Help! My Cat Is Peeing Inside

Updated June 6, 2021

‘At A Glance (Details Below)’ What To Do

Why Cats Urinate In The House

  1. The cause is usually anxiety, territorial stress, urinary tract disease or litter box problems
  2. It’s not bad behaviour; most cats will stop peeing inside if you treat the cause and don’t punish
  3. Clean up areas with cat urine using enzymatic cleaners to reduce odour and prevent recurrence

Now dive deeper.

If your cat has started urinating in the wrong place, please act quickly. A habit can be very hard to change if it goes on for too long. To fix the problem you need to know why it’s happening…

Why Do Cats Urinate Inside?

The most important thing to understand is that there is always something wrong. There are three broad categories of problems that cause cats to pee inside.

  • Urinary Tract Diseases
  • Behaviour & Mental Health Problems
  • Unsuitable Litter Tray Management

Let’s look deeper at each of these.

Urinary Tract Diseases

Feline Idiopathic Cystitis

Ever had cystitis? If you have you’ll remember the sudden burning need to urinate. FIC can make cats urinate outside of the litter tray and pass small amounts, often with a lot of straining. Sometimes there’s also blood.

Most cats with cystitis don’t have an infection but instead, have this poorly understood disease. If you suspect your cat has pain on urination, read our guide to managing and treating cystitis in cats.

Urinary Tract Infection

There’s no way to tell FIC from true bacterial cystitis without urine testing, which your vet will ask you to collect when needed. I see infections more in elderly cats who don’t have a previous history of urinary problems.

Bladder Stones

Once common, bladder stones (called urolithiasis) are now a rare cause of urinary problems in cats. Modern cat diets have been adjusted to reduce urine pH so that stones are less likely to form.

When they do, signs look much like for FIC or infection. The exception is the male cat straining to urinate. This can be a true emergency due to bladder stones blocking the urethra.

Mobility Problems

Any disease that causes problems moving will make it hard for your cat to go to the toilet, especially if outside or in a high-sided litter box.

Read about my old cat’s arthritis here; as well as being less active, she started toileting on the floor until I recognised the problem.

Passing Too Much Urine

Cats normally produce small amounts of urine, but there are many diseases that can change that. When cats are forced to produce large amounts of dilute urine, we often see overflow incontinence.

Why Cats Pee A Lot

Common diseases causing cats to pass more urine include chronic kidney disease, diabetes and thyroid problems. Your vet can find the answer using routine blood and urine testing. Visit this page for more on the diseases causing increased drinking and urination in cats.

Anxiety & Behaviour Problems

Urine in cats is also a tool for territorial marking. Normally a cat won’t mark the core of their territory unless something is wrong. The exception is tomcats (undesexed males) who usually mark the house.

To spray urine the cat stands up, usually making a treading motion with its back feet, quivers its tail and a small amount of urine is sprayed backwards onto a vertical surface such as a wall, leaving an obvious scent mark. Common sites for spraying include doors, windows, around cat flaps, curtains, electrical equipment and shopping or rubbish bags.

I won’t assume a cat is marking until I’ve also proven that the urine is normal. Here are some behavioural reasons why cats may pee in the house.

Another Cat

In my experience, it’s best to assume the cause is another cat, even if you haven’t seen the evidence. Cats are very good at hiding the signs of conflict or stress. Examples could be:

  • Acquiring a new cat
  • A stray cat (especially tomcats) hanging around outside
  • A cat entering via a cat flap to steal food
  • A kitten recently matured into an adult

Your cat’s physical and mental health often depends on keeping strange cats away. That includes not allowing cats to look in through the window.

A New Environment

I’ve seen urine marking after renovations or moving into a new house. The new place just doesn’t feel like home anymore. Here are our ideas for making the home more cat-friendly. Minimalist open plan living isn’t how most cats would choose to live!

Other Changes

Cats are very sensitive to their environment, so even changes in people or other pets could trigger urine marking. A common example is a new dog in the house.

If something causes your cat to fear going outside the problem may not be marking at all. Cats may urinate inside simply through the lack of a litter tray option.

If you suspect a behavioural cause, visit our page on treating anxiety and stress in cats.

Litter Tray Management

The fact that cats will pee & poop in a box can make us take this very convenient behaviour for granted. Don’t; it’s precious. Here’s when litter trays don’t work:

Not Enough Litter Trays

Provide at least one per cat unless you are sure your cats don’t mind sharing

Wrong Position

The tray needs to be semi-secluded but easy to access. It can’t be where a cat feels watched or under threat from children, dogs or other cats. It also shouldn’t be near food and water if possible.

