How To Stop a Cat From Peeing on the Carpet

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Most cat owners know that cats are very clean creatures. They have pristine toileting habits and they even cover over their pee and poop! They readily use a litter box (or outdoor flower bed) from a young age and continue to do this throughout their life.

Key Takeaways

Peeing outside the litter box, also known as inappropriate urination, is one of the most common issues seen in cats.

The most typical things cats pee on outside the litter box include carpets, beds, clothing, and blankets, likely because they are soft and absorbant.

If your cat has recently started peeing on the carpet, schedule a veterinary exam to make sure the issue isn't being caused by a medical problem.

If your cat is suddenly peeing outside of their litter box and instead going on the carpet, there could be something majorly wrong in your cat’s life. We’ll discuss the causes of this and what you can do to stop it from happening.

Normal Toileting Habits

Cats instinctually want to use a litter box, so going outside of it indicates a medical or behavioral problem.

It’s important to know what is “normal” when it comes to cat toileting behavior. This might be common knowledge to some of you but first-time cat owners some of this might be new information. Being able to tell the difference between what is normal and what is not will help you detect any problems with your cat’s toileting behavior.

Cats naturally want to use a litter box or flower bed. They usually pee or poop and then spend time covering this over with litter substrate or soil. They do this partly because they’re very clean but also because it covers their scent and allows them to go undetected by other cats. This innate (from birth) behavior comes all the way from their wild ancestors who would have done this in the wild.

Most kittens are using a litter box by the time they’re in their new homes. They usually don’t need any training once they know the location of their litter box and it’s easily accessible.

If they aren’t using their litter box, this isn’t normal. Many people think that they’re the same as dogs in that they need to be toilet trained. This isn’t true and if your cat isn’t using their litter box, there’s a reason why.

Why Is My Cat Peeing on the Carpet?

Why is my cat peeing outside of the litter box

The most common things cats pee on outside the litter box include carpets, beds, clothing, and blankets.

So what happens when cats don’t use their litter box? Why does this happen? This is a really common problem and in fact, it’s one of the most common behavioral problems seen in a veterinary practice.

If a cat pees outside of their litter box, this is known as “inappropriate urination.” Common areas that they pee on include carpets, beds, clothing, or blankets. This could be because these items are soft on their paws and readily absorb any urine.

There are many potential causes for why your cat is peeing outside of their litter box. This can vary from behavioral to medical problems.

1. Litter Box Problems

Dissatisfaction with the litter box is one of the most common causes of inappropriate urination.

Possibly the most common culprit when it comes to inappropriate urination is the litter box. If cats don’t like something about their litter box, they simply might not use it and pee elsewhere. Common problems are:

  • An inadequate number of litter boxes: A rule of thumb is to have one litter box per cat plus one. For example, if you have three cats, you should have four litter boxes to avoid problems. It’s also worth having a mixture of open and closed litter boxes, rather than having only closed/hooded boxes.
  • Too-small litter boxes: The litter box should be 1.5 times the length of your cat and big enough for your cat to easily turn around inside. A lot of commercially available litter boxes are really only suitable for kittens and will need to be upgraded as your cat grows.
  • Bad litter box location: The boxes should be in quiet, private areas of the house. They shouldn’t be lined up together (which basically acts as one big litter box). Instead, place them in different areas of the house.
  • Cat dislikes litter substrate/cat litter: Most cats like soft, clumping litter that is unscented. This isn’t the same for every cat though, and it might take some experimenting to find the one that your cat prefers. The litter should be deep enough for your cat to dig and cover their pee and poop.
  • Cleanliness of the litter box: We know that cats are super clean so it only makes sense that they won’t want to use a dirty litter box. Boxes should be scooped out once daily and fully changed once weekly. Avoid using any strong cleaners as cats have very sensitive noses and they won’t appreciate this.

Also Read: How To Clean Your Cat’s Litter Box According to a Cat Behaviorist

2. Stress

Cats are easily stressed, and this can lead to issues using the litter box.

Cats are very prone to feeling stressed and this can affect their toileting behavior. Stress can come in many forms, including work in the house, a new baby, a new pet, a new cat, house move, or even a new piece of furniture.

Very small changes can cause a lot of stress so it’s important to bear this in mind if your cat has suddenly started peeing outside of the litter box.

Also Read: 11 Best Cat Litter Boxes In 2023 – We Tried Them All

3. Multi-Cat Households

Inappropriate urination is a common issue in multi-cat households.

Cats that live in households with many cats can often urinate outside of their litter box. This might be because there’s simply not enough litter boxes for the number of cats. Or more worryingly, it can be due to inter-cat conflict in the house.

Cats that don’t get along can block each other’s paths to the litter box or even ambush each other in the litter box (especially with hooded/covered boxes). For this reason, they might urinate somewhere else in the house.

Also Read: The 6 Best Cat Litters For Multiple Cats

4. Medical Issues

Inappropriate urination is often a sign of an illness, which cats generally tend to hide.

If your cat is peeing on the carpet, it could be due to a medical reason. There are many illnesses that can affect how a cat urinates.

For example cats with a urinary tract infection, cystitis, diabetes mellitus, chronic kidney disease, or hyperthyroidism might urinate inappropriately due to pain or increased volume of urine. Cats with mobility issues or older cats with arthritis might find it difficult to walk to the litter box and might have to pee somewhere else in the house.

Also Read: Why Is My Cat Peeing On The Bed

5. Spraying

Peeing and spraying are two different things; spraying is almost always a territorial issue.

