All cats have bathroom accidents from time to time. However, if your cat has suddenly started urinating all over the house, it can be extremely worrying and frustrating. You’re concerned about the reason for your cat’s bad behavior, while simultaneously being fed up with the clean-up.
So, why is my cat peeing everywhere all of a sudden? It is usually either a sign that they are sick, stressed, or unhappy with their litter box setup. Your cat might alternatively have separation anxiety or be feeling more territorial lately than usual.
To help determine why your cat is peeing everywhere, I explore each of these possibilities in this article and what you can do to help. Let’s get to the bottom of it and stop your cat spraying and urinating outside the litter box for good!
Why Has My Cat Suddenly Started Urinating in the House?
1. Urinary Conditions
When cats start peeing everywhere all of a sudden, the first thing you should do is take your cat to the vet. There is a possibility they have a urinary condition that is causing sudden changes to their usual bathroom habits.
Cats are brilliant at hiding pain, so subtle behavior changes like this could be the only indication that something is wrong. If your cat is eating and drinking but not peeing in their litter box, that’s enough reason to call the professionals. With that being said, you might notice a few other urinary symptoms, including the following clinical signs:
- Urinating small amount but frequently
- Straining or crying out when peeing
- Excessively grooming the genital area
- Blood in the urine
- Loss of bladder control
Several different urinary conditions can all cause changes in litter box habits. Common issues include urinary tract infections, bladder infections, kidney issues, or even diabetes. Your vet will be able to run all the appropriate tests and see which one applies. Once they’ve figured out what is wrong, they’ll be able to walk you through the treatment options. And as soon as your cat has made a full recovery, they should stop peeing all over the house.
Make sure you thoroughly clean wherever it is they have been peeing though – be that on the bathrooms rugs, carpet, couch, or other furniture. If the smell of urine lingers, your cat might mistake this for a spot that it is okay for them to pee in. It’s worth doing a thorough clean-up now as it’ll mean less hard work in the long run.
2. Problems with the Litter Box
We all know that cats are extremely finicky creatures. Things have to go their way or the highway! Their litter boxes in particular have to be just right or it could cause them to stop using them altogether.
If you have recently changed anything about your cat’s litter box, this could cause them have suddenly urinating in the house. And when I say changed anything, I mean anything! Below are just some of the things that cats can kick up a fuss about:
- Size of the Litter Box: Your cat’s litter box needs to be large enough for them to comfortably fit inside and turn around in. Is your cat peeing over the edge of the litter box sometimes? This could be a sign the litter box is too small. Try swapping to an extra-large litter box with high sides or reverting back to your old litter box.
- Type of Cat Litter: There are so many different types of cat litter out there that all feel, look, and smell completely differently. If your cat doesn’t like what is in its litter tray, it’ll pee elsewhere. Try purchasing a litter for cats who pee outside the box and see if this helps. These litters will be low-dust, fragrance-free, and gentle on their paws.
- Design of the Litter Box: If you’ve recently swapped to a new litter box design – say from a simple tray to a top-entry litter box – your cat might not be a fan. Some cats don’t like enclosed litter boxes while others struggle to climb in and out of them. You might need to swap to a different litter box for messy cats that your furry friend prefers.
- Cleanliness: We all know cats love to be clean! And even if everything else is perfect about the litter box, your cat probably won’t use it while dirty. Have you slacked a little on cleaning recently? Make sure you scoop any poop and clumps of litter daily and empty and refill the litter box each week.
- Litter Box Placement: Even the placement of your litter box can throw your cat off. Have you recently had a move around and put their litter tray in a different place? Cats tend to only like litter boxes when they are in low-traffic areas for privacy. However, don’t put it in a completely isolated spot or near their food and water.
- The number of Litter Boxes: One litter box is enough for one cat, but two or more cats shouldn’t really be sharing. Have you just got a new cat without getting another litter box? Think again! Cats won’t like smelling each other in their bathroom and like this to be a private space. Plus, shared litter boxes get dirty much quicker which is also problematic.
3. Territorial Behavior
Why do cats pee on things? In most cases, it is to mark their territory. Cats are very territorial creatures and they don’t like other felines encroaching on their space. So, they spread their pheromones around the area they want to mark as “theirs” so other cats know to stay away.
Cats produce pheromones in several places of their bodies. This is why cats rub their faces on things and roll around on the floor. By doing so, they’re transferring pheromones onto these objects. Rubbing against objects in our home is fairly harmless. But cats also produce pheromones in their urine, so sadly we sometimes have to deal with spraying too.
Territorial urination is usually a problem with active male cats. Male sex hormones make cats extremely territorial. This is all down to them wanting to find a mate and ward off any other males in the area that could act as competition.
If your cat is suddenly peeing all over the house though, there is usually some change in your cat’s environment that has made them feel like their space is being invaded. Examples include:
- Bringing a new kitten or another pet home
- Allowing unfamiliar guests to enter your home
- Your partner moving in or having a new baby
- Seeing neighborhood cats in their territorial space
- Conflicts with pre-existing pets in your home
- New smells in the home that your cat doesn’t recognize
In the case of territorial marking, my best advice would be to purchase pheromone diffusers or a calming collar for cats. By introducing calming pheromones into your home, your cat should feel more at ease. Ensure you get cat pee out of the couch or wherever else your cat has been spraying through. Ineffective cleaning can cause them to keep returning to the same spot.
If you have an active male cat, I also suggest getting him neutered unless you’re intending on breeding. It is nearly always non-neutered males that exhibit spraying behaviors. After you have your male castrated, they won’t produce the same amount of sex hormones. These hormones are what drive territorial behaviors and marking, so when the hormones leave the behavior should go with it.
