, it is so frustrating! There are a number of reasons why a cat can do this. Sometimes the reason can be a medical problem. Sometimes it is behavioral. This article describes the different possible reasons for cats to pee in the house and what you can do about it.

Is it a medical problem?

If your cat is urinating in the house there is a good possibility that there is a medical reason. Please don't assume that it has to be a behavioral problem. I can't tell you how many times I have helped families fix their cat's bad urinary problems by determining that there was a medical problem.

The first step, when a cat is peeing in the house, is to have your vet get a urine sample and determine if there is something that is irritating the bladder. Some possible causes could be:

  • Interstitial cystitis: This is a condition that causes the bladder to be inflamed. It is not caused by an infection. There is usually blood in the urine, but sometimes the blood can only be seen with a microscope.

  • Urinary crystals:You can't see crystals in your cat's urine without using a microscope. Crystals are often there because a cat is eating a poor quality food that causes an increase in the pH of its urine. Crystals cause the bladder to be irritated and that can cause a cat to urinate in the house. Most vets will prescribe a special food to get rid of urinary crystals.

  • Urinary Tract infection:This is actually not very common in cats. But, if your cat did have a UTI it could cause him to urinate in the house.

  • Bladder Stones:Bladder stones will irritate the lining of the bladder and make a cat feel uncomfortable which can cause them to urinate in the house.

  • FLUTD. This is a serious condition where cats can have a blockage of their urethra. When they are completely blocked they can't pee at all, but a cat with a partial blockage can sometimes have accidents around the house. You can read more about this condition here: FLUTD.

It really is important to take this step to make sure there is no medical problem. If there is a medical concern, it can sometimes lead to a urinary tract blockage which is very serious and can even be fatal.

Behavioural problems

litter box problems

Many cats will urinate in the house because they are upset about something in their environment. It's like the cat is saying, PAY ATTENTION TO ME! SOMETHING IS WRONG! Sometimes the cause is obvious. Some of the following things are known to cause stress in cats:

  • New houseguests
  • New pets in the house
  • Preparing for the arrival of a new baby
  • Renovations in the house
  • Stress in the life of the owners
  • Too many cats in the household

However, many times we just don't know what is causing a cat to urinate in the house.

HELP! What can I do?

There are a number of different things that you can do to stop a cat from urinating in the house. In over a decade of being a vet, I have seen a lot of things suggested to help stop your cat from peeing inappropriately. In the paragraphs below, I have summarized the best advice that I can give.

About the Litter Box

Cats need a clean litter box. The most important thing you can do to encourage your cat to use the litter box is to keep the box clean. This means cleaning out any urine and stool once or twice a day and then doing a full litter replace every 3 days.

You should have one more litter box than the number of cats that you have. So, if you have 3 cats, you need 4 litter boxes.

If you have had your litter boxes for a long time, it is a good idea to totally get rid of the boxes and start fresh with new ones. A cat's nose can pick up odors that ours can't.

Some cats prefer one type of litter over another. Try offering your cat several different litter boxes each with a different type of litter in it to see which one he tends to use most. Some types of litter include:

Some cats prefer different sizes or shapes of litter boxes. You can try offering a regular box, a boot tray, and a large rubbermaid container to see which one your cat prefers. You can also try a covered litter box. However, I find that most cats, given the choice, prefer no cover on their box.

You can also experiment with which room the litter boxes are in. If the litter box is normally in a dark room, try leaving the light on for them. If the box is in the furnace room you may want to consider moving it. It may be that the noise of the furnace coming on scares the cat.

Feline Pheromones
feliway for cats

You have likely heard of a product called Feliway. Feliway comes in either a plug-in or a spray. It releases a "pheromone" which is a chemical that makes cats feel happy. It has been proven to reduce stress in cats. It has also been proven to reduce the inappropriate urination in cats.

This article talks about how Feliway works and also lists some of the scientific articles that have been done to test how well it works for cats with urinary problems.


Some cats who urinate in the house will stop this bad habit if they are given medication to help reduce stress. The two most common medications that are prescribed are Amitriptyline and Clomicalm. For cats who are hard to medication I will sometimes prescribe a type of Amitriptyline gel that can be placed on the inside of the cat's ear.

If medication is working for your cat, your vet may recommend that they stay on the medicine for life. However, some cats can be weaned off of the medication after 6 months or so and they often do well.

My cat is peeing in one spot on the floor!

If your cat is urinating in one particular area, then here is a plan that may work to retrain him to pee in the right place. Place a litter box in the area where he is currently going to the bathroom. Yes, I know that it does not look good to have a litter box in the middle of your living room but it is only temporary!

If your cat refuses to use this box, then instead of the box use a pee pad. Most cats LOVE to urinate on these pads.

Then, every day move the box or pee pad a few inches closer to where you want him to urinate. Be careful not to do this too fast. The transition may take a month or more.

Eventually your cat will be urinating in the proper place!

When a cat urinates in the house it is so frustrating. Hopefully these tips will help you to solve this problem!

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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

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