It’s important to know the difference between your cat peeing and your cat spraying. Peeing outside of the litter box as we’ve discussed can be due to litter box issues, behavioral problems, or medical reasons. Spraying is different from this.

A “spray” is a small amount of concentrated urine that your cat usually emits while standing up with their back end toward a wall with their tail up. Sometimes you might notice their tail quivering while they do this.

This is a territorial urine mark that stressed or unneutered cats (particularly male cats) might display as it contains pheromones and can send “messages” to nearby cats.

Also Read: 8 Tips To Stop A Cat From Spraying

How To Stop Your Cat From Peeing on the Carpet

How Many Litter Boxes Should You Have Per Cat-compressed

There are a number of ways to stop your cat from peeing on the carpet.

Now that we know why a cat might pee on the carpet, we can try to stop this from happening. There are a few things that you can do if you notice your kitty not using their litter box;

  • Spaying and neutering: If your cat isn’t neutered or spayed already, talk to your veterinarian and get this done soon. This will prevent territorial marking around the house.
  • Address litter box problems: Litter box issues are one of the most common reasons for cats not to use their litter box. Ensure that you have enough litter boxes for the number of cats that you have and that they’re located in different parts of the house. They should be in quiet, private areas of low traffic. The boxes need to be big enough for the cat’s size with deep enough substrate to dig, and should be scooped out daily.
  • Address stressors: If your cat is stressed, try to find out why. Once you find out the cause you can try to reduce their stress. For example, if a new dog is coming into the house, increase the number of escape routes and hiding areas the cat has. Also ensure that they have their own space with their own resources (e.g. litter box, food and water stations, beds, and scratching posts) away from the new pet. Synthetic pheromones (Feliway sprays or plug-in diffusers) can help reduce stress and make your cat feel more secure.
  • Improve multi-cat households: If you have multiple cats, ensure that you have enough resources for them (litter boxes, food and water stations, beds, and hiding areas). Offer litter boxes that aren’t hooded/covered to prevent ambushing by other cats. If you notice that two cats, in particular, aren’t getting along, try to use synthetic pheromones and consult your veterinarian or feline behaviorist.
  • Consideration for older cats: If you have an elderly cat, ensure that there’s a litter box on each floor of your home and that it’s easy to access. Older cats can struggle to step into a litter box so it’s a good idea to cut out the side so they can just walk into it and avoid stepping.
  • Bring them to the vet: If you think your cat is unwell, bring them for a veterinary checkup to rule out medical conditions. This is especially important if they’re displaying any new symptoms such as weight loss, vomiting, increased drinking, and urination. Your vet will take a full history from you and examine your cat. They might decide to test your cat’s urine for bacteria, crystals, or the presence of glucose. They might also perform a blood test to check their kidneys, liver, and thyroid.
  • Clean soiled areas properly: You might think that cleaning the soiled area of carpet in the traditional way is enough but it often isn’t. Cats can still smell where they’ve urinated and they’re likely to go back to the same spot. Using enzymatic cleaners or baking soda can help to clean the area properly and get rid of the odor and pheromones.

Also Read: The 5 Best Carpet Cleaners For Cat Urine

What Not To Do

Punishment is never the solution when a cat is peeing on the carpet or anywhere else in the house.

Never punish your cat for peeing on the carpet or anywhere else in the house. They aren’t doing this as a “dirty protest” or to you annoy you. It’s simply a sign that something is wrong and that you need to do a bit of detective work to figure out what the issue is.

Also Read: 6 Best Laundry Detergents for Cat Urine

Using a water gun or scented spray, rubbing their nose in it, or shouting at them might only make the problem worse. You could make your cat fearful of you and impact the relationship you have with your cat.

Also Read: How Do Cats Mark Their Territory?

Final Thoughts

Peeing on the carpet is a very common problem that we see with our feline companions. It isn’t from a lack of training or your cat being badly behaved. It’s a sign that something could be wrong with your cat and it could be anything from stress, litter box problems, or a medical issue.

Try the tips that we’ve mentioned above to help with this problem and consult with your veterinarian if the issue isn’t resolving or if your cat is displaying other symptoms.

Also Read: How Do I Get My Cat To Stop Doing Something?

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is my cat peeing on the floor?

Cats do this for many reasons, including litter box issues, stress, conflict with other cats, and for medical reasons. Consult with your veterinarian if you’re worried about your cat.

How do you stop a cat from peeing in the same spot?

You need to clean the area thoroughly with an enzymatic cleaner to breakdown the odors. Follow the instructions on the label.

How do you punish a cat for spraying?

Never punish a cat for spraying. This could make your cat fearful of you and it could even cause aggression. If your cat is spraying, book an appointment with your veterinarian to get them examined, and neutered or spayed if necessary.

Should you rub a cat's nose in its pee?

No! You should never rub a cat’s nose in their pee. Instead, try to find out why your cat isn’t using their litter box and schedule a veterinary exam if they seem unwell.

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About Dr. Aisling O'Keeffe MVB CertSAM ISFMAdvCertFB MRCVS

Aisling qualified from University College Dublin as a veterinarian in 2015 and went on to work in a mixture of small animal hospitals here and in the UK, including a cat-only veterinary clinic where she currently works. She has completed a postgraduate certificate in Small Animal Medicine and the International Society of Feline Medicine's postgraduate certificate in Advanced Feline Behaviour. She wrote a children's book called 'Minding Mittens', which aims to educate children on cat behaviour and care. Aisling featured on the RTE tv series 'Cat Hospital'. She is a Fear Free certified vet, which aims to make vet visits as stress-free and enjoyable as possible. In her spare time, she enjoys looking after her pets, which includes 4 felines.