If your cat is using a spot you don’t like, put a litter tray there for a few weeks until it’s used regularly. Then ’walk’ the litter tray slowly day by day to where you prefer.

Wrong Type Of Litter

The message here is to use whatever your cat likes, or beware! Dry sandy soil seems to be the innate preference but cats should adapt to artificial litters if transitioned slowly. Read more about cat litter choices here. Whichever you use, a deeper layer seems better.

Wrong Box

Enclosed litter boxes with lids are all about human convenience. Ammonia can build up to intolerable levels inside these small spaces without us even noticing. Generally, it’s good to use open litter boxes unless you can clean them every day, and an 86cm by 39cm box has been shown to be better than 56cm by 38cm.

Cleaning Too Much Or Not Enough

Yes, both are a problem for some cats! The ideal tray for most cats has a slight toilet smell but no urine or faeces present. I had a cat who would never use a litter tray even twice without cleaning but most can be changed every few days without refusal.

I only scoop or knock out the old litter and replace with fresh so that the tray retains a slight odour. Using chemical cleaners is more likely to put cats off than help them.

How To Clean Up Cat Urine

If your cat keeps peeing in the wrong place, it may be because it still smells like a toilet. Cat urine is detectable by cats long after we can’t smell anything. Here’s how to reduce the odour:

  1. For fresh urine, start by blotting up as much as you can with paper towel.
  2. Press the towel onto the stain, throw away and repeat until no urine is soaked up.
  3. Then you have two options:
  4. Option 1: lightly wet the area with a dilute mixture of laundry detergent and water. Bio-Zet or other enzyme-based cleaners have always been preferred by vets. Don’t use so much that it carries the urine deeper. Then repeat the blotting until dry again.
  5. Option 2: a specialised enzymatic cat urine spray such as Urine-Off is probably better. Most of these are sprayed on and allowed to dry before removal using water. Follow the instructions on the product you choose.

How To Stop Peeing Inside

Cats are creatures of habit and so areas often get re-used despite your best efforts. Even if you remove the smell, your cat may continue to go back based on past experience.

Therefore, in addition to identifying the cause above, you need to break the habit. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Rest the area by preventing access for a while. This could mean keeping the door shut, or turning over the piece of furniture.
  2. Alternatively, try covering the ‘toilet’ area with something incompatible with urination, such as bubble wrap or aluminium foil.
  3. Now force the preferred choice. Place temporary trays with your cat’s favourite litter directly over the spots being urinated on, and plenty of other trays nearby.
  4. Once the habit is firmly re-established, reduce the number of trays slowly and possibly ‘walk’ them by 30 cm or so into better locations. Eventually you should be able to consolidate into only one per cat plus one more.

This process can take several months, but then nothing about cats peeing inside is easy. It isn’t just a simple case of laziness or spite. It’s complicated and they need our understanding and patience.

Have something to add? Comments (if open) will appear within 24 hours.
By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. Meet his team here. The information provided here is not intended to be used as a substitute for going to the vet. If your pet is unwell, please seek veterinary attention.

18 Replies to “Help! My Cat Is Peeing Inside”

  1. I have a 2 yr old neutered female cat who has started urinating in two areas inside. She is an inside cat. Am at my wits end. Have been to Vet several times with this problem. No cystitis etc. Thinking of giving her up. Cannot keep this carpet washing etc. Have smelt a Tom cat smell outside. What more can I do please? She has urinary food and deodoriser. Help?

    1. Hi Jan,

      Hi Jan. The obvious other alternative is to consider psychological support. If you’re certain that she’s not suffering from cystitis, and all other options have been tried, including cat exclusion around the house, then talk to your vet about the use of anxiety medications. For the right cat, they can make a great difference, not only to the problem you experience but also to their mental health.

  2. Our 15yo female cat (my late mother’s cat) has never and will not use a tray. At night she is kept indoors and becomes very anxious when she wants to toilet. She will vomit if she can’t get outside to toilet. Consequently we find ourselves accompanying her on her toilet excursions (at all times of a night and morning) to ensure she comes back inside.
    As we want to travel overseas next year, are you able to recommend a Cattery which has an outdoor area attached to its enclosure? Or can you suggest some other way which may remedy the situation please? We plan to be away for 3 weeks ; but we would also like to think we can board her for a few nights here and there so we can do short trips away.
    I look forward to your reply

    1. Hi Heather. I have no easy answers for you I’m afraid other than getting a house sitter. It’s very unlikely you’ll be able to find anywhere to board your cat with the right setup. Re-training at this age is very hard, which is why it’s always a good idea to train a cat from a young age to use a litter tray.