4. Stressful Situations
A scared and anxious cat is much more likely to pee on furniture and carpet in your home. Stressful situations can cause cats to forget normal routines and learned behaviors. All they can think about is whatever it is that’s stressing them out. Going to their litter box is the last thing that is on their mind!
Cats are very sensitive animals and even the tiniest changes to their routines or environment can cause extreme stress levels. These are things we might overlook, so their behavior can appear uncalled for. Yet understanding our cats’ needs for consistency is crucial. We can then ensure we introduce any changes gradually so our cats don’t get spooked.
Below are just some situations that could have happened to make your cat feel stressed:
- New pets entering the family
- The addition of a new baby
- Loud noises from nearby construction work
- Unfamiliar guests entering the home
- Traveling in the car
- Changes to their feeding schedule
- Using a new litter box or cat litter
- You having a new work schedule
- Moving the furniture around in your home
- The loss of a pet or family member
As I said, there are so many situations that appear like nothing to us but mean a lot to our cats. Once I realized my cat is so scared of everything, I started making changes more gradually. My cat seemed to calm down substantially and wasn’t half as stressed out as before. And yes, she stopped peeing around the house too – result!
Stress can also manifest in other ways besides not using the litter box. Cats that are stressed will scratch more and damage your furniture. They might also overgroom leading to poor coat quality, and lose their appetite leading to weight loss. Therefore, removing the stressors and introducing changes slowly also combats all of these problems and concerns.
5. Separation Anxiety
When a cat is stressed, their behavior will return to normal once the stressful situation has passed. However, there are times when cats suffer from chronic stress. In other words, stress that doesn’t go away and isn’t in response to a particular stimulus. Stress that is with your cat permanently which they carry with them every day.
One of the main causes of chronic stress is separation anxiety. This is where your cat has a profound fear of being abandoned. This might come from past experiences, such as being abandoned by their mother when just a kitten or suffering from poor experiences with a previous owner.
However, even you being out of the house too often and not having enough time to give to your cat can cause them to develop separation anxiety. Cats might be independent, but they still need a family and the ones they love to be there for them when needed. If you find yourself asking “Why is my cat so affectionate all of a sudden?” this is probably a sign they need a little more care and attention.
But hold up – what does separation anxiety have to do with inappropriate urination? Well, cats that suffer from this condition will often urinate outside their litter box. This is actually the most prevalent symptom! In fact, one study found that 75% of cats with separation anxiety peed exclusively on their owners’ beds.
If this is the spot your cat keeps peeing, seriously consider whether separation anxiety is a cause. Other symptoms that can help you figure out whether this is what is going on include:
- Defecating outside the litter box (yes, it’s not just pee you’re going to be dealing with!)
- Excessive vocalizations, often while carrying its favorite toy in its mouth
- Destructive behaviors such as scratching and chewing to get your attention
- Excessive grooming as a coping mechanism to help them feel relaxed
- Extreme attachment to you when the two of you are together
To relieve your cat of separation anxiety and put their bathroom accidents behind you, you’ll need to seek professional help. Your vet will discuss treatment options, which usually involved a combination of medication, behavioral therapy, and management of the home environment.
6. Cognitive Dysfunction
Do you have a senior cat that has suddenly started peeing around your house? İf so, there is a possibility that they’re experiencing cognitive decline. Much like human dementia, this can cause older cats to become disorientated, confused, and forgetful. This stems from impaired learning and memory functions in the brain.
Cats with poor learning and memory often urinate outside the litter box. It is likely that your cat has forgotten where the litter box is and so pees elsewhere instead. They’ll defecate around your home in inappropriate places as well for the same reason. There is also a chance that your cat has forgotten how to use the litter box in the first place.
Other behavioral changes will also be apparent in cats with cognitive dysfunction, including all of the following clinical signs:
- Not knowing where they are or where things are
- Forgetting events that have just happened, such as being fed
- Sleeping when they’d usually be awake and vice versa
- Crying out for attention loudly at night
- Being more attention-seeking or aggressive than usual
- Showing less of an interest in eating food
- Losing the desire to self-groom
- Forgetting learned behaviors
- Wondering around aimlessly or pacing
If you pick up on any of these, you should take your cat to the vet. Cognitive dysfunction cannot be treated as damage to the brain and its neural pathways cannot be reversed. However, your vet will be able to recommend lifestyle changes that will mean your cat can still live a long and fulfilling life. For example, you might make their environment more enriching to promote healthy mental stimulation.
In terms of peeing and pooping around your home, you’ll need to make a few changes to your cat’s litter box. I suggest purchasing a few more litter boxes so you can have one on each floor of your home. The more litter boxes you have, the more likely your old and confused cat will find one.
Also, make sure that the litter box is tailored to seniors, as this could be another reason why your old cat has stopped using its litter tray. You’ll want soft litter rather than pellets as these are gentle on your cat’s paws. Older cats also struggle to use swinging doors and top-entry litter boxes. Instead, a wide litter tray with low sides will be the easiest for your cat to use.
MY FINAL THOUGHTS
When your cat suddenly starts urinating in your house, it can be frustrating, worrying, and confusing! And as we have uncovered in this article, there are so many different reasons for this sudden behavior change. Your cat might have urinary problems, separation anxiety, or cognitive dysfunction. They might be stressed or feel territorial. Or your cat simply might not like its litter box.
Always take your cat to the vet first to rule out any medical conditions or to get treatment. I’d then turn my attention to your cat’s litter box, checking that it is just right for their wants and needs. You can then look at making other changes to your home environment to limit other stressors.
Remember that cats have an extremely strong sense of smell. Even after you’ve cleaned up their pee from the furniture, carpet, bathroom rugs, the couch, or anywhere else, they might still be able to smell its lingering odor. Proper cleanup is crucial in ensuring your cat doesn’t pee in the same spot over and over again.