  3. I have an indoor/outdoor kittie (kittie door)..she has been recently peeing in a part of house and on certain items on the floor…we have recently in the past few weeks been giving her the squishy treats in foil packs occasionally….she begs for them all the time…could these treats be the reason she is peeing? (I don’t let her have them everyday)…and she BEGS for them everyday consistently

    1. Hi Sissy. It could be possible if those treats are very high in salt. Pet treats can be full of all sorts of nasties so it’s not out of the bounds of possibility.

  4. My cat is two years old, and lives with her mother (and me, of course). They’ve adapted brilliantly to a house move, and were kept in for ages, first in one room, and then limited to the living space and a Catio outside, which is where their litter tray is. A few weeks ago, I let them go outside during the day as they’ve always been outdoor cats in the past. And the past few days, I’ve realised that the younger cat is doing tiny little pees round the kitchen.

    I’m reasonably certain that the problem is a very much ‘whole’ Ginger Tom who visits our garden regularly. There were other cats too, but mine seem to have been able to defend their space against the others who I rarely see now. Neither cat seems to want to spend much time outside now, though they used to in our old home, and did here when I first let them out. They are both spayed females.

    Having worked out the cause though, what can I do about it (trapping the Tom and getting him neutered isn’t an option, I think he belongs to someone).

    1. Hi Elspeth. To be more certain that the male cat is the cause, your cat needs a checkup and urine testing. To me it’s at least as likely that she’s suffering from cystitis. Good luck.

  5. My 15year old Persian has started urinating in corners of the house and on mats. I have taken her to the vet and $600 later all tests prove she is healthy with zero issues. Her dirt box in cleaned every day and yet she’s still releasing a full bladder I have purchased a spray as recommended and it hasn’t worked. We have thrown out the soiled rugs, shampooed carpets etc. Help I don’t know what to do.

    1. Hi Jules. If you’ve done all the tests, there possibly isn’t much else that can be done. Sometimes at this age that can happen.

  6. I have 2x 5mth old cats, brothers. I’ve had them a month, they were raised indoors. Max is fine with using the litter tray and hasn’t attempted to go anywhere else. Harry will wee on the couch, dogs bed, bed, in the washing basket any chance he gets. He will use the litter tray for poos and when confined in their indoor pen, for wees too. I pick up and/or cover all the above but he still tries and can’t be trusted. They’re now outside all day and he uses the outside litter tray for wees and/or poos but they’re obviously using the garden too as I don’t need to clean any out very often. When Harry comes indoors he seems to look for items as above to wee on. By being outside so much is it likely that he’ll not wee inside anymore or is it encouraging him to do so? Their previous owner says Harry was the more efficient of the two at using the litter tray. I want them to spend more time indoors but can’t watch Harry every second!

    1. Hi Christine. In addition to trying to identify the cause (in your case with two cats anxiety is high on the list) I have written a new section at the end of the article on breaking the habit once it starts. Good luck.

  7. Hi Andrew,

    I am having a slightly different issue with our kitty, but it still concerns the litter tray, so would value your advice please.

    Our kitty is kept inside at night and has recently begun refusing to use his litter tray while inside. As in, he just ‘holds on’ all night and waits until he is let out in the morning to go. He has no trouble pooing or weeing outside. He is 12 months old and has used the indoor tray at night happily enough until now.

    He recently got spooked by the new cat next door so I’m wondering if it is stress related? He also sits up at night looking out the window and often gets visits from other cats (this has been happening the whole time we’ve had him). We have large windows in the lounge room that overlook our street.

    Do you have any suggestions we could try please? I’ve tried feliway spray but no success with it in this instance (although we have found it great for calming him when he visits the vet).

    I’m sure holding on all night isn’t good for him. Do you think we should try keeping him out of the lounge, away from the windows?

    Would really appreciate your advice.


  8. Great advice as always Andrew. We are waiting on our Urine Off (and black light!) to arrive. The bubble wrap/plastic tip will come in handy too, just in case a certain cross eyed fellow can’t quite kick his habit!

  9. You mention enzymatic cleaners. Could you please elaborate and include some examples , where to buy etc. My darling kitty is 18 and blind, so occasionally we have an accident happen. Thank you for all your posts too!. I really enjoy and find your information so very helpful. It is very generous of you to share your knowledge to help all our animals as well as your patients. Please know you are very much appreciated.

    1. Thanks, Jane. I’ve updated the page to include the product we use though I suspect most will work equally well. Thanks for the encouragement too!

Comments are closed.